Elections bring local change-ups

Supermajority in legislature could remove impediment to new taxes

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Status quo on the national scene, shake-ups in the local arena and a critical power shift in the state were effected by the outcome of the Nov. 6 General Election.

Kern County Elections Division Chief Karen Rhea said turnout in Kern County was similar to that of 2008. So far about 170,000 ballots (out of 320,000 registered voters) have been counted. She estimated that another 50,000 absentee, vote by mail, damaged and provisional ballots were left to be counted.

Because of that, she said, county officials are not calling any races until official results are certified. That is anticipated to happen in early December. “We have 28 days to certify results. We anticipate that it will take the full time allotted.”

She did not have data available for voter turnout in the 1st District or Indian Wells Valley, but election information indicates some 61,000 and 16,000 registered voters, respectively, for each area.

U.S. President

While Democratic President Barack Obama’s sweeping victory in California was as unsurprising as his defeat in conservative Kern County, the president also handily won both the popular and electoral college votes in what many pundits predicted to be a “dead heat” to gain a second term.

Obama won nearly 61 million votes to Republican Mitt Romney’s nearly 58 million (50 percent to 48 percent). Final Electoral College count was 303 to 206. Romney conceded to Obama Tuesday evening shortly after polls closed on the West Coast.

U.S. Congress

Democrat Diane Feinstein won her sixth term as U.S. Senator for California, defeating Republican Elizabeth Emken in the runoff after the state’s first-ever open primary. Feinstein won 61.4 percent with some 5.6 million votes while Emken won 38.6 percent with 3.5 million.

Republican incumbent Kevin McCarthy easily won his race, now the 23rd Congressional District after political lines have been redrawn. McCarthy won 73.8 percent of the vote (122,325) while Terry Phillips, who declared no party affiliation, earned 26.2 percent (43,368).

California Legislature

Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove won 70.2 percent of the vote (84,103) to defeat Democrat Mari Goodman, who earned 29.8 percent (35,752).

(The seat for State Sen. Jean Fuller, a Bakersfield Republican, was not up for reelection this year.)

For the first time since 1933, Democrats now control a supermajority in both the Senate and the Assembly. Because that two-thirds majority does not reflect the partisan alliances in California voters, political analysts are pointing to the various factors that contribute to the representation in both state houses.

Some say that the newly implemented citizen-led forming of political districts was weighted in favor of Democrats. Others point to low voter turnout and lack of strong leadership in the Republican Party.

But one thing conservatives seem to agree on is the danger in having no way to counter proposed tax hikes now that the Senate and Assembly can now pass legislation without needing any support from Republicans.

Kern County 1st District Supervisor

In the race 1st District Supervisor, Retired Navy Capt. Mick Gleason defeated former supervisor and state legislator Roy Ashburn. Gleason received 59.61 percent of the vote (19,587) to 40.02 percent (13,150).

Gleason said that he felt honored to be chosen by the people in what he characterized as a significant win for the 1st District. “My job now is to aggressively represent the residents of the 1st District and fulfill my campaign promises.” He said he is starting by meeting with leaders in each community to find out their needs.

He said he was pleased by the outcome of the election, and grateful to his supporters. “I am getting positive feedback. And I think the time is ripe for new leadership to step up to the plate.

“I am looking forward to working with the board and I think there will be a lot of energy and action among our members. I am truly grateful to be a part of that.”

Ashburn congratulated Gleason, and said he intended to support the new supervisor in any way he could. “I have already told Mick that he can count on me.”

He also thanked those who worked hard on his campaign. “I am grateful to those who voted for me and encourage continuing interest in solving the problems that confront us and building better, safer communities for our families.”

Kern County Water Agency

In the race for Division 2 Director of the Water Agency, Challenger Bruce Hafenfeld defeated Incumbent Terry Rogers and Daures Stephens. Hafenfeld received 14,849 votes, followed by Rogers’ 7,658 votes and Stephens’ 5,926.

Ridgecrest Mayor

Former Councilman Dan Clark is the first directly elected mayor of Ridgecrest after defeating Vice Mayor Jerry Taylor and pastor Randy Jenkins. Clark captured 46 percent, with 3,625 votes, to Taylor’s 40 percent (3,153) and Jenkins’ 13 percent (1,035).

“I am honored and humbled to be chosen as the first elected mayor,” said Clark. He said he appreciated running against two worthy candidates. “I respect Jerry immensely – he’s got an incredible mind. This campaign was fun, but I worked hard to catch up with the issues.”

But now the real work starts, he said. He said in talking to citizens he learned that having a mayor with office hours was important to them. “I am blessed to be retired, so I can do that.”

Clark said that will also aid in his goal to improve communication at city hall.

He said that already the city has challenges ahead of them — such as a budget deficit — that will take the hard work and collaboration of everyone. “But I think even in the face of these economic challenges, if we can work together we can have the same positive light that we have right now.”

Following the election, Taylor called the Daily Independent to task for publishing what he states were false accusations without giving him a chance to respond. The DI in turn called him out for his negative comments in a follow-up editorial, saying that they only validated the power of the press.

However, Taylor’s comments to the News Review focused on his congratulations to his opponent, who he thanked for helping him get his own start in city government when Clark appointed him to the Planning Commission in 2006.

“I wish the new mayor and council the best of luck,” he said. “I will continue to stay engaged in the community I love, and I appreciate the support of the many people who voted for me.

“I think we are looking at some tough financial times ahead of us, and I think it is important that we stay engaged and vigilant and call on the council to make responsible choices relative to both the general fund and tax allocation bonds. This is a government of the people, and it will take all of us to ensure a positive future for Ridgecrest.”

Ridgecrest City Council

A majority turnover on the council further accomplished by two challengers winning seats on the council at large.

Planning Commissioner James Sanders won 2,716 votes and Supervisor Jon McQuiston’s Field Representative Lori Acton won 2,457 votes to earn the two seats on the council.

They outed Mayor Ron Carter, who has served 16 years on the council, as well as former councilmember Tom Wiknich, Measure L Committeemember Scott Garver, William Dale Howard and PACT volunteer Henry Wilson.

With three new councilmembers, and one planning commissioner moving up, there are now four appointments available on the Planning Commission.

Sierra Sands Unified School District Board of Education

A reduction of seats on the school board (part of a two-election process to reduce from seven members to five) left only incumbents Mick Scott (5,719 votes) and Bill Farris (5,058) seated on the Board. Incumbent Tim Johnson came in third with 3,828 votes, and Jenkins finished with 2,803 votes.

IWV Airport District Board of Directors

The election also saw a majority shift in the airport board. Pilot Axel Alvarez led the pack with 4,977 votes, followed by former City Councilmember Steven Morgan with 4,516 and retired Navy pilot Paul Valovich with 4,266 votes.

Also running were Incumbent Paul Farris Jr., who received 3,290; Challenger Eileen Shibley, 3,148; and President Mark Backes, 2,947.

Shibley and Backes were key members of the airport’s joint effort with the China Lake Alliance to bring a UAV test site to Inyokern. No official word has been given yet on whether the election will change the makeup of the UAV committee.

IWV Water District Board of Directors

Challenger Chuck Cordell joined incumbents Don Cortichiato and Leroy Corlett in the race for three four-year seats on water board. Cordell received 4,449 votes while Cortichiato received 3,593 and Corlett earned 3,322.

Other candidates in that race were Judie Decker (3,221), Ron Kicinski (2,973), Charles Griffin (2,833) and Jenkins (1,423).

Former boardmember Don Joe McKernan’s 4,502 votes earned him a two-year seat over Duke Martin, with 4,057 votes.

Propositions

Five of 11 state propositions also earned California voter approval. The results are:

Yes on 30 (education tax) with 53.9 percent

No on 31 (state budget) with 39.2 percent

No on 32 (political contributions) with 43.9 percent

No on 33 (auto insurance) with 45.4 percent

No on 34 (death penalty) with 47.2 percent

Yes on 35 (human trafficking) with 81.1 percent

Yes on 36 (three strikes) with 68.6 percent

No on 37 (GMO labeling) with 46.9 percent

No on 38 (early childhood program tax) with 27.7 percent

Yes on 39 (business tax for energy funding) with 60 percent

Yes on 40 (redistricting state senate) with 71.4 percent

Other results of the election are available on www.elections.co.kern.ca.us and www.sos.ca.gov.

Story First Published: 2012-11-14