Election Notes 2014

There was one consistent theme in Tuesday’s (Preliminary) election results: Except for the Willits City Council, not one incumbent kept his/her seat. Whether it was the Coast Hospital Board, the Ukiah City Council or the Fort Bragg City Council, incumbents were mostly tossed, although a few chose not to re-run. So we’ll have a good sized collection of political newbies come January: Tom Woodhouse, Jim Brown, Kevin Doble, Maureen Mulheren, Warrant Galletti, William Rohr, Peter Glusker, Kitty Bruning, Michael Cimolino, Lindy Peters (although he’s held elected office before), and, Christ Jesus save us all, Mark Iacuaniello.

Iacuaniello
Iacuaniello

We’re cautiously optimistic about all the freshly elected except one: Mark Iacuaniello, who seems to have wormed his way into third place in the Fort Bragg City Council race, bumping incumbents Mayor Dave Turner, and Heidi Kraut. We weren’t big fans of Turner or Kraut, but whatever their occasional lib-lab lapses they’re vastly superior to Iacuaniello who has neither the experience, basic intelligence or simple backbone for any official position. Needless to say, he made a career in public education. (If in doubt about this assessment, please see our coverage of Iacuaniello's trial when he was sued by Matt Murray for “fraudulent inducement”: theava.com/archives/3659)

Iacuaniello's under-oath testimony should be enough to make all of Fort Bragg and particular his fellow councilpersons tremble.

Election night complaints about slow counts are nothing new in Mendocino County and have only gotten worse the deeper we go into the accelerating trend towards absentee voting. Not that many years ago every voter had an assigned election day polling place staffed by mostly female senior citizens. They took their duties seriously and performed them efficiently, conscientiously and with good humor. It was somehow reassuring to see their familiar faces at each election, sort of like visiting a distant aunt who always seemed glad to see you even if she didn't much approve. The countywide vote was tallied by 11pm for years and years. And then....

Former Assessor/Clerk/Recorder Marsha Wharff started the movement to abolish the neighborhood polling place as a cost saver, thereby changing election day to election month and in the process delaying final results for up to three weeks after the close of voting. The current incumbent, Susan Ranochak, is following in her predecessor's footsteps. Ranochak, like Wharff before her, makes the questionable claim that mail-in voting somehow saves money. But a few election night poll workers have been replaced with a small army of people hired to process the mail-in ballots, checking and re-checking signatures and sorting and re-sorting ballots (and in the process getting an advance look at how people are actually voting). This saves money? Wharf and Ranochak also make the wholly specious claim that forced absentee voting increases voter turnout. Except turn out has plunged dramatically since forced absentee voting began, although the fall-off can also be attributed to the mass estrangement of Americans from their political system.

Forced absentee voting also means that many thousands of ballots (all those mailed in the last few days or dropped off on election day at the elections office or the few remaining polling places) are not counted until weeks after the election. Only 11,402 votes were tallied on election night, a mere 24.02% of the 47,470 registered voters in the County. Which means that as many as 10,000 or more votes are sitting in the elections office waiting to be processed. Meanwhile, the candidates and the voters are left in limbo for up to three weeks. Except in the closest of races it is usually safe to assume that the election night tally (which is broadly representative of the total votes cast) will hold up, but there is a decided lack of certainty to the election when thousands of votes remain to be counted. We say bring back neighborhood polling places and the senior citizen poll workers who staffed them.

Assistant Registrar Of Voters for Mendocino County Katrina Bartolomie wrote Wednesday: “We were hoping to have a number for you of the ballots we have left to count this afternoon. Unfortunately we will not have a number until tomorrow. We will do a press release tomorrow as soon as we have a number. Thank you.”

Allow us, Ms. Bartolomei. Typically as many as 40% or more of the votes remain to be counted in Mendocino County elections the day after election day. The remainder can take weeks. By contrast, Sonoma County reported a voter turnout of 45.2% and all 111,000 or so of their ballots were counted and posted on their website on Wednesday. If Mendo had at least 45% turnout (and we should have) then Mendo should have about 10,000 votes yet to count. We continue to be amazed that Sonoma County can count all 111,000 or so of its ballots the day after election day and report a voter turnout of 45.2%. But Mendo can only count about 11,000 or so ballots and report results based on only 24% of its nearly 48,000 registered voters, leaving us all to wonder how final the “final” results really are for who knows how long.

Woodhouse
Woodhouse

Willits Mayor Holly Madrigal was soundly defeated in her race for Third District Supervisor by political newcomer Tom Woodhouse, a Willits area realtor. Ms. Madrigal ran a spirited and well-financed campaign that suffered from being burdened by the twin albatrosses of MendoLib and CoastLib, a tag team prescription for failure in the mostly working class, common sense non-CoastLib, non-MendoLib Third District. Woodhouse was supported by incumbent Supervisor John Pinches who chose not to run for a fourth term. Woodhouse was also supported by Sheriff Tom Allman and DA David Eyster. Holly was supported by Congressman Jared Huffman, State Senator Noreen Evans and lame duck Assemblymember Wes Chesbro, a triple whammy of liberal irrelevance. (Ahem, yes, we are mindful that Ms. Madrigal was also endorsed by this paper for reasons we made clear, but we would be remiss if we did not point out the otherwise questionable political company she keeps.)

Tom Woodhouse, despite maintaining a disciplined silence on where he stood on any issue, took 55% of the votes counted on election night, outpacing Holly 1,308 votes to 1,061. Woodhouse benefited by having been in business locally for 30 years and participating in many community volunteer efforts, including in the schools and also cleaning up after homeless encampments and painting out graffiti, much like incumbent Ukiah area Supervisor John McCowen, who he will now join on the Board of Supervisors. Based on the results, Woodhouse doesn't seem to have suffered by being invisible on the issues. In contrast, Holly was tagged for flip-flopping on the bypass, failing to pass a balanced budget in the City of Willits for the last five years, and failing to settle the sewer treatment plant debacle with Brooktrails.

Madrigal has been elected three times to the Willits City Council but has now failed twice in her attempt to step up to supervisor. In Sonoma County, Obama administration carpet-bagger James Gore was elected Fourth District Supervisor over Windsor Town Council member Deb Fudge who has now failed in three consecutive attempts to be elected supervisor. Gore never voted in Sonoma County until he decided to run for the seat being vacated by Mike McGuire, who was elected State Senator against token Republican opposition. Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood was elected to the Assembly, replacing career politician Wes Chesbro, who has been feeding at the public trough for nearly 40 years, shuffling from one Sacramento sinecure to another with nothing to show for it.

Fudge, now in her fifth term on the Windsor Town Council, announced the day after the election that she would serve out the remaining two years of her current term and then retire from electoral politics. Formerly known by her given name, Deborah, Fudge was told by her election advisors to drop “Deborah” (which was perceived as sounding too soft) and go with the more hard hitting “Deb.” (The Northcoast doesn't lack for brilliant campaign strategists.)

Candidate Madrigal, it can be presumed, got equally specious advice from the cadre of libs that she paid to act as campaign managers and consultants. As we have previously reported, Madrigal paid CoastLib honcho Steve Antler $2,560, Estelle Clifton $2,000 and Brian Varkevisser $800. Because, after running three campaigns for Willits City Council, and in her second run for Supervisor, Holly was apparently still trying to figure out how to act like a candidate. Time will tell if Ms. Madrigal chooses to continue in electoral politics or quietly bow out like “Deb”' Fudge.

Lindy Peters
Lindy Peters

Fort Bragg Incumbents Dave Turner and Heidi Kraut were turned out of office by a trio of challengers who claimed the open seats. Michael "Q-Ball" Cimolino led all candidates with 338 votes (21.41%), local radio personality and former councilmember Lindy Peters got 329 votes (20.84%) and career educrat Mark Iacuaniello pulled down 318 votes (20.14%). The campaign was something of a referendum on long time City Manager Linda Ruffing kicked off by allegations that she mistreated and micromanaged popular former Police Chief Scott Mayberry (son of a former Fort Bragg police chief).

Mayberry went out on medical leave on July 2 and Ruffing quickly brought in an interim police chief. Ruffing was accused of personally taking the nameplate off Mayberry's office door, a clear signal that Mayberry was not welcome and would not be coming back. The controversy boiled over at a couple of City Council meetings packed with supporters of the Chief and the City Manager. On August 11, during one such contentious meeting, Mayberry emailed his resignation to a supporter who read it to the stunned crown during the meeting.

The Fort Bragg Council, long dominated by Coast Lib, was somewhat tempered by the late Jere Melo. As long as Jere was on the job, conservatives seemed to be reassured that the Council would not stray too far into "new paradigms" and "visions." But when Madeleine Melo, Jere's widow, was defeated by political newcomer Heidi Kraut in a low turnout special election to fill Jere's seat, suspicions about who was really calling the shots in FB, began to creep in. And those suspicions centered on City Manager Ruffing who was accused of wielding the real power as the City Council functioned as a complacent rubber stamp. Peters and Cimolino were recruited to throw the bums out, with Madeleine Melo acting as campaign manager for Peters. In a move that may have backfired, Iacuaniello was recruited by Councilmember Scott Dietz, thinking he would join incumbents Turner and Kraut in making a clean sweep of the three seats up for election and installing a clear Feeb majority. As it turned out, it was the incumbents who were swept out of office.

When the campaign started getting personal, Cimolino took to his facebook page to urge everyone to lay off the personal attacks and focus instead on working for change at the ballot box. But the negative attacks continued on both sides, with Cimolino and Peters having to defend themselves against the type of sneak attacks that CoastLib is known for — secret smears, character assassination, phony front groups. Peters, who would be considered a centrist or liberal Democrat anywhere except coastal Mendocino County had to defend himself against charges that he favored offshore oil drilling and fracking. Not surprisingly, Cimolino and Peters were both endorsed by former Chief Mayberry and Cimolino was endorsed by Fort Bragg Police Lieutenant John Naulty who shot and killed the murderer of popular coast deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino last March, a shootout during which Chief Mayberry provided covering fire.

Cimolino's campaign manager, Junice Gleason, paid for an ad on the eve of the election on behalf of “The Concerned Citizens for Fort Bragg” that lodged numerous complaints against the City Manager and the incumbents, prompting Turner, Kraut and Ruffing to take the unusual action of responding at the next City Council meeting during “Council Member Reports.” The Fort Bragg Advocate published lengthy statements from Turner and Ruffing in its final pre-election edition. Turner complained that Gleason's ad had “a lot of inaccuracy” but chose to address only two. He said it was not true that the Council demanded that outgoing employees sign “gag order” contracts to prevent them from criticizing the Council or City Manager. He also asserted that no current or former employee had ever complained to a City Councilmember about the City Manager. (And why would they knowing full well that the complaint would instantly be reported to the City Manager, who does have a reputation of offing malcontents.)

Unlike many local campaigns, Cimolino, Peters, and even Iacuaniello enjoyed strong name recognition going in. But the real difference may have been that both Cimolino and Iacuaniello took the time to walk door to door, both in the downtown business sector and the residential neighborhoods. Turner, a local small business success story as proprietor of Flo-beds, and the heavily pregnant Kraut, who is about to give birth, relied on mailings and print ads. And because they did not walk (enough to make the difference in a relatively close race) City Manager Linda Ruffing may be packing her bags depending on the position of Iacuaniello, the likely swing vote on the Council.

Doble
Doble

Incumbent Ukiah Mayor Phil Baldwin, the only socialist in elective office between San Francisco and Arcata, was defeated in something of an election night surprise. Baldwin, who is completing his fourth term on the Council, was expected to win re-election in a race against seven other candidates for three open seats. Former Mendocino County Chief Probation Officer Jim Brown led the pack with 747 votes (20.42%), City Planning Commissioner Kevin Doble had 626 votes (17.11%), and local businesswoman Maureen “Mo” Mulheren, with 582 votes (15.91%) were the top three finishers. Baldwin placed fourth with 493 votes (13.47%) just ahead of retired Ukiah firefighter and current County Safety Officer Mark Hilliker with 470 votes (12.85%). Organic farmer and retired sign-maker John Johns with a surprising 353 votes (9.65%), newcomer Miranda Mott who works for Real Goods in Hopland with 244 votes (6.67%), and Northern Circle Indian Housing Authority Network Administrator Christian Luiz with 141 votes (3.85%) rounded out the pack.

Baldwin suffered by association with the silly people who have dominated Ukiah politics of late. Lead Silly, Mari Rodin, jumped ship last year and incumbent sillies Mary Anne Landis and Little Benj Thomas chose not to run for re-election. A series of wacky decisions, and many, many nutty public remarks over the last several years had caused most Ukiahans to suspect that their elected leaders are seriously out of step with reality. We mean things like paying $23,000 of public money to an outtahere consultant to come up with the killer marketing slogan “Ukiah: Far Out, Nearby,” $30,000 to build a dining platform on City property for the exclusive use of their favorite downtown restaurant, and $43,000 to “landscape” the electrical substation on E. Gobbi St., which worked out to about $2,000 per bush that was actually planted. The Council also passed a resolution in favor of “zero waste,” but refused to allow city residents to recycle food waste by simply putting it in the yard waste container. Instead of the Ukiah food waste being turned into a valuable soil amendment to be used locally, the city ratepayers are charged for the cost of loading it on trucks to be buried at an outtahere landfill.

Brown & Doble soon attracted broad based community support, but Baldwin, with a strong contingent of loyal supporters, was expected to claim the third seat in a plurality election with so many candidates splitting the vote. Mulheren, the daughter of perennial losing candidate James ‘The Ever Pleasant Jim’ Mulheren, managed to pull an upset in her first foray into electoral politics. Her father lost at least two races for City Council and one for County Supervisor. Mulheren, who is 35 and runs a local insurance business, has been active in a number of community groups and actively appealed to younger people to get involved.

Mulheren
Mulheren

Mulheren & Mott provided an interesting study in contrasts. Every candidate is allowed up to three words to describe themselves on the ballot, the one piece of paper every voter will see. Mulheren was listed as a “Local Business Owner,” while Mott's name was followed by the notation “no designation provided.” Mulheren often dressed like she was auditioning for a job as a cocktail waitress while Mott, a personable young woman of 27, adopted a more casual style. Mulheren managed to rattle off positions on a variety of issues, usually sounding like she knew what she was talking about. Mott relied heavily on liberal buzzwords like “sustainable.” When questioned on the issues her stock answer was “I'm still studying that.” After a few more years of study she might be ready for prime time, if service on the Ukiah City Council can be considered prime time. (Although two city councilmen — Shoemaker and McCowen — leveraged their council positions into successful Supervisorial runs — if that can be considered a success.)

Ukiah City Manager Jane Chambers may have been the biggest loser in the Ukiah City Elections. Chambers has long had the reputation of leading her complacent and seemingly clueless council around by the nose. The total number of times that Rodin, Landis or Thomas voted against the City Manager in their collective 20+ years in office can be tallied on the fingers of one hand. Chambers, who was hired at a flat $150,000, managed to inflate her pay to the neighborhood of $225,000 with numerous add-ons for “executive pay” (wasn't she hired to be an executive?), “performance bonuses” (for failing to balance the budget five years in a row?), and so on. At least a couple of the incoming councilmembers have been openly critical of Chambers’ history of mismanagement, leading to speculation that Chambers may soon be looking for a new job. (Maybe she and Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing can swap places?) After all, Ruffing's boyfriend, former Second District Supervisor Richard Shoemaker, lives in Ukiah.

Willits City Council Incumbents Larry Stranske with 284 votes (41.28%) and Ron Orenstein with 212 votes (30.81%) were returned to office over challenger and bypass opponent Robin Leler who garnered 188 votes (27.33%). As previously pointed out in this paper, the Willits candidates distinguished themselves by their almost total inability to state a coherent position on almost any issue. Asked how they could show leadership to repair the relationship with Brooktrails once the lawsuit settles, Stranske said six times “I don't know.” Orenstein said the elected officials needed to sit down and reach a settlement (something he said had not been attempted, although Mayor Madrigal is known to have done so, albeit not successfully). Leler, ignoring that Brooktrails is several miles uphill from Willits, said the Council needs to “start talking to all the people in this valley.”

If the Willits City Council vote was a referendum on the bypass (Stranske and Orenstein both support it, while Leler opposes it) it looks like a majority of the Willits voters would like to see the project completed. But Leler was so clearly out of her element on the issues (either saying she would defer all decisions to staff, or saying she was still learning) that the incumbents may simply have won by default. And with Mayor Madrigal losing her bid for Supervisor, the makeup of the Council will likely stay the same for the next two years. If bypass opponent Leler had been elected, she, along with Madrigal and holdover incumbent Madge Strong, could have caused any number of problems for Caltrans and the bypass contractors. As it stands, the bypass will continue to face the determined opposition of Save Our Little Lake Valley and North Coast Earth First! as they continue their delaying tactics that may delay the project and cost more money but won’t affect the final project in any appreciable way.

Anti-Fracking Measure "S" passed with a resounding 67.18% with 7,302 votes to 3,567. Acting/Interim County Counsel Douglas L. Losak, always handy for a negative opinion, says the measure is unconstitutional for several reasons, including a purported intent to trump state and federal law. Losak says that if the County gets sued over Measure S it will wind up costing the County money fighting a case it can't win. The proponents claim Measure S can easily pass constitutional muster and that there are a legion of attorney's willing to defend it on a pro-bono basis at no cost to the County. Unlike other jurisdictions with anti-fracking ballot measures, Mendo's Measure S failed to attract any organized opposition. Does this mean (as some critics say) that Mendo County is not at risk for fracking? Or only that the frackers failed to notice a somewhat quixotic challenge to their hegemony in an isolated outback County?

FROM PAUL McCARTHY of the essential daily reading at Mendocinosportsplus:

In the morning, MSP 'runs around the radio dial' starting at 6:00 am looking for news. Usually, we settle upon KZOT (95.3 FM) to listen to Joe Regelski at the 'coast news desk.' We once listened to Philo-based public radio KZYX (90.7 FM) but quit after reminding (via email) the morning news reader time & time again he shouldn't read items word for word from the Press Democrat without giving them attribution. That's a very troubled station over there.

We became aware of the controversy of City Council candidate Lindy Peters being "on air" at the Fort Bragg radio station KUNK (The Skunk) with some indicating the other candidates should get equal on-air time — this despite the fact that Peters was merely doing his job and not campaigning on-air.

We thought about this a lot. Should he be on air during a campaign? Does it provide an unfair advantage having his name out there?

We know down in Santa Rosa, Chris Coursey of the Press Democrat, stepped away from writing his column when he decided to run for City Council (and he won & was the top vote getter).

So maybe Peters should have stepped away also.

One thing we noticed, but no one has mentioned, was a series of ads run multiple times every morning on KOZT for 'DAVE TURNER'S FloBeds.'

They were even read by newsman Regelski.

The subliminal message 'DAVE TURNER FloBed' was pounded relentlessly into the listening audience's ears time & time again every morning leading up to the election.

Dave Turner, is, of course, the Fort Bragg Mayor and was running for his city council seat.

The ads stopped, not surprisingly, right after the election.

Was it necessary to use 'DAVE TURNER' in front of the Flo-beds?

No, it was not.

Nowhere on the Redwood Street company's website does it say 'DAVE TURNER'S FloBeds.' It says 'The Original' FloBeds, not 'DAVE TURNER'S FloBeds.'

The sign outside the shop does NOT say 'DAVE TURNER'S FloBeds' So why did the store suddenly gain a new name? You'd be an idiot not to know. Name recognition (along with $$$) is the mother's milk of politics.

Was KOZT complicit in this subliminal campaign message? We can't see how they wouldn't be — and shame on them. They've come down a notch in our eyes.

Maybe some campaign rules & regulations should be written to keep a level playing field when election time comes rolling around.

2 Responses to "Election Notes 2014"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.