In what could fairly be described as an upset, Laguna Beach voters on Tuesday kicked out two city council incumbents—who also happened to be the current mayor and mayor pro tem—and put in their place a returning veteran to the city's political scene, as well as a long-time public official making his first run at a chair on the dais.
Challengers Steve Dicterow and Bob Whalen managed to upend the theory that sitting mayors have an advantage in an election year, defeating Mayor Jane Egly handily, as well as Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger. Rollinger, in particular, also had a daunting financial advantage for her challengers to overcome, taking in $50,000 in campaign donations during the first six months of the year.
With two council seats available, Dicterow's second-place finish was enough to top Rollinger by nearly 800 votes. Whalen won the day with 27.5 percent of the tally, while Egly wound up in fourth. Longshot Robert Ross proved an also-ran, coming in last with just 634 votes.
"I'm feeling great," said Whalen, who was with family and supporters at the House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer. "It's been a year of a lot of planning and work, but I'm most proud of the bipartisan support I had from Republicans, Democrats and Independents."
Dicterow was likewise in a celebratory mood.
"This is the happiest day of my life," Dicterow told Patch after leaving a party at Mare Culinary Lounge, where he had just spent several nervous hours waiting for the totals to arrive. "Happy because of the way this happened. It was just so unexpected—the feeling that I was the old guy, that I had been around before ..."
With Rollinger now out of the picture, it remains to be seen who'll become the next mayor and mayor pro tem at the council's Dec. 4 meeting. The titles rotate, which may mean that 2013 will be looking a lot like 2009, when Kelly Boyd and Elizabeth Pearson assumed those roles.
MEASURE CC BULLDOZED
Laguna Beach voters also turned down Measure CC, which, if passed, would have imposed a $120 per year tax on each parcel of land in the city as part of an effort to raise money so the city could purchase available land and preserve it as open space.
The initiative had an uphill climb from the start, needing a two-thirds, or 67 percent majority, to pass. It failed to even garner a simple majority by over 1,200 votes.
"The people who wrote it didn't understand the legacy of Jim Dilley," said No on CC supporter Howard Hills, referring to the founder of the Laguna Greenbelt. "They attempted to create a counterfeit legacy and tried to hijack the community's support for open space. The people of Laguna Beach are smart enough to figure out that it was just an attempt to give them a platform in city government, with funding for 20 years."
SCHOOL BOARD STAYS SAME
While voters were upending the city council, they also decided that they really like the Laguna Beach Unified School District—enough to return incumbents Jan Vickers and Bill Landsiedel to their chairs.
Especially Vickers, who won over 6,000 votes. Challengers Tammy Keces and Dee Namba Perry finished third and fourth.
"It looks like our community has decided to stick with what they're comfortable with," Keces told Patch.
- To the shock of absolutely nobody, Laura Parisi won her City Treasurer race, as did City Clerk-to-be Lisette Chel-Walker. Both ran unopposed.
- In the State Assembly race, Republican Allan Mansoor defeated rival Democrat Robert Rush, 57-43 percent.
- In the State Senate race, Republican Mimi Walters trounced her opponent, Democrat Steve Young.
- And in the newly-configured 48th U.S. Congressional District, Republican Dana Rohrabacher beat back a challenge from Democrat Ron Varasteh, 62-38 percent.