Voters returned three Laguna Beach City Council candidates to office for another four-year term, according to provisional results of the Nov. 2 election by the county registrar.
In contrast to the conservative mood of the nation’s greater electorate, just 16 percent of Laguna Beach voters embraced change in the form of challenger Emanuel Patrascu. The three-year resident and aide to state Sen. Tom Harman received about 3,000 votes.
“When things are running well, then rightfully so, the council gets credit for it,” said former mayor Steve Dicterow, who endorsed Patrascu but was not involved with his campaign.
In a reversal of the popular vote during the 2006 council election, tavern owner Kelly Boyd was the day’s top local vote-getter, with more than 30 percent of the votes cast. He was followed by Mayor Elizabeth Pearson with 28 percent and Mayor pro tem Toni Iseman, who four years ago drew the most votes. This year she received 25 percent.
“I’m delighted to have four more years to protect the things we all value,” said Iseman, the town’s next mayor. She speculates her vote tally was undercut by late-arriving campaign literature to local Democrats, ostensibly delineating voter guidance on the Democratic “team” that listed the Republican-endorsed challenger in the nonpartisan race.
“I know there were people out there who didn’t know it was a phony slate,” said Iseman, who did receive the official endorsement of Democratic party organizations in town and countywide. Iseman denounced the mailer that arrived the day before the election as a deliberately dishonest attempt to fool uninformed voters.
Patrascu disagreed. “I don’t think it’s disingenuous; it’s not a Democratic or Republican race. I’ve been seeking everyone’s vote,” said Patrascu, who pledged to improve Laguna Beach’s economy, balance its budget and improve public safety. Though he is a Republican, he paid to have his name included on 10 different slate mailings aimed at voters across the political spectrum and mostly financed by initiative campaigns.
While Patrascu says he’s too preoccupied to consider a future candidacy, several current council members, including Pearson and Verna Rollinger lost their initial races, pointed out Dicterow, who described Patrascu’s vote tally as “impressive” nonetheless.
“I hope he sticks around,” said voter Kay Teel, who expressed admiration for Patrascu’s campaign against candidates with higher name recognition and more money. “I think we need some new blood,” she said.
Even so, for Patrascu to gain legitimacy as a potential candidate requires more involvement, Dicterow said. Moreover, his message about improving the town’s economy failed to resonate with residents, more typically irate about views, mansionization and traffic. “That’s not an issue you can win with,” he said.
For his part, Boyd believes he ruled the day, because “people realize I know Laguna well and try to be fair. I don’t owe any group anything,” he said.
After the polls closed on Tuesday, Boyd and Pearson convened at the downtown Marine Room for a presumptive victory party. A parade of well-wishers from the town’s power structure elbowed their way through the crowd to offer shouted greetings.
Even Uncle Sam (aka Pat Quilter) put in an appearance.