Voting patterns by Laguna Beach residents defied countywide trends on the most-watched state and national measures, with a single exception.
Voters countywide and in Laguna Beach both voted by wide margins to elect a local resident, deputy district attorney Debra Carrillo, to the Superior Court bench. “Holy smokes…. She won in a landslide,” said Steve Spernak, Carrillo’s campaign manager.
Carrillo took 76 percent of the local vote compared to 36 percent for challenger Kermit Marsh. The countywide margin was 64 to 35 percent in her favor.
In the presidential race, Barack Obama won 63 percent of Laguna Beach votes to John McCain’s 36 percent. Countywide, unlike in the rest of the country, McCain carried the day, winning 50 percent to Obama’s 47 percent, the smallest margin in decades by a Republican candidate in a traditional Republican stronghold, according to unofficial results on the county registrar’s website.
For the first time at least since 2000, Democratic registration in Laguna Beach exceeded Republican registration in the run-up to the Nov. 4 election, climbing to 18,964 people, about a 1,500-person increase over registration for the 2004 presidential race.
The unofficial vote tally in Laguna Beach pegged turnout at 60 percent with 11,424 casting votes, according to a still unofficial vote tally.
That boost in Democratic registration locally appeared to buoy results for state and national Democratic challengers within city limits, though they were ultimately unsuccessful in district-wide races.
On Prop. 8, the amendment to ban gay marriage, local residents voted two to one against the measure, 68 percent voting “no” and 31 percent voting “yes,” reflecting a community standard that differed substantially from the surrounding county. Countywide, 57 percent of voters approved Prop. 8, while 43 percent disapproved; statewide figures were similar, at 52 and 48 percent, respectively.
“I’m convinced if the election were held a week later, we would have beat it,” said Fred Karger, a Laguna Beach gay activist who mobilized one of several “No on 8” campaigns. “I thought we were going to get clobbered.”
Eight years ago, California voters by a 61 to 38 percent margin also showed their disapproval for a similar gay-marriage ban. Karger is cheered by Tuesday’s far narrower results. “That’s within striking distance,” he said, describing the outcome as a “sea change” reflecting an influx of younger voters.
Results in two of 27 Laguna Beach precincts contradicted local voter trends elsewhere in town on Prop. 8, the presidency, and in the candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Emerald Bay residents voted 342 to 261 in approval of Prop. 8, while Three Arch Bay residents were more closely divided but still favored the measure, voting 292 to 290 for the proposition.
Both Emerald Bay and Three Arch Bay voters also preferred McCain to Obama, contrary to results in every other precinct in town.
A majority of voters in both gated communities also preferred the congressional incumbent, Rep. John Campbell of Newport Beach, to the two-time challenger, Steve Young, also of Newport. Young won 54 percent of Laguna Beach voters, compared to 41 percent for Campbell, who nonetheless was re-elected. A third precinct, spanning Crescent Bay, Smithcliffs, and south Emerald Bay-adjacent streets, also favored Campbell over Young.
“Clearly it was a tough environment for any Republican incumbent,” Campbell said through a spokesman. “I’m pleased I was re-elected by the entire district.”
Young, who in 2006 also won the upper hand over Campbell in Laguna Beach, was gratified by the results. “I love Laguna,” he said. “The only thing I don’t like are the hills when I’m out walking precincts.”
Young said his candidacy in the 48th Congressional district has helped energize Democrats elsewhere in the county, who allowed fewer Republican incumbents to go unchallenged in Tuesday’s contests. “We intend to keep organizing and turning over the safest Republican stronghold, just like Obama did with the red states.”