Last night was a stunning rout for the "Big 2" carpetbaggers in the Los Angeles City Council special election for District 2. Burbank Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and former Paramount Pictures movie executive Christine Essel are headed for a dramatic runoff in December. The night was filled with laughter for some, but it was also filled with tears and self-doubt for others. As usual, it didn't take long before angry supporters of the defeated candidates started to play the "blame game"as to why the District will now be subjected to a runoff between two candidates that many neighborhood activists despised. Why
did things happen this way? Let's review....
Paul Krekorian - Paul ran the best race. He was organized and his forces worked effectively for him. He made sure to get out the vote... both the mail-in and the polling place votes. However, he had to be disappointed with finishing with less than 40% of the vote. As an Assemblyman, he was the only big name politician in this race and would have preferred winning outright. Now he has to face a dangerous Chris Essel...who may be so overjoyed to have made the runoff that she might go raise a million bucks to take Paul down in December. Paul can blame repeated attacks from the other candidates for lowering his numbers, although, as a serial "Runaway Politician", Krekorian has his own behavior to blame for some of it.
Chris Essel - Many of the other candidates can point the finger of blame at Chris Essel. Although Essel stumbled badly at the forums and debates, most voters never saw those performances. They did, however, see the bright, shiny and happy mailers that arrived in their mailboxes week after week. TV commercials, robocalls from Wendy Gruel...Chris Essel showed that ...yes...quite often elections do come down to money. She had it. She spent it. She got the votes. However, she did get shockingly low results from her cash outlays. Chris Essel spent over 320K on this election...and got 4,104 votes. That works out mathematically to an eye-popping, mind-boggling total of about $80 per vote!! This has to be some type of world record. At least an American political record. If Chris is committed to spending this type of money to win a City Council seat...maybe she should just walk around CD 2 handing out $100 bills. She would definitely get a bigger turnout for that....that's for sure.
Tamar Galatzan - I got a terse email from Tamar Galatzan last night. She wasn't happy. That is easy to understand. She doesn't like to lose. Although I started out as vocal critic of Tamar, I eventually grew to like her and respect her as a candidate. She is tough, she is a fighter and she really wanted to win this election. She kicked some butt at the forums and debates and showed real leadership ability. However, she finished in third and won't be the new CD 2 Council Member. Not for now, at least. Politics is a cyclical game and Tamar has to understand that a defeat isn't the end of the world. I'm sure she'll win an election for something else in the future. Tamar can blame the other candidates for their aggressive attacks and criticisms of her as a runaway politician, but the biggest culprit in her defeat last night was that gigantic pile of Chris Essels money.
Mary Benson - Mary Benson did very well in the election, coming in fourth place. Not bad for a woman who didn't raise or spend a lot of money on her campaign. Mary can point the finger of blame at several things -- some of it just plain bad luck. The Station Fire, which preoccupied a lot of her supporters in the heart of the campaign, cost Mary a lot of time and energy. Mary got an endorsement from Kevin James, but it came very late in the campaign. Walter Moore tried to help her also...but it was a case of too little, too late from Walter.
Joe Essavi - Michael McCue - Pete Sanchez - David Saltsburg - Frank Sheftel - Augusto Bisani
I am lumping these candidates all together because none of them had a decent showing in this election. Pete got about 700 votes, but all the rest got under 500. It took them 500 signatures from District 2 voters just to get them on the ballot. If you can't get 500 votes in the election, then your support actually dropped during the campaign. Voter apathy was terrible. The 14, 525 votes cast was only 11.74 % turnout. Horrific.
Fans and supporters of the 8 who didn't win - There has already been a lot of finger-pointing and acrimony over the results. More people voted AGAINST Krekorian and Essel than voted for them. Unfortunately the vote was too scattered. Fans and supporters of Mary Benson and Tamar Galatzan have been heated on the blogs...saying how all the other candidates should have dropped out and supported one of them. It is an interesting idea. The combined votes of the 8 who didn't win would have totaled 5,422 if added together. Enough to claim first place and a spot in the runoff. Instead, we have 8 upset candidates watching from the sidelines in December as the two most-disliked candidates have a runoff election.
Many have suggested they should have brokered a deal before the election. Unfortunately, politics doesn't work like that. There are egos and emotions involved. The time for discussing that type of grand strategy -- and believe me, it happens -- was the first few days of the campaign. Maybe the candidates should have talked soon after they found out who was going to run from the City Clerk. It is often difficult to get candidates to agree to this type of thing. The last few days of the campaign was not the time to be discussing this, though. The big winner here was Louis Pugliese, who made it on the ballot, but dropped out immediately because he didn't see a way for him to win the election.
Eric Hacopian/John Shallman - The "Black Ops" consultants for each candidate. Hacopian can blame Shallman and Shallman can point the finger back at Hacopian.
Republican Party of Los Angeles County (RPLAC) - Yes, I hate to say it, but my own party shares some of the blame for this outcome. My God... it only would have taken 4,200 votes to get Joe Essavi or Mary Benson into a runoff election for a City Council seat in a District with 123,000 registered voters. RPLAC did send out an email asking people to support both candidates, but if RPLAC had a team of 200 volunteers show up and walk precincts and phone bank ... ohhh. It really hurts to think about it. Especially in this City where we are so outnumbered.
Voters of Council District 2 - Faced with the ballot choices between two horrible carpetbaggers and eight community members, 88% of the voters in CD 2 did not bother to vote for their new City Council Member ... a person that will probably influence their lives for years to come.
Sometimes in politics, you get the government you deserve. (And that's not always a good thing.)