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Santa Clarita Valley voters elect candidate to water board who says she knows nothing about water

Winners’ strategy: Don’t campaign

Posted: November 4, 2009 9:47 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Newly elected Newhall County Water District board member Kathy Colley made a calculated decision when she chose not to campaign at all in her election bid.

Simply put, she knows nothing about running a water district.

“I didn’t need to boast about things I knew nothing about,” she said, explaining why she chose not to engage with voters before the election.

“I think I am a quick study. I am going into it with an open mind,” the registered nurse added.

Nevertheless, Santa Clarita Valley voters put the political novice in office by a clear margin.

She entered the race for Newhall Water board with a clear objective: stop Michael Cruz, a candidate with union backing, from bringing unions to the Newhall County Water District.

“I was a bit concerned over Mr. Cruz boasting over his union support,” Colley said.

The “boasting” occurred during a trip to Sacramento attended by Cruz, Colley and nearly 70 other Santa Clarita Valley political and business leaders.

“I don’t think (unions) have any role in our water issues,” Colley said.

Cruz called Colley’s claims “absurd.”

“I had no intention to unionize (the NCWD’s) 32 employees,” Cruz said.

As for union money and influence penetrating Cruz’s campaign, he did take money from the Engineers and Architects Association, which represents more than 7,000 city of Los Angeles employees, most of them criminal lab technicians and administrative professionals. The money, according to Cruz, is available to any union member who wants to run for office.

Ed Colley, Kathy Colley’s husband and member of the Castaic Lake Water Agency board, said Cruz’s acceptance of union money taints him as a candidate.

“The political reality is that (unions) financed his campaign. They would expect him to unionize (Newhall County Water).”

Cruz said he views the comments as an insult to him and other civil service employees.

“He’s not just insulting me, he’s insulting the sheriff’s department, the fire department and all the employees at Santa Clarita City Hall,” Cruz said.

Sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and Santa Clarita city employees are all members of unions.

Kathy Colley’s winning recipe
Kathy Colley won by 300 votes, or nearly 6 percentage points.

Cruz blames low voter turnout for the loss.

“I thought the whole time I would need 2,100 votes to win,” he said.

The top vote-getter for the water board, B.J. Atkins, received only 1,536 votes.

Ed Colley said voter turnout and debates had nothing to do with the outcome. Rather, he said he suspected voters were turned off by Cruz’s profession.

He works as a paralegal for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, handling criminal prosecutions. On the ballot, he was listed as simply a “paralegal,” compared to Colley’s “registered nurse.”

Ed Colley said he thinks that was one of Cruz’s biggest mistakes.

“(Paralegal) isn’t something that polls well,” Ed Colley said.

He used Brian Koegle, who ran what Ed Colley called a great campaign for the Santa Clarita Community College district seat #1, as an example. Koegle listed his occupation on the ballot as an attorney, and he lost his bid by 2,800 votes.

“The political reality is that law enforcement and teacher, those things poll well. Lawyer doesn’t poll so well in this valley,” Ed Colley said.

Cruz never considered making a strategic move and mentioning on the ballot his role in a prosecutor’s office, even though he knew it would help.

“I think prosecutor’s office would have played well with voters here who connect with it with law enforcement,” he said. “However, putting prosecutor’s office would have been intellectually dishonest.”

The City Attorney’s Office has a wide range of jobs and simply stating the he worked there may have signalled he was a prosecuting attorney, Cruz said.

Kathy Colley said she hoped her profession played a role in the election.

“I think it showed people I took giving to another level in the community,” she said, adding nursing prepared her for public service.  

Portrait of a new board member

While politicians across the SCV gathered at restaurants to wait for election returns and celebrate, Kathy Colley was in Connecticut doting over a new granddaughter.

Kathy Colley had four words for her success the day after the election: “We got very lucky.”

With no campaign literature, Kathy Colley is a virtual unknown.

“I wish she had campaigned,” said Maria Gutzeit, Newhall County Water District board president. “I always enjoy learning about the other candidate’s position before they join the board.”

Kathy Colley said she has some basic goals for the Newhall County Water District.

“I’m hoping to procure reasonably rated, quality water for us to enjoy.”


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