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Tim Myers: Sound of thunder: Was it a sun shower or a tornado?

Posted: April 16, 2010 6:18 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Old-time farmers in the Midwest would often talk about the "sound of thunder" in the distance on a hot July day. Did the sound portend a sun shower that would last for 15 minutes, cool the air and make the colors of the plants pop? Or would it prophesy a barn-destroying, crop-killing tornado and hailstorm that would wreak havoc on the plain?

The mystery no longer exists. When a farmer, or anyone, hears the sound of thunder they can immediately run to a desktop, pop up and see real-time satellite pictures of the speed, intensity and distance of the heralded storm - much like our state and national political races, where poll after poll predict the outcomes, and even dissect them with troubling accuracy.

But due to the nature of Santa Clarita politics and the lack (and probably actual inability) to provide scientifically meaningful polls, the mystery remains locally. What did the distant sound of thunder in the 2010 political campaign portend?

It turns out that probably until Monday we are still in the midst of a strong storm to determine the third council seat, with Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste easily coming in first and second, respectively, and gathering about 1,000 additional votes each from their last re-election in 2006.

In the third slot, a 69-vote, election night lead of incumbent Frank Ferry over challenger David Gauny awaits the counting of some 650 additional ballots to obtain a resolution.

Even if Gauny does not miraculously wipe out the 69-vote lead in the counting of the remaining ballots (and the math relating to this is extremely difficult, but not impossible), he already accomplished something historic: No challenger managed to come this close without actually unseating an incumbent since 1996, when Ferry (ironically) came within 214 votes of incumbent Jan Heidt.

Also, if Gauny manages to come in third, it will constitute the first time since vote-by-mail ballots crossed the threshold of 50 percent of the ballots cast that actual poll votes altered the outcome fixed by the vote-by-mail results. In this case it was a seemingly insurmountable 800-vote lead whittled down drastically to 69 in the space of an hour.

Also, regardless of the outcome, the election numbers will provide a treasure trove of analysis for numerical geeks like me. Pending receipt of the actual numbers provided in very granular form by our outstanding City Clerk's office, a few takeaways from the election already exist:

  • One can probably now say conclusively that campaign signs really do not matter. TimBen Boydston's campaign ran a very aggressive and creative sign campaign, including volunteers going out in the middle of the night to attempt to outmaneuver city code-enforcement personnel and subcontractors.

    Alas, Boydston, bless his heart, finished just under 700 votes out of the post, like any normal serious challenger, while the candidate with the fewest signs, Marsha McLean, polled the highest.
  • Facebook is a hollow enterprise when it comes to local politics. Boydston had a campaign and personal Facebook page with more than 3,000 friends and sent out Facebook updates on at least a daily basis and then several times a day.

    About six weeks ago, Councilwoman Laurie Ender started a Ferry campaign fan page which ended up with fewer than 80 fans, but Ferry still bested Boydston by nearly 700 votes.

    Sadly, an overwhelming presence on Facebook does not translate into an overwhelming presence in balloting in Santa Clarita, at least not yet.
  • If you are a geography Republican, become a right-wing Republican. With the chameleon-like grace held by professional salespeople, Gauny, in his heart a geography Republican (a Republican only because most of the people where they live are also Republicans) became a frothing right-winger, eventually consorting with crypto-racists and pushing articles from the American Spectator out on his Facebook page.

    If he gains a seat this time, or runs in 2012 to replace Bob Kellar and definitely gets a seat, he will hopefully morph back into his earnest, local-issue nerd self.
  • It's all your fault. The truly heartbreaking part of such a close race is that any misstep could be traced to the eventual loss, and any opponent can take credit for causing the defeat.
  • And finally, if Ferry holds onto his lead, incumbency really is magical.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Myers' Musings" appears Sundays in The Signal.


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