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Tim Myers: The role of North River voters in City Council elections

Posted: May 7, 2010 7:32 p.m.
Updated: May 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.
A brief history lesson of the Santa Clarita Valley: There is a real estate agent-invented conceit known by the name “North Valencia” — effectively, the housing tracts on the west side of the Seco Canyon corridor.

Residents often mistake this term with what the Newhall Land and Farming Co., the developer of Valencia, named the North River tracts of Valencia proper — primarily, Bridgeport, Northbridge, Northbridge Pointe, Northpark and the newish tracts of Creekside and Alta Vista.

These tracts roughly comprise voting precincts 126, 6, 11 and 17 of the city of Santa Clarita, and they emerged as a political force in the 2008 election — when Laurie Ender used this area for her political base and shockingly came in first, beating a sitting incumbent and defeated the odds on favorite for the open seat, one Robert Speirer, by more than 1,000 votes — a humiliating outcome.

Full disclosure: The Myers family moved to the Northbridge tract in the heart of Precinct 6 in 1996, and I unabashedly supported Ender’s ascendancy to the City Council, representing the important demographic of folks who moved into the SCV after 1990, but who lived here long enough to want to play an important role in the community. I enjoy the ascendancy of the area that best exemplifies this demographic.

After that election, and later, I theorized that this event constituted a coming of age for the city and city politics, with the commuter class that inhabited the Valencia hills above the Santa Clara River finally asserting itself after living in the area, on average, between 10-20 years, and defeating the former axis of power in Sand Canyon with residents in excess of 20 years.

I even stated that David Gauny’s candidacy constituted a challenge of the Sand Canyon axis attempting to reassert its power, which it almost did with an extremely narrow loss to incumbent Frank Ferry. The question: Did the North River tracts still play a significant role in the 2010 election?

The short answer, based on an excellent Google map prepared by local political geek and technophile Mike Devlin, is “yes.” Let us examine the numbers surrounding these four key precincts and what they did in the 2010 election.

Our four precincts generated nearly 6,300 total votes, in excess of 20 percent of the votes cast in the entire election. The incumbents, including Ferry, won big in these four precincts, and the incumbent council members enjoyed a victory in these four precincts of nearly 500 votes over challenger Gauny. It was a lead Ferry would need every bit of to withstand the late election-day surge by Gauny.

But even more importantly, or heartbreaking, depending upon one’s point of view, is the turnout in the four important precincts. On average, these four precincts delivered a turnout rate of 300-350 basis points above the mean of the entire city. Even though only Precinct 6 would break the 20-percent mark, the slightly more engaged precincts made all the difference.

Recasting the precinct results at the mean turnout in North River, Ferry only generates a lead of 420 votes out of the four precincts, and Gauny unseated the incumbent.

A near-election translates into numerous heartbreaks, since one can attribute the narrow margin of defeat to scores of events.

Leaving aside the results in North River, while Gauny did well in Sand Canyon, he still came second to incumbent Laurene Weste.
(So much for, “Know your incumbents — no votes for incumbents.”)

In his home precinct of the Summit, while Gauny won big, the turnout in this allegedly infuriated area stood in excess of 100 basis points below mean, so that Gauny built only a 200-vote lead over Ferry.

If the turnout reached the same as the Ferry-loving precinct six, Gauny built a lead of 280 votes and would have won the election.

So, in conclusion, the North River precincts still swung a large enough bat to provide enough votes to keep Ferry in his council seat, though barely.

The continued strength and turnout in these precincts should provide a cautionary tale against anyone hoping to unseat the incumbent Ender in 2012.

While I still believe Gauny will win the open seat vacated by Bob Kellar in 2012 if he chooses to run, he should beware any challenger who counts the North River precincts as their political base.

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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