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Tim Myers: Ender’s loss broken down by districts

Myers' Musings

Posted: May 12, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2012 1:55 a.m.

After the 2000 Santa Clarita election, I examined results down to the precinct level to satisfy a bit of curiosity: In the Santa Clarita at large system, could one or more areas of the city disproportionately affect the overall results, either by achieving a higher than average turnout or voting in larger proportions for specific candidates?

I learned two things from that examination that held true through the elections of 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. First, the great and consistent common denominator of Santa Clarita elections resides in extremely low turnout across all precincts, with the lone exception of the Friendly Valley area, where turnout approaches statewide averages of 30 percent. Second, no region plumped more or less for any specific candidate or group of candidates, with the eventual winners finishing first, second or third in nearly every precinct.

This changed abruptly, and perhaps permanently, in the 2008 election.

The top vote-getter, Laurie Ender, did not finish first or second in every precinct, but instead showed particular strength in the North River communities of Valencia (Northbridge, Northbridge Pointe and Northpark), the neighborhoods most associated with the Helmers and Northpark Elementary school communities where she launched her political career through PTA involvement.

In 2010, this strength would flow to Frank Ferry and allow him to build a sufficient lead in the vote by mails, or VBMs, from those same areas that challenger David Gauny could not quite overcome. Many expected that a similar phenomenon in 2012, combined with the traditional strength of incumbents across the city, would propel the erstwhile mayor to a record-setting victory. What actually occurred?

In no particular order, people wondered if the public misstep at a candidate forum at which the mayor mused that it might work out for the best if one could magically transport the Jakes Way neighborhood to Palmdale would hurt the incumbent mayor. While one cannot conclusively prove cause and effect due to the lack of exit polling, the fact exists that the former mayor came dead last in the precincts geographically located in Canyon Country.

What about the former mayor’s position on hospital expansion? In the precincts most closely located to the hospital, Ender came a disappointing and weak third place.

In the precincts most closely associated with Newhall, the former mayor would come third, nearly 600 votes off the leader in that region, Bob Kellar. Kellar and Boydston would combine their vote totals in Newhall to stand nearly 500 votes ahead of the combined vote totals of all three of the remaining candidates, a truly strong showing indeed.

Ender could take some small solace in the fact that in the precincts of the older part of Valencia and Saugus, while still coming third, not quite so distant behind Boydston, like the performance in Newhall, but what about the precincts in north Valencia where Ender could hope for succor?

Ender did again win this region, but only by 290 votes over the second-place finisher Kellar. Remember how in 2008, Ender built a 600 vote lead in this region, which crashed four years on by 50 percent. While maintaining this performance in 2012 would not save the Ender candidacy, it would make the defeat narrower and less humiliating. Look for Frank Ferry to study this result carefully in considering his own decision regarding running in 2014.

But some things don’t change. Save for the results in north Valencia, Kellar came not only first, but strongly in first in every other region of the city, while Boydston came second, indicating a strong (nearly) citywide endorsement of their election. Also, last-place finisher Jon Hatami came last in every region of the city save Canyon Country, where he barely edged out a wounded Ender.

This naturally raises the issue of districts rather than an at-large system for electing council members, which I will discuss in my next column. For a variety of reasons districts will probably replace the at large system in Santa Clarita by the end of the decade, and one can make various observations about how a district system might work in Santa Clarita based on past voting patterns.

I will present readers with a tease that the astute already discerned: Under a district system, the former mayor would still sit in that chair on the council dais.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident.


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