Former Mayor Sandra Genis and Councilmen Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan were leading in votes for Costa Mesa City Council Tuesday night, according to Orange County Registrar of Voters data.
The top three vote-getters were poised to take the three open seats of the five-member council.
With 38 of 71 precincts reporting, Mensinger and Genis were battling it out for the top spot. As of 10:30 p.m., Genis led the field of eight candidates with 8,263 votes. Mensinger had 7,892 votes, and Monahan, who is seeking his fifth nonconsecutive term, had 7,754 votes.
Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy, who campaigned alongside Mensinger and Monahan as the "3Ms" slate, was coming in fourth. Attorney John Stephens and businessman Harold Weitzberg, who campaigned with Genis as "The Top 3," were coming in fifth and sixth, respectively.
The two candidates who did not actively campaign, Al Melone and James Rader, were coming in seventh and eighth, respectively.
"It feels great to be in the lead," said Genis, who last served from 1988 to 1996.
"However, I'm hoping [for] one of my fellow teammates to pull up as well," she added, in reference to Weitzberg and Stephens.
Contacted earlier in the evening, Weitzberg said, "I feel great. I feel terrific. I am within reach of winning."
Win or lose, he added, "We can work at unifying the city."
The mood at Skosh Monahan's, Monahan's Irish pub and restaurant, was jubilant. The Eastside establishment on Newport Boulevard has been the hangout for the 3Ms and their supporters, some of whom were wearing red, white and blue and donned flag scarves.
An annex on top of the restaurant has been serving as a Republican Party of Orange County headquarters. Its entrance had an orange neon sign that read "GOP HQ."
Mensinger, wearing a city of Costa Mesa button, said he was feeling great about the results.
"In the end, I think we're going to continue to move forward with the city," he said, adding that the big turnout this year will "send a message to a lot of people."
Monahan said that he felt a bit nervous in the morning, but that changed once he got to his polling place.
The lines haven't been that long since Gov. Gray Davis' recall in 2003, he said.
"I got a lot of high-fives and thumbs-up," he said. "I was feeling a lot better after that."
Mike Villani, who was at the bar with his girlfriend, said the councilman's incumbency is beneficial for Costa Mesa.
"He knows the workings of this city," he said.
McCarthy, who cast his vote at Paularino Elementary School earlier that day, said he had a lot of phone calls from residents Tuesday asking about Measure V, the city's charter initiative. He talked while sipping on the "Skosh Monahan's special": Diet Coke.
The nickname is a reference to an alleged setup involving Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who reportedly drank the diet cola at the bar before he left for home and was trailed by private investigator. The investigator, an ex-policeman, reported that he suspected Righeimer was driving drunk.
The saga was one of several that made for contentious and atypical political theater throughout Costa Mesa's heated election season.
Across town at the Westside Bar & Grill on West 19th Street, Weitzberg, Stephens and Genis — and their supporters — watched the results.
Despite their slate getting fewer votes than their opponents, the mood was cheerful, with dancing and music.
The supporters — which included members of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government (CM4RG) — waved flags, displayed banners and showed off centerpieces with the candidates' photos on them.
"I am feeling very good," said Robin Leffler, head of CM4RG. "Well the night's not over. This really was a bad pot of soup."
Organizers were also handing out sheriff's badges because, they hoped, there would be "a new sheriff in town."
Charles Mooney, a Costa Mesa resident since 1978, sat at the bar with a T-shirt in support of Genis, Weitzberg and Stephens.
"I know they have no other political agenda other than putting residents first ... I think they make a great three-person combination for council," he said.