The rainy weather and a Jewish holiday falling on election day were more to blame for the stunning primary election defeat of Evonne Schulze than her longtime association with Roger Hedgecock and the mayor’s policies on growth management, Schulze’s downcast campaign workers said Wednesday.
Schulze, 51, a Democrat on leave from her job as an aide to Hedgecock, was widely considered a favorite to win a position in the Nov. 5 citywide runoff for the District 7 seat on the City Council. Instead, she was defeated by two Republicans, Judy McCarty and Jeanette Roache, who will vie for the seat recently vacated by Municipal Court Judge Dick Murphy.
Michel Anderson, Schulze’s campaign manager, said bleak weather and the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which ended at dusk Tuesday, held down the voter turnout Tuesday (slightly more than 20% of District 7 voters cast ballots, compared to a turnout of just less than 16% in the four districts combined, an all-time low for the city) and led to a defeat he characterized as a “fluke.”
“I can’t name one person in town who is not totally surprised by this,” said Anderson, who was left to field questions from the press after Schulze skipped a morning press conference. “Our polls showed us far out in front going into election day.”
Anderson insisted there was no backlash against Schulze for her alliance with Hedgecock, or for her support of Proposition A, the controversial growth management initiative on the November ballot that is opposed by McCarty and Roache. “It was a political personality contest, pure and simple, and we lost it,” he said.
McCarty and Roache agreed that the vote was no reflection on Hedgecock. McCarty said, however, that Schulze’s showing “indicates that the majority thought on the growth question leans more toward our philosophies.”
The defeat of Schulze, who had won District 7 primaries before losing citywide elections to Jim Ellis in 1973 and Larry Stirling in 1977, ensures that the conservative, pro-development forces will retain their majority on the council after the November election.
McCarty, 45, who recently resigned from the staff of Assemblyman Stirling (R-San Diego) to wage her campaign, polled 38% of the vote. Roache, 37, on leave from the staff of Assemblywoman Sunny Mojonnier (R-Encinitas) tallied 28%. Schulze received 26%, trailing Roache by 274 votes.
McCarty and Roache agree on virtually all of the prominent issues, although Roache, who also has worked for Murphy and former Councilman Fred Schnaubelt, is considered the more conservative of the two.
Only slightly less surprising than Schulze’s defeat was the strong showing in District 1 by law professor Abbe Wolfsheimer, who trailed two-term incumbent Councilman Bill Mitchell by only five percentage points in her first try for public office. Mitchell had never before won a District 1 primary, but his campaign workers admitted to being disappointed that his margin of victory was not larger. If Wednesday’s post-election comments are any indication, the race for District 1 will be the most acrimonious of the four council runoffs.
Wolfsheimer said she would focus her campaign “on the fact that Bill Mitchell simply is not an effective councilman. I’m going to be very aggressive and raise a lot of money. I only expected to get about 35% of the vote, so I’m really pleased.”
Mitchell, who lost primaries in 1977 and 1981 only to score upset victories in the runoffs, said he “never targeted (his) campaign for Sept. 17--we were pointing to November.”
He said he had “never seen a dirtier campaigner than Wolfsheimer,” and, noting that his opponent had lent her campaign $66,000 before the primary, he characterized her as “a cocktail candidate trying to buy the election out of her own pocket.”
Mitchell said he was particularly incensed by a Wolfsheimer mailer that claimed the councilman had a poor attendance record, when in fact he has been present for 95% of the council votes in the last year.
“I’ve known Abbe for 10 years, and I always thought she was a lady,” Mitchell said. “But I guess I was wrong. She will resort to anything, even lies, distortions and unethical tactics, to get herself elected.”
Gloria McColl and Ed Struiksma, incumbents seeking reelection to Districts 3 and 5, respectively, scored landslide primary victories and are not expected to be seriously challenged in the runoff.