Eastwood Wins Easy Victory in Carmel Vote

Times Staff Writer

Smitten by a no- nonsense screen image, personal charm and moderate politics, voters here Tuesday overwhelmingly decided to cast Clint Eastwood in the newest and strangest role in his career--mayor of this tiny, artsy-craftsy, seaside town.

In what may have been the most intensely scrutinized small-town ballot in American history, Eastwood, 55, racked up 2,166 votes, or more than 72% of the total, to easily defeat incumbent Charlotte Townsend, a 61-year-old former librarian.

Townsend, previously elected to two two-year terms, polled 799 votes, or 26.6%. Tim Grady, 27, a dishwasher, received 31 votes and businessman Paul Laub, 41, received 6. Laub pulled out of the race last week and endorsed Eastwood, but his name remained on the ballot. Voter turnout was 73%.


Eastwood told reporters afterward that his first priority as mayor would be to work with the City Council to “restructure some of the punitive ordinances” in town, such as prohibitions against fast-food restaurants and throwing Frisbees in the parks.

“I would like to think that we can now take the community out of the hands of the few and put it in the hands of the many, the people of Carmel,” he said.

When a reporter asked him if he wished to be addressed as “Mr. Mayor,” Eastwood smiled and replied, “Nah, it’s just Clint.”

Townsend said she was “extremely” surprised by the wide margin, even though a local poll last week predicted Eastwood would carry 60% of the vote.

She said she could not predict what Eastwood’s victory in the sometimes bitter campaign would mean for Carmel.

“This whole campaign has been so totally out of proportion and out of focus,” she said, staring out at nearly 150 reporters. “I can’t possibly guess what will happen.”


The campaign focused on the perennial Carmel problems of tourism and development. Both have traditionally been anathema to the residents here, and Townsend campaigned heavily against “progress.”

Eastwood countered by advocating a moderate position balancing downtown, tourist-oriented business interests with the concerns of full-time residents who wax lovingly of the town’s quiet, woodsy atmosphere.

The extent of Eastwood’s victory was made even more obvious by the overwhelming victories of two like-minded City Council candidates, Elinor Laiolo and Francis (Bob) Fischer, who frequently were presented with Eastwood as a slate. They ousted incumbents David Maradei and Robert Stephenson, who were aligned with Townsend.

A 14-year resident of Carmel, Eastwood is part owner of a restaurant here, The Hog’s Breath Inn. He first became involved in city politics last year when he wrangled with the council over restrictions placed on the office he wanted to build next to the restaurant. Eastwood sued the city, but the suit was settled out of court and construction is imminent.

One of the top box-office draws in the world, Eastwood has appeared in more than 40 motion pictures and since establishing his own company, Malpaso Productions, in 1969, has directed 11. He is probably most famous for his four movie appearances as renegade San Francisco police detective “Dirty Harry” Callahan.

Big Event in Town

Eastwood’s candidacy stood staid Carmel on its ear from the start. He announced his bid Jan. 30, during the annual celebrity pro-am golf tournament, and promptly pushed that celebrated event off of the ‘A’ list of party chatter.


The interest continued to bubble along nicely until last weekend, when it erupted in a full boil, both with out-of-towners and residents.

Those hungry for souvenirs fairly stripped local shops of anything even remotely related to the election--coffee mugs, auto license-plate frames, and a variety of buttons and bumper stickers--within just a few days.

The souvenir hunt grew so frenzied that people were routinely bidding for buttons worn by store clerks and items in window displays. Full-color placards featuring Eastwood’s name and profile were a particularly cherished item.

Interested Voters

Interest in the election was equally keen among Carmel’s 4,800 residents. They registered in record numbers--fully 97% of those eligible to sign up did so--and waited in line up to 15 minutes to cast ballots at one of four polling stations in the mile-square city.

Eastwood cast his own ballot before breakfast Tuesday, at a polling station at the All Saints Episcopal Church.

He arrived in his funky, aging pale-yellow Volkswagen convertible and was greeted by a sizable pack of reporters and photographers performing a curious ballet to grab the best photo angles. A similar pack was waiting for him later, at a noontime social gathering for candidates and voters.


Indeed, the press corps here could rival some presidential entourages in size and composition. All 120 slots for a post-election press conference were snapped up days before the first vote was cast; those signed up represented newspapers and magazines from Finland to France and television stations from Belgium to Brazil. London alone was represented by four tabloids, while Tokyo sent two network television news crews.

Someone to Talk To

With candidates outnumbered at least 50-to-1 by reporters, news people turned to each other for stories. At one point Tuesday, a California television crew was photographing a Philadelphia newspaper reporter interviewing a Belgian broadcast team.

Residents said they were amazed by the flood of attention. Most, however, tried to put aside the publicity and focus their attention on the election.

Emotions ran high among many voters. The election, after all, was seen as more than just a glamorous showcase for Eastwood; it also was perceived as a important plebiscite on Carmel’s future--and how big a part tourists will play in it.

“If that man (Eastwood) gets in, I am moving out of town,” grumbled one elderly woman who did not give her name, as she waited to vote at All Saints Church. “He is just another idiot actor. He’ll want to go to Washington next.”

Others, however, seemed to welcome Eastwood’s candidacy--and the people who welcomed him generally assumed he would win.


‘Not Spoiled’ by Fame

“He’s a good person,” said Marjorie Wurzmann. “He’s very qualified, very intelligent, very warm. He’s not spoiled by all his fame. He’ll do a fine job for the city. This is a great day for Carmel.”

Indeed, there was some concern that some of the locals may have been a bit too keen on the election.

The League of Women Voters received several complaints that people who resided outside the city limits were registering to vote at their places of business, or were renting apartments in town only to qualify to vote.

Lorita Fisher, president of the league’s Monterey Peninsula chapter, said her group checked into the status of 400 people who registered during the last few days before the deadline.

Knocking on Doors

After cross-checking with property records and other official records--and by actually knocking on the doors of 90 people--the league said it could not confirm the validity of 72 voters. Of those, Fisher said that 17 were “quite irregular,” 15 were “questionable” and the remainder could not be located at the addresses given.

“The whole thing was complicated immensely” by the fact that houses are not numbered in Carmel, Fisher said. “We are not saying any of these are illegal. It’s not up to us to do that, it’s up to the county government.”

A list of suspect registration cards was forwarded to Monterey County Dist. Atty. Michael Bartram. Assistant Dist. Atty. Klar Wennerholm said he has assigned an investigator to look into the league’s findings--and to probe accusations of “intimidation” by league members.


However, Wennerholm said the extent of his department’s investigation will “depend on the outcome of the election.”