Film star Clint Eastwood appeared to be on his way to becoming the next mayor of this quaint Pacific village, according to a random sample of the expected record number of voters exiting the polls Tuesday.
Eastwood, 55, who has pledged to curb his Hollywood career if he wins, cast his ballot at All Saints Episcopal Church with dozens of film crews recording the moment. He stood for a moment in line, bent down to kiss an older woman and told another voter that his voice was “giving out.”
Asked if he felt lucky, Eastwood smiled and said, “I’ve just got my fingers crossed like I suppose the other candidates do.” However, Eastwood backers were planning a victory party.
Eastwood said he had no political hopes beyond becoming mayor.
Voting was reported brisk at all four polling places in the one-square-mile community under bright sunny skies.
“It’s a very high turnout” among the 4,124 registered voters, City Clerk Jeanne Brehmer said late in the morning. “I was predicting 60% yesterday, but now it looks like it might be 65 to 70% with nice weather and all the people coming out early.”
Brehmer said that in her five years as clerk, voter turnout has never exceeded 30%.
Eastwood, best known for his spaghetti Westerns and detective films like “Dirty Harry,” attended a private tea with residents after he voted, while supporters scurried to get voters to the polls.
United Press International interviews with 56 voters at several polling sites showed Eastwood capturing 29 votes to 17 for incumbent Charlotte Townsend; 10 voters declined to state whom they pressed the button for.
Also on the ballot were Tim Grady, a 27-year-old student whose campaign theme has been banning all cars in Carmel and turning downtown streets into horse paths, and Paul Laub, a local businessman who recently pulled out of the race to endorse Eastwood.
Townsend, 61, who did not plan to vote until the last hour before the polls closed, had no prediction about the election’s outcome.
“The whole election is so paranormal that it is hard to know what will happen,” she said from her home where she rested after visiting with supporters. “I suspect it’s going to be close though.”
The mayor, who said she has had very little sleep and was not feeling well, complained that the onslaught of visitors to Carmel had turned the election into a “sideshow.”
“The out-of-towners have intruded,” she said. “So have the media. They’re beginning to think it’s their election and not ours.”
Recent polls in and around Carmel have shown Eastwood winning the $200-a-month post by a 60-40 margin.
With a crush of film crews stationed at the polling places, a carnival atmosphere enveloped the Cypress-swept village.
“I don’t know when Carmel will ever get this much attention again,” said one longtime resident as he waited to vote. “So we may as well enjoy the limelight.”
During the campaign, the city was awash in Eastwood souvenir items, including T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, picture books and coffee mugs.
During the campaign, Eastwood was affable, but declined to sign autographs for any of the thousands of tourists who came to Carmel.
Instead, he concentrated on key local concerns, including traffic congestion, parking, water shortages and a lack of public toilets.
He criticized the “negativity” of Townsend and the five-member City Council, saying they abused their power and failed to work with the business community to solve civic problems.
Called Pawn of Developers
Townsend warned residents that a victory by the actor would bring more unwanted tourism, and claimed he was a pawn of developers.
Eastwood denied that he favored growth in Carmel, saying instead that he wanted to return “courtesy” to local government.
Although the League of Women Voters of the Monterey Peninsula last week expressed concern over possible voter irregularities, there have been no reports of voter fraud, lost ballots or vote buying.
“This ain’t Chicago, you know,” one city official joked.
Many residents believe that the spirited contest, which has attracted international attention, may be the most important election in the town’s history.
Two City Council seats were also at stake.
The mayor’s job is to preside over monthly meetings of the City Council and other meetings that can be called with 24 hours’ notice. The mayor has no other official powers except to represent the city at various events.
A city administrator is appointed by the council and has hiring and firing powers over city employees.