With voters handing him a solid victory over attorney Trudi Loh in the special election, Thousand Oaks' newest City Council member, Mike Markey, settled into his new City Hall office Wednesday and prepared for the busy months ahead.
Final election results are not yet available, but county officials released semiofficial results Wednesday morning that showed Markey carrying 49.8% of the vote, with 8,373 ballots cast for him.
Loh received 37.8% and Lance Winslow had 8.8%, despite several well-publicized brushes with the judicial system during his campaign. Three other candidates--John Ellis, Ramaul Rush and Ekbal (Nick) Quidwai--each received about 1% of the total vote.
Markey officially takes office June 20, and when he slides into that fifth council seat--empty since December--he will very likely face a fairly hefty agenda packet.
Anticipating stalemates between the often-divided council, many developers and business owners stayed away from the council in recent months. Some had even asked for continuances until after Tuesday's election. As a result, the council canceled nearly half its meetings this spring.
Markey said he does not expect to side with either the pro-business or slow-growth faction on the council.
"I just want to be a fifth of the voting council, not the deciding vote," Markey said. "That's what I ran for."
But third-place finisher Winslow said he anticipates a string of 3-2 votes, with slow-growth advocates Mayor Jaime Zukowski and Councilwoman Elois Zeanah in the minority, just as they often were when Alex Fiore and Frank Schillo were on the council.
"It's going to be just like what it was," Winslow said. "Totally. 100%"
The city's assistant director of planning, John Prescott, said some developers and business owners might have avoided the council in recent months, but that they haven't started beating down planners' doors yet.
"It looked pretty normal out at the counter today," Prescott said.
Still, some applicants who delayed their projects are expected to come before the council in coming months. The Seventh-day Adventist project, a major Newbury Park commercial development that stalled while the applicant worked on a redesign, will probably come before the council in the months ahead.
Operating Engineers, one of the Dos Vientos developers, delayed a request for a Specific Plan amendment until after the election.
And the council itself chose to delay at least one decision until after the election: whether to consider putting a golf course on Broome Ranch, a vast open space owned jointly by the city and regional park district.
With these kinds of meaty issues on its plate, the council will doubtless have to return to its regular weekly meeting schedule.
"It may be a longer summer than we planned," Councilwoman Judy Lazar said.
Markey's conservative, careful approach is considered more in line with Lazar's philosophy than that of Zeanah and Zukowski. But the councilwoman said she doesn't expect they will agree on everything.
"Mike has a lot of ideas on which we agree, but there are probably plenty of ideas on which we don't agree," Lazar said.
Lazar said she has regrets about the money the city spent on the special election. She pushed for Markey to be appointed in December when Schillo was elected to Ventura County Board of Supervisors. Markey had finished fourth in that fall's council race for three seats.
"I think it's a shame we spent $100,000," Lazar said. "But that's water under the bridge."
Markey said Wednesday he also considers the issue closed. The election was fun, he said. And he joked that the sweetness of his victory was compounded by the couple of inches he lost around his waistline while walking precincts.
But his supporters felt differently. Although the overall turnout was low, only 27%, some Markey voters said they made a special effort to get to the polls because they felt he should have been appointed in the fall.
Loh, who put $8,800 of her own money into her campaign coffers on the last day of the race, on Wednesday discussed the outcome--her second election defeat in the past year. She lost to Schillo in the November supervisorial race.
She said the council race, which is supposed to be nonpartisan, developed into a Democrat versus Republican game late in the campaign. Loh is a registered Democrat, Markey a Republican.
She said Markey's strong support from local Republican politicians--including former congressional candidate Richard Sybert, state Assemblywoman Paula Boland of Granada Hills and state Sen. Cathie Wright of Simi Valley --helped rally support.
"I don't know whether that played into it or not," Markey said. "We ran the campaign that we thought we needed to. I guess we did the right things."
Republican voter Maychun Kam said she voted for Markey precisely because of his conservative approach. Since Loh is a Democrat, Kam said she assumed she would be pro-choice and supportive of issues such as gay rights, issues that Kam strongly opposes. Even if Loh would not be deciding those issues on the council, Kam said she would not vote for her.
"What is inside a person, their moral values, that dictates all their choices," Kam said.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
100% precincts reporting
THOUSAND OAKS CITY COUNCIL
1 elected: Votes (Percent) Mike Markey: 8,373 (49.8%) Trudi Loh: 6,359 (37.8%) Lance Winslow: 1,487 (8.8%) John Ellis: 272 (1.6%) Ramaul Rush: 196 (1.2%) Nick Quidwai: 125 (0.7%) Write-in votes: 8 (--)