The winds of change shifted political power Tuesday in Laguna as well as Washington D.C.
Voters swept Democratic candidate Barack Obama into the White House after eight years of a Republican administration and restored political control to a Village Laguna-endorsed majority on the City Council for the first time since 1994 by electing Jane Egly and Verna Rollinger.
“I don’t think the five of us currently on the council are poles apart — many of the votes were 5-0, but there will be a shift in political philosophy,” Egly said. “I haven’t quite figured out how the votes will come out, but it will still be one vote at a time.”
It was not a pretty election, with accusations of negative campaigning and charges of outright lies made by supporters of the candidates, but the voters had the final word.
Unlike the presidential election, Laguna’s City Council race is nonpartisan. However, both Egly and Rollinger are registered Democrats, as is Councilwoman Toni Iseman, and were strongly supported by Laguna’s Democratic Club.
Both Rollinger and Egly were ecstatic about Obama’s election.
“My son told me that if the choice is between you and Obama, I want him to win,” Rollinger said. “I agreed.”
The Democratic Club headquarters at the old Coast Inn rocked as Obama chalked up state-by-state victories, from the time the polls closed on the East Coast until he was declared the winner within minutes of the polls closing in California.
“The building just bounced when the announcement was made,” Egly said.
Egly was the top vote getter in the council race.
With all 27 precincts counted, 5,996 votes were cast for Egly, with 37.2% of the ballots counted. Rollinger came in second with 5,237 votes. They will join long-time Village Laguna-supported Iseman on the council dais.
Cheryl Kinsman, who lost her bid for reelection by about 350 votes, was unavailable for comment.
“This will be a big loss for our community,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said. “Cheryl is one of the smartest and hardest working council members I have ever known in Laguna Beach.”
Kinsman has been a leader in the city’s battle to keep South Coast Medical Center in town and operating as a full-service community hospital.
“I am concerned about a change in the sub-committee for the hospital,” said Egly, who served with Kinsman on the liaison committee. “I really appreciate all the work done by Cheryl.”
Rollinger’s victory was her second run for the council. She lost by less than 200 votes in the 2006 election, her first-ever loss after six terms as city clerk.
“Winning is better,” Rollinger said. “It is hard to lose, I know, and I hope [Cheryl] remembers all the positive things she has done for the city.”
Rollinger does not anticipate a deep philosophical divide on the council.
“I think people who are concerned are going to be surprised,” Rollinger said. “I am a very reasonable person. I respect people who are serving and have served on the council.”
Rollinger said she is not in lockstep with any council faction.
“When the council is divided on an issue, I side with one group and sometimes with the other,” Rollinger said.
“There are times when each one of them has been my hero and times when I say, ‘Why did you do that?’”
“I will look to the community for advice. The community knows what we need and tells us all the time. It is important to listen. Every person’s concerns and needs are valid.”
Rollinger announced her candidacy in August and hit the ground running. Yard signs sprang up all around town. Village Laguna fliers flew into the mail. Supporters walked the streets and donated generously to her campaign. She had raised the most money of any candidate, as reported in the candidates’ last financial statement.
The Laguna Beach Democratic Club displayed their literature, hosted a Sunday Ice Cream Social for Egly and Rollinger and volunteers made phone calls from the club on behalf of the local candidates, the national ticket and No on Prop. 8.
In other city races, Martha Anderson was reelected as city clerk, with 8,563 votes. Laura Parisi was reelected city treasurer with 8,477 votes.
Neither was opposed and did not run organized campaigns.
The Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education added a new member in the election, and reseated an incumbent.
Bill Landsiedel will replace retiring board member El Hathaway, and incumbent Jan Vickers was reelected.
Neither faced opposition so no election was held in the school district, which saved the district about $15,000 in election costs, according to district officials.
Tuesday’s municipal vote has not been certified and more votes will be added to the totals, but are not expected to change the order of finish.
BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 494-4321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.