Wu: Name ID mattered most in Costa Mesa election

So here we are, basking (or wailing) in the aftermath of the 2012 General Election.

In my Newport Beach, nothing really happened. Measure EE, a charter-reform initiative, overwhelmingly passed, with one council member later commenting that he couldn't have cared less either way.


In Costa Mesa, however, it appears I was right. Huh, you ask?

Back in my Aug. 18 column, I stated that the top-three finishers for the Costa Mesa City Council race were going to be Gary Monahan, Steve Mensinger and — wait for it — Sandy Genis.

And boy, did I get bullied and insulted for having such nerve to state my opinion, one based on a historical analysis of local election patterns.

I wrote that "familiarity will rule," and "so will incumbency." Then I had to nerve to finish with, "…and because Genis has already been there, done that, and has the name ID for it, if I were a betting man, the election is hers to lose."

So let's revisit a comment that I received from my friend, blogger Geoff West, who wrote, "Wu is attempting to take the pulse of the Costa Mesa electorate while wearing oven mittens. In order to be a proficient pundit, one must first have at least a slight knowledge of the issues and of the players. Wu demonstrates he has not much of either."

Yet, three months before the election, knowing very little about the candidates or the issues, I was right. Being right is what makes a proficient pundit. Hmmm?

Then I received an email from a reader, who wrote, "Our city has a history of not simply picking a box on a ballot. I think your article is insulting to the residents."

In an election where a retired CPA who spent no money and did almost no campaigning received about 3,000 votes, while an inside sales engineer who stopped campaigning the day after he qualified for the ballot received about 2,000 votes, it appears as though about 5,000 votes were cast by "simply picking a box on a ballot." Unless, of course, these two fine gentlemen have thousands of friends and family members living in Costa Mesa.

That reader owes me $10, by the way.

So how and why was I right? I know that candidates John Stephens, Colin McCarthy and Harold Weitzberg all worked extremely hard, but did Genis really work 13% harder than Stephens or 25% harder than Weitzberg? Or did Mensinger really work 6% harder than McCarthy?

I doubt it.

What put Genis over the top was, in addition to her hard work, her high name ID from her eight previous years on the Costa Mesa City Council. What helped elect Mensinger was his strong ballot ID as an appointed council member.

The same wonderful voters, after voting for the president of the United States, were compelled to complete their civic duty and went further down the ballot, selecting the names they already knew; and if they only knew one or two names, they would then go with the ballot designations. To the average Costa Mesa voter, life is good and streets are clean. That's how you explain more than 3,000 votes to a retired CPA and more than 2,000 votes to an inside sales engineer.

Measure V, the proposed city charter? Measure V, as one person said to the Daily Pilot, "Too much controversy," and as another said, he opposed Measure V but felt "apathetic toward the council candidates."

So with Measure V failing, the Costa Mesa charter debate will continue on for another day. Like the aforementioned Newport Beach council member said about their charter updates, I couldn't have cared less either way on Measure V.

Let the people meet to discuss it, let them carefully construct an alternative charter and then watch as the now three-person majority changes the wording to the way they want it.

However, with several thousand votes left to count as of Saturday in Costa Mesa (Really? In 2012 it still takes weeks to count all the votes?), the slim 190-vote lead that Monahan has over Stephens, and the 475-vote lead over McCarthy, can surely disappear.

I could be eating my words later — just in time for Thanksgiving.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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