There’s a new balance of power on the Costa Mesa City Council.
After more than five years with a majority voting bloc made up of members Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan, voters on Tuesday charted a different course, reelecting Councilwoman Sandy Genis and tapping Mesa Verde resident and attorney John Stephens, a Genis ally, to join the council.
Voters denied a second four-year term for Mensinger, the current mayor, who originally joined the council as an appointee in January 2011.
Monahan did not seek reelection because he is termed out.
“The people have spoken,” Stephens said Wednesday. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. We’re going to govern the city openly, transparently and with fun and joy.”
Genis narrowly was the top vote-getter in the race for three available seats on the five-member council, according to figures from the Orange County registrar of voters office. Both she and Stephens claimed 18.7% of the vote with all precincts reporting Wednesday morning. But Genis had the edge by 40 votes.
“I think the voters were looking for a different direction for our city,” Genis said Wednesday. “They obviously are not all that pleased with some of the decisions that were made by the previous council.”
The third available council seat will go to Allan Mansoor, a former state Assembly member who served on the Costa Mesa council from 2002 to 2010.
Mansoor, who received 16.1% of the vote, said Wednesday that “it’s always nice to win” but that he would have liked to see Mensinger prevail as well.
“Regardless of who wins, we have a lot of work to do, and it’s time to bring the city together and focus on the issues that affect all of us,” Mansoor said.
Mensinger, a Mesa Verde resident, collected 15.4% of the vote, placing him fourth, according to the registrar.
In a text message to the Daily Pilot late Tuesday, Mensinger congratulated the winners and said he is “extremely proud of our city and the improvements we have made.”
“I am grateful to all our staff and leadership team,” he said. “Moving forward, I will continue to advocate for our local schools, neighborhood improvements, fiscal reform and transparency. I want to thank those who have supported and helped me these past six years, especially Cole, Hunter and my wife, Robin. May God bless Costa Mesa.”
Genis, Stephens and Councilwoman Katrina Foley may be able to forge a new dominant trio on the council following Mensinger’s defeat and Monahan’s departure.
Genis and Stephens said they have a laundry list of issues they want to tackle once they take their seats in December — ranging from public safety to urban planning to fiscal policy.
Perhaps the most pressing matter, they said, is restoring an air of civility and cooperation to City Hall after years of political rancor.
“I think people are really tired of the drama,” Genis said. “I know I find it exhausting.”
“If everybody has the opportunity to state their opinions and they don’t have to state them in an angry way because they know the council members will listen to them, then I think that will take the tone down quite a bit,” Stephens said. “That way, we can just talk to each other and come up with solutions for our city.”
Mansoor said he’s optimistic that council members will be able to find common ground and work together.
“We’re not going to agree on everything,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s ever the case.”
Jay Humphrey, a Mesa Verde resident and former councilman, finished just behind Mensinger, with 15.3% of the vote, according to the registrar.
Humphrey — who collaborated with Genis and Stephens during the campaign — said he’s happy with the overall results.
“The goal was to make sure we got the majority of the council, and I’m very pleased that we accomplished that,” Humphrey said Wednesday. “I’m very pleased the money that poured in for the other side was not the determining factor. The heart of Costa Mesa was the determining factor.”
Mensinger collected more than $150,000 in contributions this year for his campaign, much more than any other candidate.
The remaining candidates — Eastside resident Lee Ramos and State Streets resident Al Melone — finished well back of the top five, with 10.8% and 5.1% of the vote, respectively.