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Local results still uncertain a week after Election Day

Those awaiting a clear picture of the victors in local races are going to have to wait a little longer.

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Registrar of Voters employees process ballots Tuesday afternoon

As of Monday, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters had counted 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots, approximately half of those received on or after the Nov. 8 election. An additional 40,000 provisional ballots also remain to be counted. The Registrar most likely won’t finish counting until next week, according to spokeswoman Anita Torres.

For tight races, automatic recounts are a possibility that pushes out the election timeline yet further. In Santa Clara County, close races trigger an automatic recount if the contest’s margin of victory is less than either 0.5 percent of ballots cast or 25 votes or fewer. That scenario may apply to both the Los Altos and Los Altos Hills city council races. Torres said any recounts would be completed before the races are officially certified Dec. 8.

Los Altos

As of the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline, the three top vote-getters for seats on the Los Altos City Council were incumbents Jan Pepper and Jeannie Bruins and newcomer Lynette Lee Eng. However, the margin between Eng and Neysa Fligor, currently in fourth place, was a thin 26 votes.

South Los Altos resident Eng and Fligor, an attorney from north Los Altos, were neck-and-neck throughout the vote counting. Nearly every update resulted in a different leader, with the difference between them a single vote at one point late last week. At press time, Eng had 5,603 votes, 26 more than Fligor’s 5,577. They are separated by 0.08 of a percentage point.

“I am still trying to absorb everything that happened this week,” Fligor said. “I am cautiously optimistic about my race, but as you know, this could go either way. I thought my campaign team did a good job getting my name and message out to residents, so hopefully we will get positive results at the end.”

Eng did not respond to requests for comment.

Pepper handily won a second term on council, garnering the most votes, 7,719 votes, or 23.98 percent.

“It is very heartening to be the highest vote-getter in this election,” she said. “Over the next four years, I will strive to implement more methods to make sure the voices of our residents are heard.”

Bruins, the current mayor, came in second with 5,779 votes. She is 176 votes ahead of Eng.

Los Altos Hills

Los Altos Hills is expected to welcome at least one new face to the city council in December. As of the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline, preliminary Registrar of Voters results indicated that business executive/entrepreneur Michelle Wu would come in second – behind incumbent Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan – to win one of the three open council seats.

“I definitely appreciate all the support of the town’s residents who supported me,” Wu said following the election.

The fight for the third council seat was not so clear-cut. As of Monday, less than half a percentage point separated incumbent Councilman Roger Spreen and retired executive Garo Kiremidjian. A recount is likely.

Preliminary race results show Corrigan with 2,092 votes, or 25.15 percent; Wu with 1,749 votes, or 21.02 percent; Spreen with 1,548 votes, or 18.6 percent; Kiremidjian with 1,508 votes, or 18.13 percent; and Purissima Hills Water District Board of Directors member Peter Evans with 1,422 votes, or 17.09 percent.

Wu said she watched the election results trickle in Nov. 8 at a gathering at Los Altos Hills Mayor John Harpootlian’s home. Afterward, Corrigan sent Wu a congratulatory email message, which she returned in kind.

“I have a lot to learn, and I’m going to do my best to serve the town,” Wu said.

Los Altos School District

Although initial returns on election night projected Tanya Raschke in the lead for the two-year seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees, further updates revealed greater support for candidate Bryan Johnson.

As of Monday, Johnson had received 7,936 votes, or 51.49 percent, giving him 458 more votes than Raschke and making him the likely victor in the race.

“It was a tight race, and I am grateful both for the support I received and the overwhelming support for (the district) reflected in the passage of Measure GG,” Johnson wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “I think the various facilities needs are the most pressing issue, so I look forward to working with the rest of the board and the community to develop a plan and budget for the Measure N funds.”

Measure GG, the Los Altos School District’s $223 parcel tax, passed with support from the required two-thirds of voters. As of Monday, Measure GG earned 13,063 votes, or 70.65 percent.

The tax extends the district’s current $193 parcel tax, which expires in 2017, and adds an additional $30 that will go to Bullis Charter School for its in-district students.

The tax, which supports educational programs in the schools, adds $2.8 million annually to the district’s coffers, with approximately $300,000 directed toward in-district charter school students.

Other local schools races

The Foothill-De Anza Community College District had three seats up for grabs on its five-member board, with only one incumbent running for re-election.

Incumbent Laura Casas earned 55,763 votes, the most of any candidate. Joining Casas on the board are Peter Landsberger, former vice chancellor and general counsel for the community college district, and Cupertino City Councilman Gilbert Wong.

In the race for the Trustee Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education, incumbent Grace Mah was the top vote-getter with 62.3 percent of the votes. Her challenger, Sheena Chin, received 37.7 percent of the votes.

Incumbent Jeff Moe retained his seat on the Fremont Union High School District Board of Trustees, which serves Los Altos students who attend Homestead High School. Joining Moe on the board is Roy Rocklin, Lynbrook High School science teacher and the father of Homestead High graduates.

In the Cupertino Union School District race, which serves local students who attend Montclaire and Cupertino Junior High schools, district parent Liang Chao earned the most votes, besting two incumbents and another parent challenger.

As of Monday, Chao earned 19,338 votes, or 28.76 percent, and incumbent Phyllis Vogel earned 16,967 votes, or 25.23 percent. There are two seats up for grabs in the race, with district parent Gregory Anderson behind Vogel by 436 votes, or 0.65 percent.

Mountain View

The issue of rent control dominated Nov. 8 election coverage in Mountain View.

The resident-sponsored Measure V won handily, while voters rejected the city council-backed initiative, Measure W.

Measure V locks in limited rent increases at between 2 and 5 percent annually. It also calls for creation of a city council-appointed, five-member board overseeing rental housing disputes and wielding the power of binding arbitration. It is a charter amendment, meaning it cannot be overturned or changed without another vote of the electorate.

As the count stood Monday, Measure V received 12,548 votes in favor, or 52.99 percent, to 11,131, or 47.01 percent, against. Measure W, essentially the ordinance the council approved earlier this year for resolving rental housing disputes, lost with 11,847 voting against and 11,143 in favor. Although Measure W restored the binding arbitration the council removed earlier, it would not have applied to any annual increases below 5 percent.

“Rent increases were so bad that the crisis was obvious to everyone,” said Daniel DeBolt, campaign spokesman for Measure V. “Asking rents nearly doubled in Mountain View in only seven years.”

DeBolt also noted that 60 percent of the city’s population comprises renters, making for a large pool of support that landlords and other Measure V opponents could not overcome.

Mountain View was one of three Bay Area cities, along with Oakland and Richmond, that passed a rent control initiative Nov. 8. Voters rejected similar proposals in Alameda, Burlingame and San Mateo.

The heavily debated issue overshadowed the fact that a majority of seats were up for grabs on the Mountain View City Council. Incumbents Chris Clark (9,547 votes, or 14.57 percent) and John McAlister (9,358 votes, or 14.28 percent) retained their seats, but finished third and fourth, respectively, in the race for four open seats on the seven-seat council.

The top vote-getter, Lisa Matichak (10,390 votes, or 15.86 percent), is a newcomer to the council but has city government experience. Matichak, considered a moderate by some, served seven years on the city’s Environmental Planning Commission. She ran on a straightforward platform of addressing housing and transportation issues.

“It is hard to know what worked so well for me,” she told the Town Crier last week. “I believe that walking many, many precincts, talking with voters was very helpful. I’m looking forward to getting to work to address the issues facing Mountain View.”

Former Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga, who was termed-out in 2014, is back on the council, finishing second to Matichak with 10,288 votes, or 15.7 percent.

Regional

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo maintained a hold on her 18th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives with 70 percent of the vote, while Jerry Hill won re-election to the California State Senate with 76 percent. Newcomer Marc Berman will take over Rich Gordon’s seat in the 24th California Assembly District, drawing 54 percent of the vote over competitor Vicki Veenker. State Attorney General Kamala Harris took the only statewide race, beating U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez to assume the seat in the U.S. Senate vacated by longtime incumbent Barbara Boxer.

More than two-thirds of Santa Clara County voters approved both an affordable housing bond and a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation. A statewide proposition for school bond spending also squeaked by with a majority vote. 

Local voters aligned with the statewide conclusions in all but two of the 17 propositions on the ballot. Fifty-four percent of Santa Clara County voters opted to repeal the death penalty, while statewide 54 percent of voters rejected that reform. A related ballot measure to speed up executions received a 52 percent “no” vote locally, but it looks likely to pass with 51 percent approval statewide.

Although generally closely aligned with the state vote, local voters showed much stronger support than average for the tobacco tax, the tax on high earners, ammunition sales limits, and parole and sentencing reforms. Local criticism of Citizens United was also more pronounced, with 61 percent of local voters asking the State Legislature to call for a return to limited corporate political spending. Statewide, the proposition passed with 52 percent support. Local voters also affirmed stronger support for a plastic bag ban, at 65 percent, than statewide, at 52 percent.

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