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Incumbents Dumped in Mid-Peninsula City Council Races

Voters in the San Francisco mid-Peninsula region are clamoring for change as they dumped city council incumbents in Mountain View, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Menlo Park in yesterday’s general elections. In those cities – if results as of Wednesday evening hold – just 3 of 9 incumbents running for re-election were successful in convincing voters to reward them with another term in office.

Mountain View is the shocker in this election, with beloved (or so we thought) incumbents Lenny Siegel (4,560 votes) and Pat Showalter (5,038) ousted in favor of Ellen Kamei (5,615), Alison Hicks (5,193), and Lucas Ramirez (5,168). Former council member John Inks (3,668) polled last. Siegel is notable for his progressive left-leaning policy proposals and was astoundingly effective in leading the charge for more housing development, especially in North Bayshore where none exists today. Showalter was likewise widely admired for an unsurpassed expertise and community-oriented decision-making. Showalter and Siegel were the first and third-most vote receivers, respectively, when they were elected to the city council in 2014.

Menlo Park City Council candidates Cecilia Taylor, George Yang, Drew Combs, Kirsten Keith, Betsy Nash, Peter Ohtaki, Ron Shepherd (from left).

Voters in Menlo Park, likewise, ousted both incumbents running for re-election, Mayor Peter Ohtaki and City Council member Kirsten Keith, both first elected in 2010. Yesterday’s elections were Menlo Park’s first based on voting districts, the result of the city running afoul of the 2001 California Voting Rights Act. Challengers Betsy Nash and Drew Combs are easily leading incumbents Ohtaki and Keith, each in their respective districts, but San Mateo County has only counted about half the ballots cast as of Wednesday evening. Newcomer Cecilia Taylor was overwhelmingly preferred by voters of her district, Belle Haven east of Highway 101, to her competitors George Yang and Mike Dunn.

East Palo Alto City Council candidates Donna Rutherford (left) and Regina Wallace-Jones (right). Photos: Palo Alto Online

In East Palo Alto, 13-year incumbent Donna Rutherford was ousted by newcomer Regina Wallace-Jones, a 44-year-old tech executive and mother of two school-age children, while long-time council member and 2018 Mayor Ruben Abrica was again re-elected.

In Palo Alto, two of the three incumbents on the ballot managed to be re-elected for a second term, “residentialists” Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth. Progressive pro-housing incumbent Cory Wolbach was ousted by challenger Alison Hicks, a longtime supporter of the city’s libraries.

Palo Alto City Council member Cory Wolbach is grateful that voters entrusted him with a single term in 2014, and wishes you well.

WHY? you may be asking? Well it’s purely speculative but how about over-development? Is not a common theme of residents’ comments at public meetings and online expressing an overall feeling that it’s “too much”? Too many new office buildings, too many new apartments, too much new traffic. “Slow-growth” seems to be the successful buzzword.

Perhaps the electorate in 2018 is markedly different than in 2014. Is it significantly larger, even given population growth? We don’t have the vote totals or the demographic data yet so we don’t know. But in Mountain View, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto, younger challengers ousted older incumbents.

What do YOU think?