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How the County Supervisor District 4 Election Is Shaping Up

Spectrum Magazine Publisher Steve Penna will be sharing his views and opinions of the June 2012 County Supervisor race every month.

 

Let’s take a look at the June 2012 election and the District 4 San Mateo County supervisor race. Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson will term out and the seat will be up for grabs. So far there are four candidates who will be running, and although none of them is considered a leader of the pack or a slam dunk. Each has qualities that will attract support and ultimately votes. Let’s take a look at the election and those candidates.

First there is Memo Morantes, who is an elected official on the San Mateo County Board of Education. He has been running his campaign for the longest amount of time and has gained the support of San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks, Trustee Maria Diaz-Slocum, current and former Trustees Olivia Martinez and Lorraine Rumley, as well as several San Mateo County elected officials and an impressive group of elected officials from East Palo Alto. Morantes has set up a website at (www.memomorantes.com.)

Morantes has been quoted as stating, “It’s one of the few times we have an open seat without having someone, as we say in Mexico, fingered by the establishment,” he said. “It will probably be a good race in terms of diversity of candidates.”

This leads me to a very important point. San Mateo County’s charter requires elections be held countywide rather than by district. This means that supervisors are elected “at large” from throughout the county but each supervisor represents a particular district. District 4 encompasses parts of Redwood City, unincorporated Redwood City, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

A on behalf of six residents and a civil rights group sued the county, claiming the method is inequitable to minorities and violates the California Voting Rights Act. Although Latinos and Asians each comprise approximately 25 percent of the county’s population, only one Latino has held a seat since 1995 and no Asians, the group argued.

It must be pointed out that county voters have affirmed countywide voting in 1932, 1978 and 1980. So it is a process we like. I have to agree with that. If a supervisor is going to be making decisions on issues throughout the county, then they need to be held accountable to all voters instead of just in their district. Make sense? This election will prove to support the “at large” method as candidates are diverse and want to be held accountable to all voters within the County.

Last year Dave Pine but would have lost to Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan by 310 votes if the election had been held within that district’s boundaries and not countywide. Papan was favored and the choice of the district’s voters, but Pine is now representing by “at large” voter approval. It did not hurt that he spent more than a half-million of his own money campaigning. By comparison, Papan’s campaign collected nearly $170,000.

Which leads us to Shelly Masur. Less than a month after to the Redwood City School Board, Masur announced at a birthday party thrown for her at the home of Councilman John Seybert that for the seat. Most of the usual status quo of Redwood City was there, except for what I would classify as the most influential and powerful. Masur has also set up a website (www.shellymasur.com) for our viewing.

I have my opinion about politicians who seat-climb at the detriment of the residents they represent, and that opinion is not a positive one. I personally like Masur, so I am giving her the benefit of the doubt right now and want to see how she handles the potential campaign issue. It will also be interesting to see if any of the candidates make an issue of it.

I see these candidates during their campaigns and the time commitment it takes to get elected to a county seat, and I don’t see how she can effectively fulfill her duties to the kids in our community while campaigning. But if she feels she can pull it off (a full-time job, board seat and running for a county office), more power to her. I just wonder how one can justify the expenditure of over a million dollars for a special election should she win in June and her seat has to be filled by someone else.

That is, unless the board has already planned that out and will bypass voter approval and appoint one of their own to fill the three-plus remaining years of her term. Which most likely is the case; that is how is works here.

Masur has an impressive list of endorsements so far that include San Mateo County Supervisors Don Horsley and Dave Pine (they need a third vote for their agendas); Redwood City Vice Mayor Jeff Gee; Councilmembers Jeff Ira, Barbara Pierce (who originally encouraged her to run for the seat) and Seybert; former Mayors Dick Claire, Diane Howard and Georgi LaBerge; fellow Redwood City School District Board Members Alisa MacAvoy, Dennis McBride and Hilary Paulson; Sequoia Union High School District Board Member Carrie Du Bois and Chris Thomsen.

The list, however, is not a good representation of the district’s ethnic “diversity” she would be representing. Her list is very “establishment” and very Caucasian. Which, in an “at large” election, really does not matter. It will be interesting to see how she does with the district’s voters in June.

Redwood City Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt has also announced he will be running for the seat. He has been active in the North Fair Oaks (NFO) community for years and has participated in raising funds for and of course the that is sponsored by the Sheriff’s Department.

Schmidt has gained the important endorsement of Redwood City Mayor Alicia Aguirre, who over the years has also focused in on the NFO neighborhood and those who are underprivileged in our community. He also has a website, www.ernieschmidt.com.

Now what everyone of course wants to know is who Jacobs Gibson will support to replace her. That support goes to East Palo Alto Councilman David Woods. He served on the Planning Commission there for five years before being elected to the council 10 years ago.

Jacobs Gibson points to his “relevant” experience as one of the qualities she was looking for and ultimately found most important after interviewing all the candidates individually. “After serious deliberation with my family, I now feel that the time has come for me to seek higher office. I am running for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in order to most effectively champion the needs of our most underserved community members and to work for our county’s economic growth and revitalization,” Woods says.

Woods is very realistic in his tactics for the race, coming from a smaller community than the other candidates and running an “at large” campaign. “There are 29 cities and 330,000 residents in San Mateo County. In East Palo Alto, there are 30,000 residents and 7,000 who vote. So we have a daunting task before us. I’m going to need your help in all 20 cities,” he said to supporters at his campaign kickoff event.

What might help him, along with the support of Jacobs Gibson, is that if no one candidate gets 50 percent of the vote or higher in the June election, then the top two candidates will face off in November. I would expect that to happen at this point. I can’t imagine that any candidate would spend their complete war chest on the June election when no one has the name recognition or contributions to saturate voters with information on their campaigns.

I will make sure to keep reporting monthly on this race because it is important to our Redwood City community. As always, this race will come down to who can raise the most money and get their name and message out. Good luck to all candidates and even those who might jump into the race at the last minute.

Laura Whittaker January 13, 2012 at 09:37 AM
Wow! This is a lot to absorb in just one reading. I have to admit that I have not seen this much insight into a County Supervisor race ever. The issues stated has provoked a lot of thoughts with me and it will be interesting to see how my coworkers view it. I do however wish Mr. Penna would have given us a clear "endorsement" of a candidate. I can not cypher whom he is leaning towards or the reasons why. I look forward to his future writings on this subject as this is an important election for the entire Redwood City community.
Roger Brina January 17, 2012 at 09:10 PM
"It must be pointed out that county voters have affirmed countywide voting in 1932, 1978 and 1980. So it is a process we like. I have to agree with that." How does this in any way make sense? Because a percentage of the county's registered voters decided over three decades ago - a full generation before today - that they wanted at-large elections, we're supposed to like it today in a county that is far more ethnically diverse and in need of locally focused representation than ever? Penna says that if a supervisor is going to be making decisions on issues throughout the county, then they need to be held accountable to all voters instead of just in their district. But should County supervisors face reprisals from the rest of the county if they voting against countywide proposals that would adversely affect the people of their district? And interestingly, Penna's own example of Pine vs. Papan is perhaps the perfect argument against at-large elections: in his own words, Penna states that Papan was favored and the choice of her district’s voters, but Pine won the race after spending more than a half-million in comparison to Papan’s $170,000.
Roger Brina January 17, 2012 at 09:10 PM
I voted for Pine over Papan, but the situation laid out by Penna shows us all why we NEED district elections: besides giving the county a chance to have their communities' ethnic diversity and local concerns represented more faithfully on the Board, it would also go a long way to taking MONEY out of local politics and giving candidates with great ideas a better shot in a Supervisorial race even if they don't have the big dollars to compete.
Roger Brina January 17, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Laura, there seems to me a slight lean towards Morantes, as I see Penna criticizing Masur for her "establishment" credentials, implying that Horsley and Pine "need" her for their agenda, for being endorsed by the city's "status quo," and for possibly neglecting her job as an elected official while she campaigns for another. Never mind that the same exact criticisms he makes about Masur can be leveled against Morantes: his endorsements from Sheriff Munks and Diaz-Slocum seem pretty "establishment" to me, and in Penna's own words he has been running his campaign for the longest amount of time despite already having a job as an elected official. I am personally interested in hearing more about Schmidt and David Woods. I think it's important that the next Supe for this district have a real history of working in the communities they will represent.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive January 18, 2012 at 06:17 PM
It's interesting that when someone spends a lot of money on an election and wins its always because they spent a lot of money, but when someone spends and loses everyone is surprised. Penna makes the analogy all the time that you have to spend to win but the reality is that is the case only about 50 percent of the time. What wins is name recognition and Papan has that over Pine. The Papan name has been part of County politics for decades. I voted for Pine over Papan because I agreed with his take on what needed to be done, not because he spent money. Political flyers go in the recycling along with other junk mail in my house. I read the voter pamplete and read the news to make my decisions. As far as district elections over countywide, the good points of each balance out. You do it one way you get certain benefits; the other comes with other benefits. All it does is change the scope of the campaign, which reduces overall participation when you do it by district. Regarding establishment ties, it all depends on what establishment you are talking about. While Masur has direct ties to the communities north of Woodside Road, Morantes and Schmidt are directly representative of the communities in Redwood City to the south and Woods is closer to the East Palo Alto infrasructure. My vote is hinged to who I think will best represent my community.
Laura Whittaker January 19, 2012 at 05:38 AM
In the last four county supervisor elections the candidate that raised or spent the most money won - that is not a negative. If Covey voted for Pine because he "agreed with his take on what needed to be done" he had to have found what that "take" was and that was with money to inform him - even if it was in a paid for statement in the voter pamphlet. If Papan had more money maybe she could have gotten her message out more? I voted for her because I liked her mailers as I did not meet her or any of the candidates in person. To think that money does not play a major part in getting elected is just naive. Also in the past four city council elections (I did not research further) in Redwood City the candidates that spent the most won. It now takes $40,000 or more to win a seat on our council. As far as district elections, I can not make up my mind as both sides have fair arguments. I do however think that if someone is voting on issues for my neighborhood I want to have a voice in their election regardless of what district they live in. I, like, Roger want to read more about Schmidt and David Woods and I hope Penna will do that. This should be an interesting election to watch and read about.
Laura Whittaker January 19, 2012 at 05:39 AM
In the last four county supervisor elections the candidate that raised or spent the most money won - that is not a negative. If Covey voted for Pine because he "agreed with his take on what needed to be done" he had to have found what that "take" was and that was with money to inform him - even if it was in a paid for statement in the voter pamphlet. If Papan had more money maybe she could have gotten her message out more? I voted for her because I liked her mailers as I did not meet her or any of the candidates in person. To think that money does not play a major part in getting elected is just naive. Also in the past four city council elections (I did not research further) in Redwood City the candidates that spent the most won. It now takes $40,000 or more to win a seat on our council. As far as district elections, I can not make up my mind as both sides have fair arguments. I do however think that if someone is voting on issues for my neighborhood I want to have a voice in their election regardless of what district they live in. I, like, Roger want to read more about Schmidt and David Woods and I hope Penna will do that. This should be an interesting election to watch and read about.
Enquiring Mind January 29, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Spare me Mr Penna's "insight and analysis". This is nothing more than a regurgitation of his magazine's gossip column. Rather than subjecting Patch readers to more of Mr Penna's "insight" how about doing some in depth reporting on each of the candidates, Stacie?
Lucas February 24, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I agree with @EnquiringMind. This article doesn't say anything about the candidates views on anything. Your analysis on why the entire county should vote for all the representatives on the BOS is ridiculous. This county from north to south is has vastly different political, economic and social agendas. We are the only county left in California that uses this outdated system. Just because voters reaffirm this stance throughout history does not make it right.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive February 24, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Lucas, so what is the alternative? Impose your will on the electorate? How would we go about doing that?
Steve Penna February 25, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Thanks Laura for your comment. What my column or opinion articles on this subject are to do is provoke conversation and I am glad you recognize that. I, as usual will not endorse anyone in this race or any other race. This is an important election for Redwood City.
Steve Penna February 25, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Roger - you are very insightful. You have made me think more about the subject of District elections. I am a firm believer that voters (us, we) are the final say. Therefore I exampled the previous elections and how we have chose to go forward with County at-large elections. I may or may not agree but do respect the outcome of those elections.
Steve Penna February 25, 2012 at 05:37 AM
I am sorry you feel this way but what I bring to this election is exactly what you are criticizing, my "insight and analysis." If a voter wants to read some "in-dept" reporting on the candidates, I respect my readers enough to know that they will research each candidate and do that on their own. That is one reason I gave each candidates website.That is also why I do not endorse - I would not the disrespect the intelligence of (you) readers to assume they would take my endorsement and vote that way. I provide an insights, a view and opinion as I - as part of my job - take the time to meet each candidate, attended their events and debates, talk to voters about their opinions and write about that to my readers. The feedback I get is mostly positive by I welcome all opinions such as yours and respect it.
Steve Penna February 25, 2012 at 05:43 AM
I understand your point - BUT what do you say to the voter in San Bruno (just an example) who has aide to their community denied because a majority of the Board did not support that community? Who do they hold accountable when the elected officials who denied them lives in another District and they can not vote for or against them to hold them accountable? Is that fair? That is the main issue I am contemplating when looking at the issue of District versus County wide elections. Please enlighten me on the subject the other way.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive February 25, 2012 at 06:20 AM
The reality is that there are good and bad points for both. The people have to decide if what they give up is worth what they get. And it doesn't Matter what every other county does.

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