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.

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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