Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Election Rap

Several eye-opening developments emerged from the local tundra of Tuesday's primary election.

Of course, the biggest surprise came out of the sheriff's election. Incumbent Mike Kanalakis emerged with the lead, but he fell far short of his bid to end it all in the primary by failing to capture a clear majority of the votes.

There's still a lot of votes left to count — about 24,000 — but by the end of the count early Wednesday, Kanalakis had a 767-vote lead over challenger Scott Miller. Kanalakis says publicly that he is happy to come out of the primaries with the lead, but he can't be thrilled with the numbers.

It's reasonable to believe that the incumbent dearly wanted to win it all with the first ballot, which is likely why his campaign turned so negatively unbecoming against Miller in the final weeks. Also, it's hard to overlook the fact that a solid 63 percent of the voters in Monterey County favored his opponents.

So while he did come up with the most votes on Tuesday, he's got his work cut out for him if he hopes to retain his job in November.

Interestingly, the third man in the race, Fred Garcia, is not yet conceding. He apparently believes that about 40 percent of the late absentee ballots will go his way, which — assuming that Kanalakis continues to take his 37 percent share of the yet-to-be-counted votes — is about what it would take for Garcia to overcome the 2,127-vote lead that Miller now has for the second runoff position. As of Wednesday morning, Garcia had only managed less than 29 percent of the votes. Don't bet on Garcia's chances.

Another stunning development was Ron Holly's abysmal performance in the treasurer-tax collector's race. I doubt if anyone saw that one coming.

Holly is well connected and spent a bunch of money to get elected. (The Herald's advertising department is already adjusting its first-quarter budget now that Holly won't be around to spend more in the general election.)

While true that he shot himself in the foot when he called himself a lawyer on his official candidate's statement, even though he is not a lawyer, conventional wisdom had it that he'd be able to overcome the resulting bad publicity with his vigorous spending and the stalwart support from each of the county's five supervisors.

Holly is an intelligent fellow with much political gamesmanship. But the lawyer thing proved a mortal misstep, and John McPherson, a financial consultant from Salinas, and Mary Zeeb, the assistant treasurer-tax collector, took the top two spots while Holly lagged far behind.

Not so surprising were strong showings by two local incumbents, Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski and 2nd District Supervisor Lou Calcagno. Both faced vigorous challenges and both easily outdistanced their rivals.

Finally, veteran poll watchers were astonished at how the trends of the vote count did not change significantly as the results were released over the course of Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

While the numbers of actual votes increased (of course) throughout the evening, the percentages of votes cast for each of the candidates barely changed. The first batch of votes counted were from the absentee ballots delivered to the elections office before last weekend. The rest of the evening's results represented votes cast at polling places. There was no significant difference.

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