Santa Clarita City Council Race '14: Candidates Discuss Strategy, Final Hours
Santa Clarita City Council candidates Alan Ferdman and Dante Acosta might be able to relate to the famous Yogi Berra saying “deja vu all over again” more than most.
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After tens of thousands of dollars in expenditures, months of campaigning and a very long election night, they’re still in the same spot they were in Tuesday.
“It’s like waiting for the election date again,” Ferdman said, in an interview at the KHTS AM-1220 newsroom Friday. “I have to stay positive, and this time I have a little bit of a hurdle to get over.”
City officials posted an intent to count the remaining ballots -- about 965 provisional and vote-by-mail votes needing validation from Los Angeles County -- on Tuesday.
Until the final count, Acosta who garnered 4,562 votes as of Tuesday night, according to unofficial results reported by the city, and Ferdman, who earned 4,516, remain in limbo.
“I’m really just honored and grateful to be in the position that I’m in right now,” Acosta said. “I’m just watching this whole democratic process work out. I’m looking forward to a final positive outcome and working hard for the people of Santa Clarita.”
The cost of a campaigning for City Council
Santa Clarita’s 14th City Council race had three spots up for grabs: Mayor Laurene Weste and Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean have re-election sewn up by earning 5,822 votes and 5,363 votes, respectively, without the uncounted ballots.
Yet third and fourth place are separated by 46 votes, and fifth place, Gloria Mercado-Fortine, had 4,355 votes.
Neither candidate felt ready to lay claim to the seat Friday, although both were doing their best to remain optimistic, in spite of what must be a lot of anxiety.
After all, the cost of a competitive campaign is high.
For Acosta, aside from the “sweat equity” he put in the race, there was a dollar value as well -- Acosta raised approximately $18,573.48, with $5,176 in outstanding debt, and Ferdman raised $19,994, with $6,000 in outstanding debt.
The top seven vote-getters all raised at least $18,000, including loans to their campaigns: Gloria Mercado-Fortine, who came in fifth, raised a total of $35,378; Duane Harte, who came in sixth, raised $18,501; and Maria Gutzeit, who came in seventh, raised $33,183.47.
Councilman TimBen Boydston, who unseated an incumbent in 2012, said it probably costs around $20,000 to run a successful campaign, when you figure in the cost of mailers, signs and ballot endorsements.
Related article: Santa Clarita City Council Race '14: From Filing To Election
“I will tell you, it’s more than full-time hours to run a competitive campaign,” Acosta said.
The process started more than a year ago for both candidates, and the timeline “compresses” as election day nears, from weekly meetings to “just about daily meetings, certainly multiple phone calls a day,” Acosta said.
Santa Clarita City Council campaign styles
The two candidates, Ferdman and Acosta, ran markedly different strategies.
Ferdman was at times running two campaigns, he said, explaining how he was always conscious of the crowd he was speaking with, and the best way to convey his message.
“When we went through this campaign, one of the things it brought right to the forefront of my mind -- it’s almost like you’re campaigning in two different cities,” he said, noting differences in resources and appearances between the east and west side.
Ferdman constantly questioned the status quo, he said, not necessarily to attack his most formidable opposition, the two incumbents, and how the city is managed, but also to bring items -- good and bad -- to the discussion table.
While transparency repeatedly was a concern he brought up, he also spoke at council meetings to discuss items such as the city’s new agenda system, which he thought would improve how Santa Clarita was run.
Acosta’s campaign focused on the future and going forward, he said.
“Certainly, we all have our records and our track records we run on,” Acosta said. “I wasn’t about trying to tear anybody down or knock anybody. It isn’t about the past, the city is what it is today -- it’s not about your past resume.”
Acosta's key was to engage as many people as possible and share that message in hopes it would resonate at the polls.
“The voters had to decide whose vision of the city they line up with,” Acosta said.
Only Tuesday’s final tally will hold the answers.
Tuesday's final ballot count for the Santa Clarita City Council race
“I haven’t given up and I’m staying very positive and getting ready to go down there on Tuesday and watch the count,” Ferdman said.
In the days after the election both Ferdman and Acosta took a trip down to “sign jail,” where confiscated campaign signs placed in violation of the city’s sign ordinance are placed until the election is over.
Despite specific instructions to their volunteers, both candidates acknowledged their help might have become a little “overzealous,” as Ferdman put it.
“I’m not sure where the confusion came up, but it’s my campaign and the buck stops here,” Acosta said, adding he tried to make sure all his signs were down during a trip around the city at 6 a.m. Wednesday after the election.
Acosta welcomed anyone who saw a rogue sign still up to email him, and he’d have it removed.
“The only thing we have left to do is get our prisoners out of jail,” Ferdman said, Friday afternoon, a jocular reference to his confiscated signs.
Even after the election, Ferdman remained tight-lipped about the person or people behind the “Who’s Alan Ferdman” signs that sprung up throughout the city, adding he didn’t find out until election night who was responsible. It was a supporter, he said, but one who had no official affiliation or coordination with his campaign.
Win or lose, both candidates were grateful for the support, and seemed relieved that countless hours of campaigning over the last year were finally behind them, at least for now.
“You can stand over those ballots and campaign all you like, but (the votes) are not going to change,” Ferdman said Friday. “Their minds are made up.”
The Santa Clarita City Council race by the numbers
There is no margin of victory that would automatically trigger a recount, according to Susan Caputo, deputy city clerk.
Any candidate can request one, but the cost of the recount is paid by the candidate who requests it, Caputo said.
The final tally is expected to take place at City Hall on Tuesday at 10 a.m., and Caputo said the process is expected to take “no more than an hour.”
However, based on candidate disclosures and preliminary numbers released by the city, one can surmise approximately how much each candidate had to raise, not spend, per vote.
(Note: The vote totals do not include the results of the 965 uncounted ballots expected to be tallied Tuesday. The following figures were derived from adding total expenditures and ending cash balances reported by candidates. The totals are listed in order of the number of votes garnered.)
Based on the aforementioned numbers, Weste raised $56,742.94, and garnered the highest vote count (5,822 votes). The amount raised per vote was $9.75. For McLean (5,363), the figure was $7.58 per vote on $40,623.04 raised. For Acosta, it was $4.07. For Ferdman, it was $4.43.
For Gloria Mercado-Fortine (4,355), she raised $35,478, so she received one vote for every $8.15 raised. For Harte (4,198), it was $4.41. For Gutzeit (4,158), it was $7.98. Sandra Bull did not attempt to fundraise or spend more than the $1,000 threshold necessary for declaration; however, she earned 1,252 votes. Moazzem Chowdhury received 1,177 votes, and raised $39.43 for each vote. Stephen Daniels raised $2,910.43, and grabbed 1,080 votes, raising $2.69 per vote. Paul J. Wieczorek also raised less than the $1,000 threshold for declaration, and took home 1,046 votes. Berta Gonzalez-Harper declared a contribution total of $3,141.19, and had 878 votes, raising $3.58 for each vote. Dennis Conn did not declare a fundraising total. He garnered 432 votes.
From a previous story:
Based on past results reported at the city’s website, there are at least 23,447 more votes cast in the 2014 election than in the 2012 race in which TimBen Boydston and Bob Kellar were elected.
That figure doesn’t include the 965 yet-to-be tallied votes, which could bring the total to 41,732.
However, the city of Santa Clarita added about 25,000 more residents to the equation with a pair of annexations since that election.
There were 111,732 registered voters in the Santa Clarita City Council electoral district, which means including the yet-to-be-counted ballots, about 14.2 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls. This is a slight drop-off from 2012, when a little less than 17 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
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