After a historic 15 candidates vied for three seats on the city council, early election results indicated Wednesday that all three incumbents will once again serve on the Santa Clarita City Council.
The positions will be occupied by Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean, and Councilman Bill Miranda. The Gazette interviewed four defeated candidates who were willing to share their campaign reflections.
Trautman finished fourth in the City Council race. Trautman detailed her thoughts on her campaign via phone interview.
“I always felt that (the race) was going to be fairly close, but having had sufficient experience as 12-year planning commissioner and being involved for many years, I thought that I would get a positive response from the community… I felt that the atmosphere was going to (make it) possible to win the seat this time.”
In order for candidates to get their messages out, forums held by College of the Canyons and other media outlets were facilitated as a way to streamline the process. However, Trautman believes that these formats may have been too structured.
“I think forums have their place, but it might have been helpful to have more debates to talk about some of the statements that were made and challenge them.”
As for raising money and obtaining the resources to run, Trautman felt that incumbents had the upper hand.
“It’s always very difficult raising money when you’re a non-incumbent. Incumbents have advantages through the press, and there is bias,” said Trautman.
“It’s also very difficult because when you are not an incumbent in an area like ours, it’s difficult for people who are not in your party to openly support you for fear of retribution. That’s been true forever. This year more people where willing to step forward and be listed in my contributors.”
Despite these challenges, Trautman expressed her gratitude for her supporters and the energy behind her campaign.
“People were engaged and they wanted to make change. All of the people that I met with wanted to know, “What can I do?” I want to work with them to find a way to plug them in to groups or to make this a better place for everyone.
“I am incredibly grateful for all of the help and support and all of the votes. Win or lose, I’m going to continue to work in this community, and I invite everyone to get in touch with me, because we need to keep the momentum going in this community.”
Ken Dean finished fifth in the race. He didn’t purchase a ballot statement, and attributes his success to ballot designation and sign psychology.
“There are two factors. One, it’s known that if you’re first on the ballot, you have an advantage by 1.5 percent. Secondly, I am a teacher and an educator, and I have name recognition … Everybody respects a teacher.”
Dean is also an interior designer and claims he had an advantage with how he utilized color.
“You never put green and blue together on a sign. When I teach school, I cover things like the psychological effects of color. Green and blue just does not work, and distorts what you are putting on there. My sign was so simple: white background, blue letters.
Dean says he finished fifth in the last election using the same campaign strategy.
“I did the same thing did last time. I got out there myself and I walked street corners for hours.”
Running for council in the next election isn’t necessarily on his mind at the moment. However, he hasn’t turned down the possibility just yet.
“I’m doing very well. I believe that I’m saying things that the people want to hear. I still firmly believe that we need district voting and term limits. Everybody I’ve talked to said they felt they wanted term limits,” Dean said. “We need to have affordable housing and continue to protect our seniors and our veterans.”
Although Dean ran for council, he claims he wasn’t running “against” the incumbents, but simply does so because it is his right.
“All of the incumbents are friends. When you get people in office, they become stagnant and you need to have new people with new visions. If you don’t have leaders with new visions and new focus, city histories have proven to fall into decline.”
Dean’s final thoughts on the election included strong feelings toward endorsements and ballot statements.
“Endorsements aren’t worth the wet paper they are printed on. And the other thing that is an absolute, complete rip-off is the candidate statements that cost thousands of dollars,” Dean said. “Every one of the candidates below me spent thousands of dollars on these statements, and I beat them all. Everyone I’ve talked to doesn’t read those statements. I’m proof of it.”
This was Haddock’s second run for council, and he finished in eighth place.
“I didn’t really set expectations for myself, other than to do better than I did last time,” said Haddock. “I don’t know if I can really dissect it and say I would have done anything differently. I think it’s a very challenging race, and the voters by and large are ready for a change.”
Although the incumbents took the victory, Haddock believes that the results also reveal the public’s desire for new leadership.
“When you have 15 people for three spots, it splits the votes. If you tallied up everyone else’s vote (the incumbents) would have lost by a wide margin.”
For now, Haddock does not have set plans to run in 2020.
“You know, I’m going to take a minute and recoup. It’s exhausting, and I don’t even want to think about it. My plan is to sleep until January,” Haddock said. “I won’t outright rule it out, but I think my efforts right now are better spent making sure our elections are fair.
Part of his plan to make elections fair includes encouraging the city to switch to district voting.
“Regardless of how people may feel about districting, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. The three incumbents have been vocal about their opinions, but I don’t want to pay several million dollars to settle a lawsuit for something we know is going to happen. Within the next year we need an actual concrete plan about real districts in the 2020 election.”
Haddock ended the phone interview by imparting optimism.
“Looking at the numbers, we’ve seen a historic turnout for a midterm, and I just want to thank everyone for turning out and voting. This is how democracy works, and this is what democracy looks like. We have some hiccups in our election system, but nothing we can’t overcome, and I’m looking forward to a bright future.”
Gibbs entered his first city council race without expectations, finishing ninth. In a phone interview the morning after the election, he described his campaign experience overall.
“It was fun, it was challenging, and it was emotional.”
When asked if he would have changed anything about his campaign, he had the following to say:
“I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I had a good message and a good platform. Things just fell where they fell,” Gibbs said.
So far, Gibbs has not thought about a future council run. “I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll have for breakfast,” Gibbs said. “I’ll stay involved in the community in some other fashion.”
As for his take on the election results, Gibbs was humble.
“In the end, the community spoke, and if they felt that they did a good job, then they are the people who should be there.”