By Jim Shilander
San Clemente voters braved some inclement weather in the evening and some long polling lines in the morning Tuesday to cast ballots in a number of local races, in addition to the larger Presidential and state elections.
Incumbent Robert “Bob” Baker and Chris Hamm won seats on the San Clemente City Council Tuesday, outpacing rivals Jim Dahl, Mike Mortenson and David Clegg to win the two contested seats.
With all 46 San Clemente precincts reporting at midnight, Hamm was the leading vote getter by more than 1,000 votes, receiving 10,034, for 25.9 percent of the vote. Baker was returned to the council with 23.2 percent of the vote, with 8,988 votes—this despite having another candidate with the same name on the ballot, a source of major controversy early in the campaign.
Jim Dahl, who had served on City Council for 16 years and who had been the leading vote getter in each of his previous election bids, fell short, about 1,000 votes behind Baker at 7,903, or 20.4 percent.
Attorney Mike Mortenson was just behind, at 19.5 percent, with 7,565 votes.
Retired businessman David Clegg finished fifth, with 6.8 percent of the vote. The second Bob Baker, listed on the ballot as “0 Robert ‘Bob’ Baker,” received 1,658 votes, despite having dropped out of the race in September.
Hamm led after the first round of early ballots were posted online just after 8 p.m. Tuesday, and expressed cautious optimism about his chances at that time. He said, however, that he’d left the joint election party he was having with Baker at about 10:30 p.m., before the rest of the ballots for San Clemente were counted. The total votes for the city were posted online just after midnight .
“I found out about 6 a.m. this morning when I woke up,” Hamm said. “I couldn’t have done it without the residents of San Clemente. They’ve been the ones who supported me. Hopefully I can give them a voice on the council for the next four years.”
Hamm, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2010, will take office in December. He said he had already been contacted by city staff for a “debriefing,” on the number of issues facing the city. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to hit the ground running,” Hamm said.
After the first set of ballots were counted and showed a lead for Baker and Hamm, Baker said he was confident of victory, and said the voters had sent a message about the future of the city.
“I’m feeling very confident that the citizens of San Clemente have shown the direction they want the city to take,” Baker said. “They’ve shown they want to keep San Clemente as a community for residents first.” He added later, after the entirety of the votes came in, “I’m thrilled with the result.”
The campaign had been a hard-fought one. The candidates largely divided into two camps, with Baker and Hamm backed largely by the same groups who opposed Measure A (the proposed LAB development at North Beach) in 2011. They were opposed by Dahl and Mortenson, who had been endorsed by the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce and had the support of a number of city officials, including Mayor Jim Evert, and members of the business community.
The race focused primarily on issues of future development in the city, including a proposed two-story height limit in the downtown area, as well as future development and signage at Marblehead Coastal.
However, controversy became a component early on as Baker accused his opponents of promoting the candidacy of his similarly named opponent as a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. On the other side, Mortenson and Dahl, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, had objected to mailers put out by a group supporting Baker and Hamm, which they said misrepresented their positions on a number of issues.
The morning after the election, Dahl was able to laugh about it, despite the negative campaigning he said he didn’t care for.
“Four terms, I think that’s enough,” Dahl joked. “It’s OK. There’s no worries on my end.” He said he would try to remain active in the city by volunteering with Ocean Fest, the Exchange Club and other organizations and events. “I’ve got tons of things to do,” Dahl said.
Mortenson also expressed frustration at the negative advertising in the campaign.
“I’m disappointed,” Mortenson said. “I’m proud of the campaign we ran, we ran an honest campaign. It’s disappointing to see negative advertising influence the outcome.” Mortenson said he would continue to be involved in a number of civic organizations, including the Rotary Club and North Beach Community Association.
Clegg was independent of the two camps, but did not spend the large amount of money the other campaigns did. He only appeared at one of four candidate forums due to business obligations.
He said, however, that speaking at more forums and spending more money wouldn’t have made the difference.
“Not after looking at the results,” Clegg joked. “I would have wasted my money if I had (spent more).” With the other candidates backed by outside groups, he said, as a practical person, that it didn’t make sense to try and match those dollars. He wondered, however about what he characterized as a “no growth” agenda of the winners. “Where do we go from here,” Clegg asked rhetorically. “Money comes into the city from homeowners and businesses. If you don’t have businesses, where does the money come from?”
City Clerk Joanne Baade and City Treasurer Pall Gudeirsson both ran unopposed in their offices.
Deputy City Clerk Anthony Mejia said it was too early to state exactly what percentage of city residents turned out to the polls. There are 42,832 registered voters in the city. As a frame of reference, Baade received 17,816 votes, and was the leading vote getter of any city office seeker. Some may have left the position blank on their ballots, however, since Baade was unopposed.
In the Capistrano Unified School District Trustee Area 3, John Alpay held off a spirited challenge from challenger Steve Lang to win a second term on the board, 48.2 percent to 42.4 percent. Yolanda McNamara, a third candidate who did not actively campaign, received 9.4 percent of the vote.
Alpay was originally elected in 2010 as part of a recall effort. The race had taken a particularly ugly turn in recent weeks, as Alpay was accused of being too pro-teacher’s union by opponents, and one man alleged that Alpay had threatened his family after he had put up a website critical of Alpay’s record on the board.
In Trustee Area 1, which covers a portion of San Clemente, as well as portions of Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, Amy Hanacek won an easy victory in the race for the open seat, besting Karin Schnell 67.7 percent to 32.3 percent.
Vote Tallies (From the Orange County Registrar) all precincts reporting:
Chris Hamm: 10,034 (25.9 percent)
1 Robert “Bob” Baker: 8,988 (23.2 percent)
Jim Dahl: 7,903 (20.4 percent)
Mike Mortenson: 7,565 (19.5 percent)
David Clegg: 2,638 (6.8 percent)
0 Robert “Bob” Baker: 1,658 (4.3 percent)
Capistrano Unified School District
Trustee Area Three
John Alpay: 8,057 (48.3 percent)
Steve R. Lang: 7,050 (42.3 percent)
Yolanda McNamara: 1,568 (9.4 percent)
Trustee Area One
Amy Hanacek: 9,448 (67.7 percent)
Karin Schnell: 4,504 (32.3 percent)
(All vote tallies are unofficial)