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CORD BAUER, San Clemente

Let’s not let bygones be bygones. It was a really ugly election. Any time a (crossdressing) Tupperware salesperson somehow becomes news, then everything is fair game.

For the record: Gene James not only won over 50% of the vote, he had more votes than all the other candidates combined. He won more votes than Kathy Ward did during the last election.

Gene James was backed by new councilmembers, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Bane and Laura Ferguson, while the second-place finisher was backed by councilmembers Chris Hamm and Ward. Ferguson and Bane kept it clean, while Hamm and Ward did not.

They were involved (again) in shady electioneering that caused an investigation into improprieties regarding what can best be described as an Orange County Firefighters Association election stunt. Results from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigation are pending.

We heard from county Republican insiders that this local one-year council race was being followed closely nationally by Democrats, as Orange County has now become a political battleground since it turned blue. Sorry, folks, don’t expect things to get kinder and gentler any time soon.

The bottom three candidates essentially had zero traction in this race. They were placeholders at best, and one didn’t even know the mayor’s name when he signed up to run. I’ve yet to see any public congratulations from any of them to Gene James, so to me they’ve all earned their second-tier status.

Let’s talk about money. More money has been spent on this election for a one-year term than most full-term elections. The figures are still being tabulated, but Gene James took in over $50,000 from donors and groups. Jackson Hinkle—who once said he would not accept PAC funds—did quite well with money from the OCFA and other Democrat-leaning groups. Gene is said to have placed more than 1,000 yard signs. This election is one for the record books.

The people who voted for Dan Bane and Laura Ferguson got behind Gene James.  They—we—want a better San Clemente, and frankly want the “Old Guard” gone. People who have never met before got together and got behind three people in order to affect change. With Gene on the council, we see a glimmer of hope now, and we also see the reality of the tough road ahead. And we also have the tie-breaking third vote.

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