Voters pick three pro-business hacks and--Jacobi?
(Updated from The Other Santa Rosa 11/3/04)
Let's take a look at last November's SR City Council election numbers.
There were nine candidates on the ballot, four seats up for grabs, and only two incumbents in the race: Jane Bender and Mike Martini. The Press Democrat's coverage had made it fairly clear there was a difference between the five-member majority of the Council, and Noreen Evans and Steve Rabinowitsh. The most visible difference was that developers and business interests, and their lobbies the Sonoma County Alliance and Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, contributed to and supported the Council majority.
Evans and Mayor Sharon Wright were out of the race--Evans running for Assembly, and Wright retiring from office. Bender and Martini were the majority incumbents running for reelection. The majority advertised that Lee Pierce and John Sawyer were the majority's choice for the two open seats. Candidates Veronica Jacobi and Caroline Banuelos were more like Evans and Rabinowitsh.
Candidate Don Taylor, owner of the Omelette Express in Railroad Square, and a major Downtown/Railroad Square booster, appeared to be working both sides of the street, and ultimately persuaded neither one. Candidates Joe Romano and Harry Troutt were little known and had little chance.
The Press Democrat endorsed "Jane Bender and Mike Martini, incumbents, and Lee Pierce and John Sawyer". Their names came out in alphabetical order. The Sonoma County Alliance PAC (SCAPAC) slate mailer for those same four candidates also showed them in alphabetical order.
The nine candidates' names were in this random order on the ballot:
Joseph "Joe" Romano
And the final vote was as follows:
Jane Bender 27,634/14.3%
Mike Martini 27,345/14.2%
John Sawyer 27,193/14.1%
Lee Pierce 22,186/11.5%
They were followed by:
Veronica Jacobi 21,634/11.2%
Don Taylor 20,995/10.9%
Caroline Banuelos 17,909/9.3%
Joseph Romano 15,516/8.0%
Harry Troutt 12,622/6.5%
The Press Democrat recommended the same slate as the Sonoma County Alliance PAC, and the voters elected all four candidates the PD and SCAPAC supported. But what's interesting is that the voters clearly didn't just hold the PD's chart in one hand, pick out the four recommended candidates in alphabetical order, and fill in the boxes by each name.
They may have done that for Bender, Martini, and Sawyer--but not for Pierce. No, between 27,193 and 27,634 of them voted for Bender, Martini, and Sawyer. But only 22,186 voted for Lee Pierce. Given the choice of a total of four candidates out of nine, at least 5,007 voters skipped Pierce.
Maybe they voted for somebody else, maybe they just settled for three out of four. So why did 5,007 voters rubber stamp a pro-business slate of two incumbents and Sawyer, then skip Pierce? Because they didn't know Pierce, because he was from the West side, Black, or what?
Why didn't they complete the slate of four the PD and Sonoma County Alliance recommended? Did they even understand it was a slate?
And then there are Jacobi and Don Taylor. When it came to their fourth choice, the voters chose Pierce over Jacobi by just 552 votes, and over Taylor by just 1,191. If some of the voters who skipped Pierce then chose Jacobi, Taylor, Banuelos, Romano, or Troutt for the fourth open seat, why did they do it?
Did they vote to preserve the pro-business majority, and then for Jacobi as a balance? Did they vote for two men and two women? These are the conundrums that make local politics interesting.
I don't know what everybody else did, but I know what I did. I couldn't stomach the pro-business slate, and I judged Taylor to be little different. So I voted for Jacobi and Banuelos, and gave my other two votes to Romano and Troutt.
How did you vote, and why did you do it?