Voters On November 3 Showed The Door To 13 Incumbent Muncipal Elected Officials

Voters in San Bernardino County this election cycle have removed thirteen incumbent mayors or members currently serving on ten of the city councils in San Bernardino County.
While incumbents enjoy a statistical advantage in achieving reelection locally, at the state level as well as nationally and a majority of the office holders seeking reelection this year in the county’s 22 cities and two incorporated towns succeeded in their quests, the more than a dozen losses suffered by local municipal officeholders nevertheless reflected an uncommon level of voter discontent with their representatives at various city halls.
In the county seat, three of the four members of the city council vying for reelection this year were swept from office. In the March 3 primary election, Third Ward Councilman Juan Figueroa, Fifth Ward Councilman Henry Nickel, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Bessine Richard and Seventh Ward Councilman Jim Mulvihill were met with challenges to their remaining office. Only Figueroa would ultimately survive.
On March 3, Figueroa easily outpolled his only competitor, Luis Ojeda, taking 2,098 of the 3,015 total votes cast or 69.59 percent to Ojeda’s 917 or 30.14 percent.
In the Sixth Ward, Richard faced a tough challenge from Kimberly Calvin. That race came down to the wire, as 2,874 of the district’s voters went to the polls or sent in mail ballots. Richard’s 1,428 votes came up just short at 49.69 percent to Calvin’s 1,446 or 50.31 percent.
In the Fifth Ward, Nickel as the incumbent in March faced five hopefuls. He captured first with 1,802 or 35.45 percent of the 5,083 cast, easily outdistancing the second-place finisher, Ben Reynoso, who had 1,295 votes or 25.48 percent. Because no candidate had captured a majority of the vote, a run-off was necessitated. While Nickel’s lead in the primary seemed to have him poised for an easy victory on November 3, Reynoso ran an energetic campaign, ultimately prevailing with 5,752 or 52.69 percent of the 10,917 votes tallied as of today to Nickel’s 5,165 votes or 47.31 percent.
In March, Mulvihill, who has been on the council since 2013, saw his incumbency challenged by four Seventh Ward residents. In that contest, with 1,066 or 28.06 percent of the 3,799 votes cast, he easily outdistanced three of his competitors. Still, he ran behind Damon Alexander, who polled 1,236 votes or 32.53 percent. In this month’s run-off, Alexander trounced the incumbent, capturing 5.478 or 65.64 percent of the 8,345 votes cast to Mulivihill’s 2,867 votes or 34.36 percent.
In Barstow, voters ousted two of that city’s elected officials.
Voters in the 24,000 population railroad town were met with three alternatives to Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, who in the counting as of today had 2,195 votes or 31.59 percent of the 6,949 cast, which was behind the 3,033 votes or 43.65 percent Paul Anthony Courtney claimed. Nathaniel Pickett, Sr., with 13.08 percent, and Virginia Brown, with 11.64 percent, took third and fourth place.
In Barstow’s Fourth District city council race, incumbent Carmen Hernandez jumped out to an early 10-vote lead on election night, as she logged 292 votes or 37.58 percent to Marilyn Dyer Kruse’s 282 votes or 36.29 percent. In third place was Martha O’Brien, with 203 votes or 26.13 percent. Hernandez maintained an edge over Kruse for the next week, but not by much. On November 10, Kruse pulled even with Hernandez, as each at that point had a total 464 or 37.21 percent. O’Brien had 319 votes or 25.58 percent. Two days later, following the Veteran’s Day holiday, Kruse on November 12 leapfrogged 18 votes in front of the incumbent, such that she had 522 votes or 38.16 percent and Hernandez carried 504 votes or 36.84 percent. As of today, Kruse has widened the gulf between them, with 570 votes or 37.35 percent to Hernandez’s 547 votes or 35.85 percent. O’Brien stands at 26.8 percent.
In Big Bear, two-term incumbent Councilman Bob Jackowski was soundly defeated by Bynette Mote, 323 votes or 66.19 percent to 165 votes or 33.81 percent, to represent that city’s newly-drawn District 5.
In Chino’s District 1, the current councilman, Paul Rodriguez, was unable to hang onto the reins of power, as newcomer Christopher Flores, with 3,510 or 54.16 percent of the 6,481 votes counted as of today, was safely ahead of the 2,971 votes or 45.84 percent the incumbent had drawn.
In Colton District 5, incumbent Jack Woods has been blown out of office by John Echevarria. Of the 3,341 votes cast, the current officeholder was able to bag 1,010 votes or 30.23 percent to the challenger’s 2,331 votes or 69.77 percent.
In Needles, incumbent Councilwoman Louise Evans needed to capture first, second or third among a field of six candidates, which included one other incumbent, Tona Belt. As of today, with 3,977 votes in the contest, Belt had taken possession of 845 or 21.25 percent for first, Kirsten Merritt held 774 votes or 19.46 percent, and Ellen Campbell was in third with 677 votes or 17.02 percent. Another challenger, Jamie McCorkle was ahead of Evans, having taken 595 votes or 14.96 percent for fourth place. Evans was in fifth with 573 votes or 14.41 percent. Ruth Musser-Lopez ran in sixth place with 12.9 percent.
In Upland, Mayor Debbie Stone was challenged for the mayoralty by her council ally, Councilman Bill Velto, together with community activist Lois Sicking Dieter and former Planning Commissioner Alexander Novikov, whom Stone had sacked earlier this year.
Claiming slightly less than one third of the 35,727 votes cast, Velto notched 11,797 votes to win, more than 2,000 votes ahead of Stone, who came in second with 9,319 votes or 26.08 percent. Sicking Dieter ran in third with 24.26 percent. Novikov polled 16.63 percent.
In Victorville this year, three positions on the city council were up for grabs. While incumbent Jim Cox opted out of seeking reelection, Gloria Garcia, who has held the appointed mayor’s position for nearly six years, sought to return to the council, as did incumbent Councilwoman Blanca Gomez. The race drew a whopping 19 other candidates. As of today, Elizabeth Becerra is the frontrunner, having notched 8,675 or 9.48 percent of the 91,473 total votes counted at this point. Running in a strong second-place position is Gomez, with 8,520 or 9.31 percent. A tense battle for third place and a position on the council is playing out between Leslie Irving and former Councilman Ryan McEachron, who are in a dead heat, with just seven votes separating them. After the first report of results on election night, with 52 of 75 precincts heard from, McEachron was running fifth, with Kareema Abdul in fourth place. Thereafter, McEachron made steady gains, passing Abdul for fourth and then, on November 13, bolting past Irving into third place, having registered 6,695 votes to Irving’s 6,667. McEachron maintained third place for four days, but on November 17, Irving retook the lead by three votes, such that she had 6,751 votes to his 6,748. The race is still tight. As of today, Irving is seven votes up on McEachron, with 6,901 votes or 7.54 percent over his 6,884 or 7.53 percent.
Meanwhile, Mayor Garcia, who was first elected to the council in 2012 and then reelected as the top vote-getter in 2016, is running in ninth place, with 5,329 votes or 5.83 percent. In addition to Becerra, Gomez, Irving and McEachron, Kareema Abdul, with 6.99 percent, Ashiko Newman with 6.41 percent, Lizet Angulo with 6.34 percent and Kimberly Mesen with 6.18 percent, have more votes than Garcia.
In Yucaipa, Councilman Dick Riddell, who is one of the longest-serving elected officials in San Bernardino County, is being turned out of office as a consequence of this month’s election. In Yucaipa’s District 5, Jon Thorp brought down 2,384 votes or 42.37 percent to Riddell’s 2,124 votes or 37.75 percent. Running in third was Craig Suveg, with 12.25 percent, followed by Patricia Elbeck, who claimed 7.63 percent.
Loma Linda holds its elections during the primary balloting. In March, council incumbents Rhodes Rigsby, John Lennart and Ovidiu Popescu stood for reelection against challengers Bhavin Jindal and Gabriel Uribe. Lennart and Rigsby were retained with 2,201 or 22.9 percent and 2,019 or 21 percent of the 9.613 votes cast. Popescu, however, with 1,476 votes or 15.53 percent, was displaced on the council by Jindal, with 1,969 votes or 20.48 percent and was also beaten by Uribe, who garnered 1,948 votes or 20.26 percent.
-Mark Gutglueck

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