Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Campaign Dollars Count: Malibu Votes Peak–Sibert–House

• Tuesday Night Council Election Results Show Those Who Raised and Spent the Most Won Big

BY BILL KOENEKER

The semi-official results for the 2012 Malibu City Council election showed that newcomer Skylar Peak garnered 1466 votes, passing up incumbent John Sibert, who received 1156 votes, to become the top vote-getter. Joan House, with 1037 ballots cast for the three term council member amply won enough votes to take the third seat available.
Results as The Malibu Surfside News goes to press do not include provisional ballots and vote by mail ballots turned in at the polls.
The city clerk’s office reported there are 8672 registered voters in the City of Malibu and that voter turnout amounted to 27.65 percent.
The total number of ballots cast, according to the city clerk’s office, is 2398. There were 1355 vote by mail ballots and 1063 ballots cast at polls.
Given that the campaign race had three candidates that vowed to accept no contributions and spend either zero or little funds on the campaign trail, there might be as much interest in the outcome of the candidates who did not win a council seat.
Seemingly following the challenge presented by outgoing Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich to conduct a non-traditional campaign and not spend money, although the two candidates she actually supported did spend thousands of dollars—winners House and Peak, the so-called “non-traditional” candidates were relegated to a second tier.
Some of the vote count observers were joking that Conley Ulich pulled off one of the best examples of campaign “dirty tricks” they could recall.
By a two-to-one margin, losing council hopefuls each garnered about less than half the votes of the winning candidates.
Among this group, the results showed Hans Laetz leading the pack with 701 votes, followed by and despite being the first name on the ballot, Hamish Patterson with 649 votes, followed by Andy Lyon with 629, and former council member Missy Zeitsoff finished last with 557 ballots cast for her.
The second tier of council hopefuls were apparently not helped when many prominent local groups and individuals endorsed four candidates causing a further split of the vote.
Endorsing more people than there are seats to fill is regarded by some campaign consultants as a death knell because it assures none of the endorsees can muster a large enough vote count.
That all the more seems to highlight Peak’s win, captured by playing all the rules of the modern political campaign conducted by paid political consultants, who helped raise the money and followed the playbook for getting elected by doing all of the traditional things.
The three top candidates won strongly in all of the precincts, not just several.
There were no precincts where the winning candidates stumbled or lost many votes as in some previous city council races.
As the saying goes, incumbency has its advantages, and that was the case with Sibert who was able to conduct his campaign in council chambers when the hot button issues came before the council just weeks or days away from the election.
Proponents of such issues as view preservation, business diversification, Malibu Lagoon and skateboard parks were all quickly mollified as the issue or ordinance was settled with Sibert casting the swing vote, or leading the council toward a politically safe outcome.
There were three seats available and seven council hopefuls vying to reach the council dais.
Conley Ulich was termed out of office and Councilmember Jefferson Wagner chose not to seek reelection.

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