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Things stay the same in SMC City Council Election


The fall 2013 elections in San Mateo County proved to be not only remarkably competitive, but also remarkably predictable. The major city council races in San Mateo County produced the following results:

City of Burlingame

In the City of Burlingame a nine-way scramble for three seats yielded few surprises. Both popular incumbents Ann Keighran and Michael Brownrigg easily won their respective seats and will return to the council.

The real election in Burlingame was always for the third seat vacated by three-term incumbent Cathy Baylock, who backed former councilmember Russ Cohen. Cohen had served on the council from 2005-2007 in an abridged term and, prior to his council service, on Burlingame's Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission.

But in the end, Cohen was defeated by Ricardo Ortiz who had the backing of major endorsers such as Congresswoman Speier, Senator Hill and the local school board as well as other community leaders. Ortiz, a commercial banker, has strong community ties, having served on a variety of local service organization boards and in youth activities. Ortiz ran unsuccessfully two years against sitting councilmembers Terry Nagel and Jerry Deal and had Deal’s endorsement - but not Nagel’s.

Instead, Nagel backed sitting Planning Commissioner Nirmala Bandrapalli, who came in a distant fifth. This loss may prove pivotal for Nagel in the new term, with new alignments and allegiances.

The race also featured Andrew Pecemeier, who campaigned on a platform of eliminating waste and in the past had championed opposition to local tax measures, including those for the school district. Pecemeier easily outspent his opponents, but garnered less than a thousand votes.

City of South San Francisco

Another crowded ballot in the City of South San Francisco also yielded few if any surprises.

The South San Francisco ballot was split this year with three four-year council seats available as well as one two-year seat vacated by former councilmember turned Assembly member Kevin Mullin, who won state office last November.

Following Mullin’s resignation, his remaining colleagues appointed retired electrical engineer and Planning Commissioner Pradeep Gupta, who ran for and won one of the three full four-year terms. Gupta is joined by incumbent Mark Addiego and former school board member Liza Normandy, who easily cruised to a second-place finish.

The two-year seat drew three candidates including Planning Commissioner and attorney Carlos Martin, local activist Colin Post and veteran Councilmember Karyl Matsumoto, who chose to run for the abridged term in lieu of a four-year seat. Matsumoto easily won the seat.

City of San Mateo

In the City of San Mateo, five candidates faced off for three available seats. Unsurprisingly, the two incumbents, Mayor David Lim and Deputy Mayor Robert Ross, easily retained their respective seats with Lim winning by a wide margin. Former Public Works Commissioner Joe Goethals bested Planning Commissioner Joshua Hugg and marketing executive Karen Schmidt for the third seat, with Goethals numerically tying incumbent Robert Ross for a second place tie, easily outpacing Hugg and Schmidt. Goethals was backed by Lim and the change in the council may mark a shift in its voting majority.

City of Redwood City

Redwood City also saw much of the same with incumbents Jeff Gee and John Seybert winning their respective seats to be joined by former four-term councilmember and mayor Diane Howard, who easily won the third available seat.

So, despite some spirited contests, most outcomes were never in doubt. The real consequence of the elections is in any changes or maintenance of the power dynamics among the various city council members.

City of Belmont

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the City of Belmont, where two newcomers will join veteran Warren Lieberman, attorney Charles Stone and former Planning Commissioner Eric Reed. For Lieberman, the dual retirements of former council members Coralin Feierbach and Dave Warden will provide him with a new opportunity to have like-minded colleagues who may allow him to be a rotational mayor. For the City, it represents perhaps the most dramatic philosophical shift in over a decade with a council that may favor some modest development and that can begin a new relationship with local stakeholders such as Notre Dame de Namur University. It is possible that a new day has dawned in Belmont, but how the voters will respond only time will tell.

So goes the San Mateo County City Council fall 2013 election races. Once again, no real significant changes have occurred with the elected city officials in San Mateo County. It appears to be just another election cycle in the County.

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