In Oxnard, Election Day has become Election Month. The City Council race is still too close to call.
It’s clear that Councilman Tim Flynn will be named the city’s next Mayor. Flynn leads Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez by 1,555 votes. With a commanding lead over the rest of the council candidates, Councilman Bryan MacDonald will retain his seat. But less than 100 votes separate the next runner-up for an open seat. By this reporter’s deadline, 42,664 provisional and vote-by-mail ballots remain to be counted, and Dick Jaquez leads with 5,336 votes, followed by Dorina Padilla with 5,274 and Daniel Rydberg with 5,232 votes.
“I’ve been trying not to think about it, but it’s going to be really close,” said Rydberg, a public works employee. Rydberg still couldn’t resist creating a formula based on voting-day totals and the latest absentee votes counted by the Ventura County Recorder’s office. He said that at the current rate, he and Padilla would move ahead of Jaquez, with Padilla taking the lead.
“It’s very exciting,” said Padilla, who works for the Upward Bound program at Cal Lutheran University. “I figured it would all be done by Nov. 6, but we’re still going. It’s bittersweet.”
Jaquez said it’s now a waiting game, though he’s learned to stay away from the blogs in the meantime.
“I’ve been taking a bunch of heat because of the people who gave me money,” he said.
A committee called Oxnard Coalition for Jobs and Transparency, whose principal officer, Ed Mountford is the project manager for the controversial SouthShore project on Hueneme Road, contributed about $12,000 to Jaquez’s campaign. The SouthShore project was approved 3-2 in June 2011, but an environmental lawsuit has halted development and the project could end up going back to the City Council.
Jaquez said that his views about bringing new business and revenue to the city are why this committee contributed to his campaign. “I’m not embarrassed about this money,” he said.
The race should be determined no later than Tuesday, Dec. 4, which is the day Flynn is set to be sworn in as mayor
Because Councilwoman Irene Pinkard failed in her attempt to become mayor, her seat will also become vacant that day.
The new Council will then have to make its first major decision: whether to fill the vacant Council seat by way of special election, or by appointment.
“My hope is that Council would want to hold a special election,” said Flynn. “There is a cost associated with that, but the benefit of transparency far outweighs that.”
The cost of a special election is estimated to exceed $100,000.
Flynn said it is important not to stall this process because a four-person Council could result in a split voting process.
“Residents are getting in touch with me and telling me what they want,” said Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez. “Some want appointment, some want special election. Some people say we should get the third vote-getter.”
City Attorney Alan Holmberg said that the Council has to either appoint or call for a special election within 60 days after the vacancy occurs.
“There is really no set procedure on how appointment works,” Holmberg said. “Different communities have done it in different ways.”
The city of Thousand Oaks faced a similar situation earlier this year. After Councilman Dennis Gillette retired due to health concerns, that Council opted to appoint a new Council member. Mounting criticism of that decision inspired the enacting of the Thousand Oaks Right to Vote initiative, which states that unexpected vacancies must be filled by a special election.