Political Party Time
Potter wins outright; Smith and Parker slated for runoff.
Thursday, March 4, 2004
Until late in the evening Tuesday, it appeared that sitting County Supervisor Dave Potter would face accountant Steve Collins, who chairs the county’s Water Resources Agency, in a November runoff election, following a three-way race to represent Monterey County’s 5th District.
“We’re optimistic,” Potter said at his election night party at Montrio Bistro in Monterey. It was close to 10pm, and early results showed Potter ahead of Collins, but still under the 50 percent-plus-one needed to win an outright victory.
Potter’s supporters—a mix of people from all over the county including prominent environmentalists, labor leaders, elected officials, hotel owners and peace activists—sipped Monterey County wines and nibbled gourmet pizza slices, while hovering over a lap-top computer aimed at the county’s election Web site.
One of those attendees was former Pacific Grove mayor Sandy Koffman. “I’m a political animal,” she said, staring at the computer screen. “I live for this.
“We need to maintain a voice from the Peninsula on the Board,” Koffman continued. “Someone who knows the people and knows the issues.”
District 5 is made up of Monterey, Carmel and Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and the rest of the coast down to the San Luis Obispo county line. Now, as a result of the county’s redistricting process in 2001, it also includes the Highway 68 corridor and River Road area south of Salinas.
The race, which became increasingly dirty in the last couple weeks after the Collins camp sent out several mailers attacking Potter, seemed to pit the Salinas Valley against the Peninsula for what has traditionally been a coastal seat.
“The battleground has been defined,” Potter said. “Where we are on the field is very apparent. The opposition represents a very pro-development, anti-coastal voice.”
It would be almost two hours before Potter knew he had won with 53 percent of the vote. Official election results show Collins with 34 percent and Pacific Grove City Councilwoman Susan Goldbeck with 13 percent.
Big Sur’s Ken Wright, who used to head the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, attended Potter’s victory party, but he said he was also following the District 4 race, as four candidates campaigned to succeed the retiring Edith Johnsen. He said he was rooting for a runoff election between Jane Parker and Darlene Dunham.
“We do not need an all-male Board,” he explained. “That’s the trouble with the world today—all men running it.”
Meanwhile, at Mountain Mike’s in Marina, Jane Parker supporters ate pizza, drank beer—and bit their nails. Early results showed Seaside Mayor Jerry Smith leading in District 4.
But challengers Parker and Dunham remained neck and neck. Parker is a Planned Parenthood director and former Monterey Peninsula College Board president, and Dunham works as a consultant and is a former president of the board of trustees at Hartnell College.
Former Seaside Mayor Lance McClair trailed a distant fourth.
At the end of the night, election results showed Smith, with 44 percent of the vote, facing a runoff against Parker, who won 28 percent.
“I trust Jane,” said William Zeilger, who co-chairs the Coalition of Minority Organizations in Seaside. “She’s responsive. She’s not beholden to developers. And we’re upset with Jerry about First Tee.”
Dunham finished with 23 percent, and McClair with 5 percent.
Parker pointed to the votes for her own candidacy, as well as Dunham’s and McClair’s, as grass-roots voices for change.
Smith garnered the support of big money, pro-development Republicans.
“Voters want someone who is going to advocate for their issues, not special interests—that’s the message we’re seeing here,” Parker said. “When I get involved in something, action happens. People are frustrated with a lot of talk but not a lot of action.”
Parker pointed to the second round of county budget cuts. “I called on the Supervisors to cut their own budgets. Part of the way you get the job done is by demonstrating that you understand what people are going through.”