About 30 people gathered just after 8pm inside Carmel City Hall to watch election results, where the mood was jovial as the group chatted. When the first returns appeared on the overhead screen above the City Council dais, jaws dropped and the room fell practically silent.
Former Monterey County supervisor Dave Potter held a commanding lead over Mayor Steve Dallas in vote-by-mail ballots, as did council challenger Jeff Baron, who was far away in first place over Councilmember Carrie Theis in second. Theis’ fellow council member, Carolyn Hardy, who was also up for re-election, was third—last place.
No one was more surprised than Baron, who stood agape for a few moments as the reality he would most likely win sank in. Just moments earlier he told the Weekly he was tired after about three months of knocking on doors and talking to voters.
Deputy City Attorney Gerard Rose walked up to Baron and shook his hand. “Jeff, congratulations,” Rose said, adding that early results usually don’t change.
Dallas and Hardy were nowhere to be seen. After a council meeting that started at 4:30pm and went nearly until 8, they left the building. Dallas did not answer a text message requesting comment. The city-sponsored election night party was over by 9pm, still with no sign of Dallas or Hardy.
The real party in Carmel was just around the block at the Cypress Inn where Potter supporters were jubilant. Former mayor Sue McCloud was there, along with restaurateur Rich Pepe and members of the Carmel Chamber of Commerce. The crowd cheered Potter as he entered the hotel’s iconic living room.
Councilmember Bobby Richards was beaming. He’s found himself on the 4-1 losing end of many votes, led by the voting block of Dallas, Theis and Hardy, who all ran for re-election as a slate.
“I’m most looking forward to an open communication with the public, media and hopefully spending money on positive things [instead of legal issues and investigations],” Richards says.
Richards was referring to an investigation earlier in the year into sexualized comments Dallas made toward a woman in the wine industry, as well as the mounting legal bills incurred by the city under City Attorney Glen Mozingo, who was in effect hired by the council majority in 2017.
In August, Dallas, Theis, Hardy and Councilmember Jan Reimers led the charge to award Mozingo’s office a $30,000 monthly contract for five years, despite pleas against it from residents. (Mozingo was on vacation and did not attend the city election party.) Mozingo’s contract could be in serious jeopardy if the election results hold and Potter takes over as mayor next month. He says he expects to “look at the Mozingo contract quickly.”
Also at the top of his list: listening to a public that has felt disenfranchised under the current council.
“I’d like to really open up the public dialogue,” Potter says.
As of 10pm Tuesday night with almost 47 percent of the vote counted, Potter had nearly 60 percent of the vote to Dallas’ 29 percent. A third mayoral candidate, Gene Hughes, who is a mostly-retired nuclear engineering consultant, had 12 percent. Baron and Theis had 43 percent and 32 percent respectively, for the two spots open on council.