Election ‘08

Decisive victories, except for one

BUBBLY HOSTESS<br>With champagne glasses stacked and ready, Robin Huffman chats with supporters during the election-night gathering at her Paradise home. Huffman lost the District 5 Supervisor race to incumbent Kim Yamaguchi but toasted her campaign anyway.

With champagne glasses stacked and ready, Robin Huffman chats with supporters during the election-night gathering at her Paradise home. Huffman lost the District 5 Supervisor race to incumbent Kim Yamaguchi but toasted her campaign anyway.

Photo By Evan Tuchinsky

Robin Huffman had a good feeling going into Tuesday night’s election. The Paradise Town Councilwoman, a progressive in a mostly conservative community, knew she’d have a tough task unseating two-term incumbent Kim Yamaguchi from the District 5 spot on the Butte County Board of Supervisors. But she’d felt supported and appreciated during her final weekend of campaigning, and the fact that upstart Dwight “D.H.” Grumbles had come on strong—even netting the Paradise Post endorsements—had Huffman thinking she’d take Yamaguchi to a run-off.

By 7:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the polls would close, 20 people already had gathered in her home. A German friend videotaped the optimistic scene for a documentary on her husband, blues musician Maurice Huffman. Supporters sat on the patio and milled about the house, noshing and sipping and chatting and smiling.

The mood shifted at 8:20, when “Big Mo” hit the refresh button on the laptop and the county elections page showed Yamaguchi with characteristic returns: 61 percent. Only a sixth of the precincts and early mail-ins had been tabulated, so slender hope remained, and conversation remained upbeat. At 10, reality hit Huffman, and at 10:20 her father handed out glasses of champagne for the warm toast that served as a concession speech.

The June 3 results—semiofficial pending the final absentee ballots and certification of the election—showed Yamaguchi winning his third term with 59 percent of the 9,400 votes, Huffman getting 22 percent and Grumbles 19 percent.

Once the guests filed out, Huffman’s sadness and disappointment replaced geniality.

“My demeanor changed when I started thinking about Butte County,” she said, seated at the table where earlier stood a tower of champagne glasses. “It’s less of a personal loss than a loss for scenic corridors and good planning. At least I can turn my attention to other things"—perhaps running for a second term on the Paradise Town Council, perhaps focusing on her teaching and family life.

District 5 wasn’t the only race for which early returns eliminated doubt.

In District 1, covering the Oroville area, Supervisor Bill Connelly handily won a second term, getting 59 percent of 5,500 votes against former Oroville Mayor Gordon Andoe. The South County seat, open after the retirement announcement by District 4 Supervisor Curt Josiassen, went to former Paradise Mayor Steve Lambert, whom Josiassen, Connelly and many others endorsed. Lambert took 78 percent of 4,300 votes, with cantankerous home-caregiver Mark Jensen a surprising second (15 percent) and former Butte County Republican Party Chairman John Byrne getting less than 7 percent.

Yuba County Supervisor Dan Logue decisively topped Nevada County Supervisor Sue Horne for the right to face Magalia’s Mickey Harrington in November’s District 3 Assembly race. Logue’s 56-46 margin followed a bitter run-up in which Butte and Yuba county Republicans censured his opponent over a campaign ad.

Termed-out incumbent Rick Keene of Chico endorsed Logue, while Doug LaMalfa of Richvale, termed out in District 2, backed Horne. The two may well face off for the state Senate in a few years, and LaMalfa also could have a friendly face in Sacramento: Despite controversy—and legal challenges—over his residency, former state Sen. Jim Nielsen got 45 percent in the four-way GOP primary for LaMalfa’s seat.

The two propositions on eminent domain also struck a clear chord among voters. Prop. 98, which includes provisions affecting rent control, went down 61-39, while the broader Prop. 99 got approved by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

The most intriguing races proved to be for U.S. Congress.

In District 4, where scandal-plagued John Doolittle decided not to seek re-election, conservative state politician Tom McClintock overcame carpet-bagger slams to claim 54 percent of the GOP primary votes, easily distancing himself from the more moderate Doug Ose (39 percent).

The Democrats in District 2 were far more divided. Trinity County Supervisor Jeff Morris edged 2006 nominee A.J. Sekhon by just eight-tenths of a percent on election night—precipitously close to the threshold for an automatic recount. Morris took 34.9 percent, just about 260 more voted than Sekhon, a Yuba City physician and Army Reserves colonel. Entrepreneur/composer John Jacobson of Weed got 31 percent.

“I’m dead tired but feeling pretty good,” Morris said by phone Tuesday morning. “Nobody thought it was going to be as tight as it was.

Jacobson called around 11 p.m. to concede—"again, he was his usual gracious self,” Morris said, referring to their gentlemanly campaign. Morris hadn’t spoken to Sekhon, so he didn’t know if a recount was coming. “You only have so much control over these processes,” he said, adding: “We want to make sure the results are correct and have the person who got the most votes moving forward.”

Forward meaning a November showdown with 11-term Republican Congressman Wally Herger, who easily beat Sekhon two years ago. One thing was clear to Morris: “Every single contact, every single meeting I went to was important…. Every vote counts.” Indeed, his razor-thin edge came in an election with low turnout.

Butte County Registrar Candace Grubbs said just fewer than 31 percent of county voters participated, and of those, 70 percent voted by mail. That means 700 volunteers served about 11,000 people. At one polling place in Chico State’s Bell Memorial Union, only one voter showed up.