Lose some, win some
Dolan loses to Wahl, LaMalfa beats Keene
At Democratic headquarters, what could have been an upbeat and joyous crowd sat patiently and quietly Tuesday night, with an underlying sense of nervousness and concern swirling in the room. While Maureen Kirk’s supervisorial seat seemed safe, the same could not be said for Jane Dolan.
“This is nerve wracking,” one man in the group gathered at Beatniks Café blurted out toward the end of the evening.
But Dolan had already lost, her numbers having fallen far below those of challenger Larry Wahl early in the night. Wahl, a longtime Chico city councilman, ended the evening with 53 percent of the vote.
Across town, the Holiday Inn “tea party” for Wahl was a jubilant affair. As the crowd slowly dwindled from standing-room-only to a quiet, sparse party, the satisfaction lingered. Wahl had seemingly accomplished the impossible: He, a staunch conservative, had defeated the longtime incumbent 2nd District supervisor, perhaps Butte County’s foremost liberal. What’s more, Dolan has represented the district for 31 years and seemed likely to continue doing so indefinitely.
Wahl, who had emphasized “jobs” as the focal point of his campaign, said he felt it was that basic principle that got him elected.
“We can make it happen, it’s just a matter of will power,” Wahl said. “We’re not gonna sit here and be a backwater county with lousy statistics.”
“Every campaign is different,” Dolan said. “I think that one of the final factors in this [election] was the incredibly low turnout. You always try to get the vote out, and ultimately that isn’t something you can control or even expect or not expect.”
She’s right about the turnout—only 36 percent of Butte County voters cast their ballots. (Candace Grubbs, Butte County’s clerk-recorder, said Wednesday that there are approximately 4,000 to 5,000 vote-by-mail ballots that have yet to be counted and are not included in the 36 percent.)
Kirk, Dolan’s lone fellow liberal on the Butte County Board of Supervisors, said she couldn’t even entertain the thought of Dolan’s losing.
“Jane is the most knowledgeable person probably in our county as far as any kind of history, anything that has ever happened in the county, and she is very articulate. She would be sorely missed,” she said early in the evening.
For her part, with early results in her favor, Kirk remained calm and confident Tuesday night, going home with 63.5 percent of the vote. “I thought I would win because I have experience and he [challenger Erny Spears] didn’t have a very good grasp of what the county does,” Kirk said.
During most of the night Dolan sat away from the crowd that gathered around the computers, where the refresh button was constantly being pushed. As slowly as the friends, family and supporters trickled in to Beatniks, so they left as it became clear Kirk had won and Dolan had lost.
So what’s next for Jane Dolan?
“I’m going to need at least 24 hours to think on that one,” she said.
The Board of Supervisors’ race may have been the biggest upset of the evening, but another much discussed contest was that between Rick Keene and Doug LaMalfa, two experienced Republican politicians vying for a spot on November’s ballot for state Senate.
At LaMalfa’s election-night gathering at his family farm in Richvale, far from the clamor of other political gatherings, the loudest sound heard outside was a symphony of crickets in the warm night air. At about 9:30 p.m., a small parade of cars slowly rolled into the compound, their tires crunching on the gravel road.
As LaMalfa’s supporters began to shuffle their way into the metallic barn, the smell of cooking meat and burning charcoal rose from a nearby barbecue.
Although the polls had closed more than an hour before, LaMalfa had not yet arrived. Supporters clustered around a projector screen flipping back and forth between the poll numbers online and Fox News. There wasn’t a drop of tension in the air; rather, a small current of anticipation could be felt under the fluorescent lights, which were swarming with moths.
At around 10 p.m., the Republican candidate for the 4th district Senate seat rumbled into the barn in his vintage baby-blue Mustang. The crowd began to cheer, and a small group of girls bounced with excitement with balloons in their hands. LaMalfa exited his car, NASCAR-driver style, and pumped his fists in the air as the crowd’s cheering swelled.
LaMalfa, who declined to be interviewed by the CN&R for this piece, told the crowd he felt good but not overconfident about the poll numbers thus far. By night’s end, he had defeated Keene with 56 percent of the vote.
Although the results were not falling in his favor, the mood at Keene’s election-night gathering at Caffé Ricci, in north Chico, was relaxed and festive.
“I’m just going with the flow,” Keene said. “I’ve made my pitch the best I could, and explained where I stand. If I don’t win, I’ll go do something else. I’m OK with that.”
Other election results:
Governor: Jerry Brown easily won the Democratic nomination and will be running against Republican Meg Whitman (64.2 percent) in November.
U.S. Senate: Republican Carly Fiorina won a spot on the ballot with 56.5 percent of the vote. She’ll challenge Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer.
U.S. House of Representatives, District 2: Wally Herger garnered 64.7 percent, beating out primary challenger Pete Stiglich (35.3 percent). He’ll face James Reed in November.
Butte County district attorney: Incumbent Mike Ramsey easily won reelection with 53.7 percent of the vote. Challengers Lance Daniel and Dale Rasmussen garnered 33.6 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.
State Assembly, District 2: Jim Nielsen took home 55.6 percent of the vote, with Charlie Schaupp getting 44.4 percent.
State Assembly, District 3: Mickey Harrington beat out Christina Billeci, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Prop. 13 (property taxes and seismic retrofit of buildings): Yes (84.5 percent), no (15.5 percent)
Prop. 14 (primary election participation): Yes (54.2 percent), no (45.8 percent)
Prop. 15 (California Fair Elections Act): No (57.5 percent), yes (42.5 percent)
Prop. 16 (local electricity providers): No (52.5 percent), yes (47.5 percent)
Prop. 17 (auto-insurance pricing): No (52.1 percent), yes (47.9 percent)
Additional reporting by Thomas Lawrence, Howard Hardee and Meredith J. Cooper