The sweet and the sour

With Jane Dolan on a difficult night

“Elections are always bittersweet.”

That’s what Mike Hawkins, the ironing-board political activist and longtime friend of and adviser to Jane Dolan, had to say Tuesday night around 11. By that time it was becoming apparent that Dolan might lose her seat on the county Board of Supervisors, even as her close ally on the board, Maureen Kirk, was coasting to victory.

Hawkins’ line was a more lyrical way of saying, “Win some, lose some,” a phrase that seems too flip to apply to Dolan, who has given most of her adult life—more than 31 years—to serving Butte County on the board.

Dolan and Kirk and a group of their core supporters were gathered at Beatniks Café, on Eighth Street near the freeway, waiting for election results to come in. The mail ballots had been tallied first and put conservative Chico Councilman Larry Wahl ahead by 10 points, but that was easy enough to explain away: Mail-in voters tend to be older and more conservative. As Dolan herself put it, “I’ve never won the absentees.”

But when the precinct results started coming in, and Wahl held his lead, the unbelievable slowly became shockingly real: After eight terms, Jane Dolan was getting the boot.

Why? What went wrong? What now? Those were the questions people were asking themselves and each other in corner conversations whispered so as not to cause further grief to Dolan.

Some possible answers: Voter turnout was low and favored conservatives. There’s an anti-incumbent mood sweeping the nation. The Tea Partiers were impassioned about Wahl. Maybe, after all this time, people just wanted a change. Speculation is cheap.

The “what now?” part is easier to answer. The Chico City Council won’t change much, even if Wahl is replaced by a conservative, but the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors will shift dramatically.

Look for him, for example, to try to change the new general-plan zoning to open up the area south of The Skyway to development, including a research park. And, since one of his biggest campaign donors was the company that sought, unsuccessfully, to build a subdivision in Butte Creek Canyon, look for that project to reappear.

Dolan still has six months to serve. She’ll go on doing the good work she’s been doing all these years. I hope she doesn’t take this loss personally. It’s just politics. Mike Hawkins was right: Elections are bittersweet.

Meet the new gang: We have some new interns at the CN&R, and Tuesday night they were fanned out to the various election-night political gatherings, reporting for our election wrap-up coverage this week (see page 8).

Lindsey Barrett, Thomas Lawrence and Howard Hardee are all Chico State seniors who have worked on The Orion. They join Nick Dobis, who has reupped as an editorial intern, and Matt Siracusa, who’s returning as a photography intern.

Together they comprise a talented and enthusiastic crew, and we’re delighted to be working with them.