Tenants' rights candidate Kelly Olsen claimed victory over incumbent Christine Reed in the race for the remaining seat on the Santa Monica City Council after about two-thirds of the outstanding absentee ballots were counted Wednesday morning.
And Proposition W, a tenant-backed measure that would have allowed for modest rent increases on voluntarily vacated apartments, appeared headed for defeat. The measure, which had a narrow lead in earlier returns, was losing by 160 votes after the latest batch of absentee ballots were counted.
City Clerk Clarice Johnsen said the final 700 to 800 absentee ballots would probably be counted today. But with Reed trailing Olsen by more than 500 votes, it appeared unlikely that she would make up the difference with so few ballots remaining.
"We did it," Olsen said Wednesday after analyzing the returns with supporters in the hallway outside the City Clerk's office. "We're 99.9% there."
When the latest absentee ballots are added to earlier returns, Olsen had 12,582 votes to 12,063 votes for Reed, narrowing the gap between the two candidates to 519 votes.
Of the 1,522 ballots counted Wednesday, Reed received 701 to Olsen's 393. Reed, who has served 15 years on the council, is in Europe inspecting high-speed rail service for the Southern California Assn. of Governments. She was not available for comment.
Olsen, who ran as a slow-growth advocate, portrayed Reed as a pro-development candidate.
Precinct-by-precinct results showed that Reed fared especially poorly in the Sunset Park area. Campaign observers said she had probably lost votes there because of her support in late 1989 and early 1990 for a large commercial development at nearby Santa Monica Municipal Airport. The council first approved the project, then withdrew its approval when opponents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on it.
Olsen had been hesitant to claim victory until Wednesday morning. But after eight days of suspense, he said, "I feel like I deserve a week in Europe like Chris got."
Results in the Santa Monica election have been delayed by the painstaking and cumbersome process of checking the signatures on thousands of absentee ballot envelopes against the signatures on the applications for an absentee ballot. The procedure is designed to protect against voter fraud.
The situation was complicated by the length of the state and county ballot, which forced Santa Monica to use a separate ballot for city offices and propositions.
Absentee voters added to the confusion in some cases by mailing their Santa Monica ballots to Los Angeles County or dropping them off at polling places on Election Day inside the wrong envelope. County and city officials have been trading ballots back and forth during the last week.
Johnsen said a small number of ballots cannot be counted because the Post Office delivered them to election officials after the polls closed Nov. 6.
In the Santa Monica-Malibu school board race, Brenda Gottfried widened her lead over Joanne Leavitt as absentee ballots were counted by county election officials.
Gottfried, a mediator and former teacher, had 12,334 votes, and Leavitt, who describes herself as a "community volunteer," had 11,993 votes, officials reported earlier this week.
Most of the remaining 5,000 absentee votes countywide will be counted by today, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder said. Officials could not estimate how many of those 5,000 ballots were cast in the school board contest.
Michael Hill, the director of a program in Venice for high school dropouts, remained the top vote-getter in the school board race, with 18,277 votes.
Others elected to the board were Pam Brady, vice president for education of the 33rd District of the California Congress of Parents, Teachers and Students, and incumbent Patricia Hoffman.
SANTA MONICA VOTE
Here are the latest results from the Santa Monica city election, including the 1,522 absentee ballots tabulated Wednesday.
An estimated 700 to 800 ballots remain to be counted.
(3 to be elected): votes
Tony Vazquez: 13,891
Robert T. Holbrook: 13,511
Kelly Olsen: 12,582
Christine Reed: 12,063
Donna Alvarez: 11,762
Sharon Gilpin: 9,672
Kathleen Schwallie: 6,400
Jean Gebman: 2,508
Larry Jon Hobbs: 2,461
(Tenants' rent control measure)
Yes: 15,248 (49.7%) No: 15,408 (50.3%)
Here are the latest results from the county registrar-recorder on the election for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.
A small but undetermined number of absentee ballots remain to be counted.
BOARD OF EDUCATION
(4 to be elected)
Michael Hill: 18,277
Pam Brady: 17,591
Patricia Hoffman: 17,505
Brenda Gottfried: 12,334
Joanne Leavitt: 11,993
Thomas Kayn: 7,174