Palo Altans chose experienced community-involvement veterans over political neophytes Tuesday, electing Larry Klein, Gail Price, Karen Holman and Nancy Shepherd to the City Council by comfortable margins.
Attorney Greg Scharff appeared poised to claim the fifth and final open spot on the nine-member council. With all 39 precincts reporting but hundreds of absentee ballots left to count, Scharff was leading realtor Leon Leong by 3,912 to 3,480 votes.
Palo Alto voters also rejected Measure A, the city's proposed business-license tax, voting it down by a comfortable 56.42 percent to 43.58 percent, according to the final but unofficial Tuesday-night count.
In electing Klein, Price, Holman and Shepherd to the council, voters made clear their preference for established veterans over political newcomers. Klein, the only incumbent in the field, is heading for his fourth term on the council, while Price previously served on the Palo Alto Board of Education.
Holman is currently in her eighth year on the Planning and Transportation Commission.
All five victors took early leads on the strength of mail-in ballots and then watched their margins of victory expand as new vote results filtered in. By about 11 p.m., the Santa Clara County's Registrar of Voters had counted all 39 precincts.
The five winning candidates beat out (in order) Leong, Dan Dykwel, Corey Levens, John Hackmann, Brian Steen, Timothy Gray, Chris Gaither, Mark Weiss and Victor Frost.
Klein, who had served as Palo Alto mayor three times over the course of his council career, said he was "pleased and honored" by the voters' support. With his victory all but assured, he said he looked forward to remaining on the council and helping to tackle the city's looming budget challenges.
"It's tough, but I've been doing it long enough to know what it entails," said Klein, whose 5,275 votes led the field.
Price, who finished just behind Klein with 5,233 votes, said she viewed voters' support as a sign of their appreciation for her service on the school board.
Price, a former city planner in Sunnyvale, said she expects the contract dispute between city administration and the city's largest labor union to remain one of the most pressing issues of the coming year. She said she would like the city to create a joint committee of administration and labor leaders who could meet regularly to discuss compensation and other labor-related issues.
"We have a lot work to do here as far as maintaining relationships with the city employees," Price said.
Holman, who received 5,212 votes as of Tuesday night, also chalked up her victory to experience. Over the course of her campaign, Holman has won the support of most current council members and the backing of broad coalition of neighborhood leaders. As a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission, she has been a staunch critic of most dense, new housing developments and a leading proponent for more transparency in the policy-making process.
"People who have been watching the Planning and Transportation Commission for the past eight years know they can depend on me because they know my positions are on the Comprehensive Plan and the all the important zoning issues," Holman
Shepherd, a longtime volunteer at the Palo Alto school district, finished fourth with 4,378 votes. Like Price and Holman, she has a long record of civic service and endorsements from dozens of local and state officials
Scharff, meanwhile, took an early lead over Leong and watched it gradually grow as the evening progressed. Despite being a political newcomer,
Scharff led the candidate field in cash raised and watched his campaign generate the most momentum in the final weeks leading up to Tuesday.
"I'm thrilled about the confidence the people of Palo Alto have in me," Scharff said after ballots from all 39 precincts were counted. "I think the most important thing that I showed during my campaign was that I am willing to sit down with people and listen."
The four newcomers will replace Mayor Drekmeier and Councilman John Barton, both of whom have chosen not to seek another term. Vice Mayor Jack Morton and Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto were termed out.
The new council terms begin in early January.