Palo Alto City Councilwoman Karen Holman prevailed Tuesday in an unusually expensive and competitive race for a seat on the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board against her long-time political adversary, Councilman Greg Scharff, early Election Day results indicated.
Early results showed Holman winning more than 60 percent of the votes in both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The two termed-out council members are vying to represent Ward 5, which includes East Palo Alto and portions of Palo Alto and Stanford. The seat was made open by the retirement of Nonette Hanko, a local resident who helped found the open-space district in 1972.
Holman did equally well in the two counties whose portions comprise the district, winning a little over two-thirds of the votes in each county. With all precincts counted in Santa Clara County, Holman received 68.7 percent of the votes (6,804 votes) to Scharff's 31.32 percent (3,103). In San Mateo County, Holman received 66.6 percent of the total votes (1,972 votes), while Scharff received 33.4 percent (991).
While races for the district are typically low-key affairs that rarely entail more than a few thousand dollars in expenditures, the Ward 5 race was a notable exception. Scharff had loaned his campaign more than $120,000 while Holman raised $28,271 in contributions as of Oct. 20.
In the run-up to Election Day, both candidates touted their environmentalist bona fides, with Holman citing her long history of advocating for conservation on the City Council and Scharff emphasizing his service on the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and on the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority boards. Holman, who is aligned with the council's slow-growth "residentialist" faction, had earned the endorsement of the entire open space board, including Hanko, who had personally encouraged Holman to run. Scharff, who is associated with the council's more growth-friendly wing, was endorsed by prominent area Democrats, including state Sen. Jerry Hill, state Assemblyman Marc Berman and San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine.
After her election was secured, Holman said she was "relieved" that she will not disappoint the open space district board, which had supported her.
"I really felt the burden of not wanting to disappoint them," Holman said. "I'm also gratified that the public recognizes the value of grassroots campaigning, as compared to a heavily funded campaign," she said.