La Habra Heights city council incumbent Jane Williams defeated challenger Alex Villanueva by a total of just 19 votes for the final council seat, according to the city manager nearly a week after election day.
On Monday morning, six days after the March 3 elections, 130 votes remained uncounted. Williams, leading the race by 74 votes, was not ready to accept her nomination to her first election. She was appointed, not voted in, as a council member back in 2013. But this time around, City Manager Shauna Clark confirmed at 11:30 a.m. the same day, after counting provisional and other unconfirmed ballots, that Williams won her first election. She had previously been appointed to the council in 2013 to finish the term of Howard Vipperman, who had resigned after moving from the city.
Williams, who gained 32.7 percent to Villanueva’s 32 percent of votes cast, could not be reached for comment for this story.
On election night, councilmember Roy Francis attained the most votes and watched as the results for Williams and Villanueva inched closer together.
“It was close,” Francis said. “[Villanueva] came from behind, and he was down about 60 some-odd votes.”
Francis won 35.3 percent of the ballots cast, garnering 1,030 votes.
“Residents feel I’m trying to do what’s best for the whole community,” Francis said about why he thinks he won re-election. “I put health over money. I’m very humbled that the people put me back in office. Whether you voted for me or not, I still will work hard and do what’s best for the residents of the community.”
A total of 2,921votes were cast for the candidates out of a total of 3,799 registered voters in the city.
Measure A, or the Healthy City Initiative, was defeated; the controversial ballot question only gained 43 percent of the 1,863 votes cast for the measure.
The initiative was drafted by the Heights Oil Watch group, and it attempted to halt any attempts at allowing Matrix Oil to drill up to 30 new oil wells at 2490 Las Palomas Drive in La Habra Heights.
“Matrix has to restart their application. As far as we are concerned, it is on hold,” Clark said.
Matrix placed the Environmental Impact Report on hold prior to the election in order to wait for the results.
Francis and Villanueva supported Measure A, while Williams ran against the initiative, fearing the unintended consequences of what her and other council members described as a broadly written document.
Alex Villanueva attempted to enter the fray at city hall with hopes to knock out either Williams or councilman Roy Francis, running on the idea that the current state of affairs at city hall is unacceptable while budgets remain a mess and are in need of cleaning up.
“Our budget doesn’t communicate anything. It is very convoluted, and you got to read through it carefully before you realize we are in the red for this year,” Villanueva said after the League of Women Voters question and answer forum last month.
LH Heights residents surged to the voting polls this spring, ignited by the ongoing Matrix Oil drilling proposal and the initiative on the ballot attempting to stop the company from drilling on the property owned by the So. California Gas Co.
Clark attributed the almost week long delay to some uncertainty in the votes cast.
“People come into the polls to vote but no name is on roster. They are given a provisional ballot. Then the Registrar of Voters is asked to check why the name is not on the roster,” Clark said. “Sometimes the person is registered to vote and sometimes they just think they are registered. Bottom line, it takes a couple days after the election to clear them all.”
Out of 3,799 voters 1,879 residents turned out to vote. Or 49.5 percent of registered voters cast a ballot this spring.
“We had a very good turnout, almost 50 percent,” Francis said about the turnout before attributing the public interest to Measure A.
By Daniel Hernandez/ La Habra Journal