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Is Boydston a game-changer?

Posted: October 30, 2009 6:29 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Make no mistake. If Joe Messina gains a seat on the William S. Hart Union High School District board after the Tuesday election, it could represent a true sea change in the local politics of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Powerful segments of the mainly Republican political machine have gone for broke since Oct. 13 to push Suzan Solomon ahead in the race, where everyone assumes Paul Strickland and Bob Jensen will come first and second, leaving Solomon and Messina to battle like hungry pit bulls for the third seat.

A Messina victory could confirm the death of machine politics in the SCV, first indicated when Laurie Ender arose from the tracts of Northbridge, Northbridge Pointe and Northpark to capture a City Council seat against the odds-on machine favorite Bob Speirer.

And late on Tuesday, if we determine that Messina indeed broke the power of the machine, then will TimBen Boydston break the ultimate power; the power of incumbency, in April's City Council election?

Everyone knows that if one wishes to win a game that up to now cannot be won, one must change the underlying assumptions of the game.

Prior to Ender's campaign, and perhaps now Messina's, candidates for local public office jousted for a winning share of the same 12,000 to 15,000 voters, 60 percent of these controlled by various machine factions that could seemingly deploy their votes with a wink and a nod.Ender changed the game by involving scores of volunteers never before engaged in a meaningful way in local politics, and probably creating (for herself) 700 to 1,000 first-time voters. If Messina wins, he will have overcome the local machine only through the workings of a true grassroots effort that miraculously uncoupled itself from that old machine.

But what is Boydston's plan to break the past bulletproof power of incumbency? It appears, quite frankly, to amount to a campaign of the aggrieved that finds roots in some comments made by incumbent Frank Ferry during his last re-election in 2006.

No one can know the mind of the SCV voter, or their more voluminous cousin, the SCV non-voter, since no one spends the money to conduct scientific opinion research.

Despite that, current Mayor Ferry made that attempt when asked after the 2006 election to comment on the always low turnout. The recently reelected councilman said in published reports that low voter turnout indicated a general satisfaction with the state of city government.

Now Boydston seeks to disabuse the current mayor of that notion.

Reports indicate that the recent surprise verbal storming of City Hall by residents of the Bonelli tract with respect to an allegedly rude enforcement approach of a community preservation officer contains the fingerprints of Boydston acting in the capacity of agent provacateur.

How many more disaffected groups can Boydston marshal to City Hall and to what end?

Many think that Boydston's strategy entails forging a coalition of the various disaffected constituencies in the SCV and changing the game by actually increasing total turnout.

Now, several things make this strategy difficult.

Historically, in a democracy grievance candidates do very poorly since the majority of engaged voters prefer to rally around a positive message. The second problem? The grievance voters find themselves so fragmented around their very specific issue one cannot craft a general message to unify them.

A more crafty stategy revolves around the so-called casual voter. Other local measures of political engagement would indicate that each local city election contains approximately 3,000 to 4,000 such voters. Their profile includes a civic desire to cast their ballots but little other specific engagement in local politics. Politically, they either decline to state party affiliation or possess such a loose affiliation they stand beyond the influence of the machine.

In the past elections, these casual voters generated a neutral effect, since sheer probability dictated they broke in proportion with the general electorate; that is to say heavily in favor of incumbents.

But will these casual voters change their collective minds in the aggregate if it appears that City Council meetings become a cesspool of constant and raging complaints about scores of issues, and would a major shift in their voting patterns actually break the ultimate granite of incumbency?

And will Boydston then sow the seeds of his ultimate undoing?

His campaign Web site promises to increase the ax-grinding public participation segments of the meeting.

Would this eliminate his own incumbent advantage in future?

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Myers' Musings" appears Sundays in The Signal.

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