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Tim Myers: Make history or be history: David Gauny's near win

Posted: April 23, 2010 6:20 p.m.
Updated: April 25, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
It was the ninth inning in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship, and the New York Yankees were three outs away from eliminating the hapless and cursed Boston Red Sox, with New York's ace reliever on the mound and a one-run lead.

Dave Roberts, the well-traveled journeyman major-leaguer known for hustle and focus, would go into a pinch run after a base on balls and then dramatically steal second base, setting up a score to tie the game and send it into extra innings on a bloop single by Orlando Cabrera two batters later.

The Red Sox would win that game, and the next three, to sail into the World Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals for their first championship since 1918.

That is the only analogy that even comes close to describing the dramatic victory of David Gauny over incumbent Frank Ferry that seemed about to happen on April 21 - to unseat an incumbent for only the third time in the history of the city of Santa Clarita.

Unfortunately, the final vote count on April 21 made one think of counter-history if - Dave Roberts had been picked off.

The numbers bear out the drama. In the first six innings (vote-by-mail ballots would come in at 66 percent of the vote), Gauny only secured votes on 38 percent of the ballots cast, while the incumbents cruised along receiving votes on more than 47 percent of the ballots, mirroring the past outcomes of incumbent inertia that buried so many earnest challengers.

For the past several elections, some incumbents had given ground in those final innings (the poll votes) while the challengers had closed the lead, but not enough to change the outcome fixed by the vote-by-mail ballots.

That result held on April 21, but just barely.

What happened for the first - and perhaps last - time to make this so close? Gauny upped his vote-by-mail conversion rate of 38 percent to 54 percent at the polls, a whopping 1,600 basis points that wiped out the lead built by the incumbents in the vote-by-mail results.

Astoundingly, on election day he also received a vote on a majority of the votes cast, something almost unheard of in a three-person, at-large race with five serious and two substantial contenders.

This outcome cannot be attributed to general feelings of anti-incumbency that some will point to, since one would expect a similar impact in the vote-by-mail results, and a similar uptick to the challengers as a whole - which did not occur.

How then did this happen? Changing to a basketball analogy and another mixed metaphor, the Gauny campaign played the entire 48 minutes while the incumbents literally mailed and phoned in their performance in the last quarter.

Utilizing the tried-and-true but somewhat lazy methods of slate mailers and robocalls, the incumbents did not realize Gauny went on a 20-0 run and seemed about to upset a member of the incumbent team.

Unfortunately for Gauny, Ferry threw a Hail Mary shot with time expiring, to make the 3-pointer to put him out of reach.

In what turned out to entail a head-to-head race between Gauny and Ferry, the breakdown of the poll numbers show an even more stark reality.

Ferry only beat Gauny in six of the 30 precincts in Santa Clarita, and converted a majority of votes in only two.

In contrast, Gauny not only beat Ferry in 28 of 30 precincts (more than 90 percent), he also converted more than 50 percent of the ballots into votes in 22 of 30 precincts, and a supermajority (greater than 60 percent) in an astounding seven precincts.

And yet, those final 608 votes broke 48 percent for Gauny and 42 percent for Ferry, meaning the dropped-off, vote-by-mail ballots were more similar in character to the aggregate vote-by-mail results than polling-place votes cast that day.

The invincibility of incumbency continues.

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

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