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Close calls at polls encouraging

Posted: November 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Glenn Karrasch, 64, of Sunset Pointe, casts a ballot in Stevenson Ranch during Election Day.

 

Another Election Day has come and gone in the Santa Clarita Valley. The votes have been counted. The people have spoken. Though voter turnout was low — as it generally is in nonpresidential years — there was an interesting twist. For the most part, challengers got surprisingly close in their efforts to unseat incumbents.

In the two seats for the William S. Hart Union High School District race, incumbents Gloria Mercado-Fortine and Steve Sturgeon beat out challenger Heather Davis by just 537 and 210 votes, respectively. The totals for each candidate were: 6,204 for Mercado-Fortine, 5,877 for Sturgeon and 5,667 for Davis.

Relative unknown Stephen Winkler unseated Rose Diaz from the Saugus Union School District by a margin of 34 percent to 29 percent of the vote, while incumbent Rose Koscielny took the remaining 37 percent.

And in the college district board, incumbent Bruce Fortine beat out challenger Diana Shaw by just 627 votes. Incumbent Scott Wilk kept his seat by a margin of 591 votes over newcomer Patrick Hill, with 10,861 and 10,077 votes cast in each respective race.

Without reading too much into it — only about 10 percent of voters cast ballots last Tuesday — there are a few conclusions perhaps that we can gather from all of this.

Many in the SCV who follow local elections all too often see incumbents trouncing challengers at nearly every level of elected office with merely token opposition being mounted.

There is nothing wrong with incumbents — their experience often makes them the best candidate — but when they win over and over again by huge margins, many in the electorate become jaded and cynical about the electoral process and feel that running for office is a fruitless effort. This cynicism can cause disengagement by the citizenry, resulting in fewer people wanting to throw their hats into the ring.

Perhaps the results of the recent election may help to reinvigorate the electorate. As in the case of the Saugus Union School District, relative unknowns can win.

 Of course, someone on the other side of the fence may question whether a relatively unknown candidate can actually govern. That remains to be seen.

But whatever side you may be on, there’s little doubt that an anti-incumbent mood may be growing in a disillusioned electorate this year —  from Washington, D.C., down to the local level.

We certainly hope that more people will vote in the next election, and that challengers’ success this time around will result in some people who have never thought of running for office may indeed consider it. Greater involvement by everyone in our democracy is always a good thing.

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