Palm Springs 2015 Elections – a Horse Race?

     On November 3rd voters in the City of Palm Springs will choose a new mayor and up to three seats on the city council. The seat held by Councilwoman Ginny Foat, a declared candidate for mayor, would be the third council seat to be filled should she be elected mayor. Two seats are up for election to the five-member Desert Water Agency’s Board of Directors. Is it too early to predict which candidates will be successful in winning election to one of the open seats?

     The official candidate filing period runs from July 6 to August 7 for council seats and to August 17 for mayor. Prospective candidates must file a Declaration of Candidacy during that time, along with optional Candidate Statements, and must be nominated by 80 to 120 registered Palm Springs voters. The public’s right to inspect Candidate Statements starts on August 8. 

     July 6 may be the official start of the political season but the true beginning occurred several months ago. A number of prospective candidates have announced their candidacies and most have been actively campaigning and fundraising.

     Mayor Steve Pougnet has announced his intent to not seek reelection. The seat he leaves open has attracted considerable interest and at least four contenders are campaigning for it. Measure J Commissioner Robert Moon was the first to announce his candidacy. Others with declared interests include Councilwoman Ginny Foat, Psychologist Michael Birnberg and Civil Rights Attorney Bob Weinstein.

     Councilmember Rick Hutcheson announced he too would not seek reelection. That seat, the up-for-election seat of Councilmember Paul Lewin and a possible third open seat have served to create considerable interest in the council elections. Former Equality California leader and LGBT activist Geoff Kors was the first to announce his interest in the vacant council seat. Others throwing hats into the ring are Planning Commissioner J.R. Roberts and Neighborhood Leader Jim King.

     Desert Water Agency board members Craig Ewing and Richard Oberhaus are expected to seek reelection to their seats. Their only apparent opposition is from Neighborhood Activist Kristin Bloomer who initially announced her water board candidacy via Facebook.

     With four candidates for mayor plus four council member candidates and only one seat held by an incumbent seeking reelection, it would appear the current season could resemble a political horse race. That may not be the case for it’s quite possible the list of winners turns out to be rather easy to pick. The candidate for mayor with the most recognizable name is Councilwoman Ginny Foat. The candidates for city council with the most recognizable names and/or campaign support are incumbent City Councilmember Paul Lewin, LGBT Activist Geoff Kors, and Planning Commissioner J.R. Roberts. Other prospective candidates suffer from lack of name recognition, lack of widespread support and/or inadequate campaign finances. They are starting from the back of the pack and the odds of any finishing with a win are stacked against them.

     The two Desert Water Agency board member seats are held by incumbents. It’s extremely difficult to unseat an incumbent and particularly so with the water agency board. Their area of coverage extends beyond Palm Springs city limits and the difficulties in reaching the large number of voters outside of Palm Springs represent serious obstacles. Incumbents Craig Ewing and Richard Oberhaus are expected to easily coast to victory.

     With a four month campaign season ahead anything is possible. But if ballots were cast today there’s a strong possibility only those with recognizable names and support would be elected. Serious campaigning will be required from others who are new to local politics if they are to receive sufficient votes for election. Betting today against the perceived “front runners” would be a rather poor one to make. It may not be an actual horse race for the winners appear ready to cross the finish line.

Bond Shands
Twitter Handle: @BondShands

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