Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 15, 2012

Editorial: Few surprises in local elections

Despite the implementation of a new primary system that did away with party designations and simply awarded the two top finishers a run-off slot, there were few surprises for Mountain View voters in last week's election.

Not unexpectedly, the city's big winner was passage of Measure G, the $198 million in school bonds for the Mountain View Whisman district, which won approval from 66 percent of the voters, far more than the 55 percent needed. Only a small percentage of property owners were put off by the cost of the bonds, which at $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation will cost about $150 a year for a home assessed at $500,000.

It was the second time in four years that local property owners stepped up to support Mountain View Whisman. In 2008 a parcel tax that ranges from $150 to $1,000 depending on the size of a property passed by nearly 80 percent of the vote. The eight-year tax will expire in 2017, long before the bond issue, which will continue for 25 years.

Outside the school bonds, the most interest here was the race for state Senate in District 13, pitting former mayor and state Assembly member Sally Lieber against Jerry Hill, an Assembly member representing San Bruno. The two, both Democrats, finished far in front of the four-person field that also included Democrat Chris Chiang and Libertarian John Webster, who did not mount strong campaigns. Hill ran strong in San Mateo County, his home territory, after mounting an aggressive campaign. He picked up 51 percent of the votes as well as a wide range of financial support from unions and many other interest groups, raising more than $500,000 since the first of the year. Hill has been actively seeking strong measures to censure P&E for its role in the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

Lieber, who trails Hill in fund-raising, nevertheless has saved more than $200,000, including $100,000 of her own money, to spend during the run-up to the general election. She considers herself a maverick, who supports environmental causes and women's rights.

In the finale for the state Assembly race, voters will see a two-part match-up pitting incumbent Democrat Rich Gordon against Republican Chengzhi "George" Yang, who like Gordon, is a Menlo Park resident. Gordon, with 56.1 percent of the vote, easily outdistanced Yang, who finished with just under 30 percent. Gordon currently represents District 21, which includes Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, East Palo Alto and Palo Alto. With redistricting, District 21 will become part of a reshaped District 24, adding Mountain View, Sunnyvale and most of the San Mateo County coastside from El Granada south.

Perhaps the easiest race to predict was termed-out state Sen. Joe Simitian's run for county supervisor in District 5, to replace Liz Kniss, who is also termed out. Simitian, who served in many elected positions in Palo Alto over the years, easily prevailed over two opponents, winning 57 percent of the vote and avoiding a run-off.

Lieber, who lives in Mountain View, has plenty of work ahead of her as she attempts to overcome Hill's substantial margin of victory in the primary.

In an election night interview, Lieber said, "Our goal has been to be in the runoff and to be able to save as much as possible. All I ask for is a chance to campaign for the next five months."

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