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11.12.08

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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

The race for the Santa Cruz Council's fourth open seat has candidates Dave Terrazas and Tony Madrigal on pins and needles.

Photo Finish

Everyone thought the Santa Cruz City Council election would be close--but maybe not this close. With around 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots left to count, newcomer David Terrazas holds a slim 61-vote lead over incumbent Tony Madrigal for the fourth and final open seat on the council. Meanwhile, returning hopeful Katherine Beiers is hanging on to her third-place finish by a meager 212 votes.

"At this point it's anyone's game," says Santa Clara County transportation manager Terrazas. "The campaign continues. You have the open question of results and we just want to get the results in as fast as possible, then see where we stand."

If the standings hold, Ryan Coonerty, Don Lane, Beiers and Terrazas will win the election and join midterm Councilmembers Cynthia Mathews, Mike Rotkin and Lynn Robinson for at least the next two years. But with so many uncounted votes, the Santa Cruz County Elections Department isn't ready to call the race.

"We will not be done until Dec. 2. Anything before that is unaudited, unchecked, unbalanced, completely unofficial," says Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin. "I don't certify an election until I'm 100 percent confident of the results."

The Dec. 2 deadline Pellerin describes is part of a state law that mandates all results must be certified 28 days after an election. Only when an election is certified can a candidate apply for a recount. And though 28 Days Later may be a sweet zombie flick, for candidates Madrigal and Terrazas, 28 days later is a long time to wait on tenterhooks. Pellerin says the candidates and their supporters have been calling the county office daily seeking updates. Publicly, however, the two young politicians are maintaining a calm and nonchalant demeanor. Terrazas calls the race a "virtual tie" and says that, win or lose, he is "proud to have competed against former mayors and incumbents and generated such strong voter turnout."

For former farmworker Madrigal, he says a 61-vote lead is 60 more than Terrazas needs, but in the meantime it's business as usual.

"I'm going back to my day job, back to reality," says Madrigal, an organizer for SEIU-Health Care Workers West. "I feel optimistic. And I'll continue to keep the same involvement in the community because that's why I got involved in the first place."

Laird in Limbo

So who's the saddest person at an election night party? Nūz wagers that it's not the losers, who can tell themselves they'll get it next time. Nor is it the spouses of the winners, who, blanch though they may at the prospect of two to four years of stultifying official functions, will at least get to update their wardrobes. Nope, Nūz's money is on the termed-out electeds, those veterans of a job well done, momentarily stripped of purpose and wandering around with hands in pockets, trying to imagine a fulfilling future built around tai chi or maybe clearing brush.

Last Tuesday night at Tampico in downtown Santa Cruz, District 27 Assemblyman John Laird had the look of a man without a mission. Oh, he hid it well; if he's been crying himself to sleep at night over having to vacate his Sacramento office, it didn't show. Laird was amiable as always, inspecting Nūz's new wedding bling, answering questions about his staff and hinting vaguely about an unspecified environmental post when queried about his own future.

It was a classic Laird moment, intimate but not--the kind of exchange that's made him a favorite with reporters and probably everyone else. But it was a far cry from the scene around District 27 successor Bill Monning earlier that evening. A bustle attended the newly elected Democratic assemblyman at the swanky lounge Red, where supporters milled, bulbs flashed and a cameraman set up for an interview. Monning's wasting no time getting up to speed with the big dogs; he told Nūz he's met several times with Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Assembly Majority Whip Fiona Ma and Appropriations chairman Kevin DeLeon.

Asked about the first order of business, Monning said everyone was focused on the special budget session called by the governor to find an extra $4.5 billion in cuts to help close an $11 billion shortfall. He hinted at a measure that his class might be able to enact to prevent such sessions in the future. "I think coming out of this we'll be exploring how to reduce the benchmark for passing the budget from two-thirds to 55 percent," he said.

If that happens, it'll be the thing that could have changed Laird's tenure as Assembly budget chairman from a frustrating struggle--especially this year, when the budget ran three months late--to a shining success and a fitting end to an impressive career in the state house.

Instead, for his last two weeks in office, Laird is being dragged back to serve as special session budget chairman, which is something like being handed the jaws of life and asked to rescue the budget from the wreckage wrought by minority rule. It's the kind of job that probably makes tai chi look pretty good. But not really.


Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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