Commentary: Some of the real winners were election losers

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As the slow and painful process of counting the swell of absentee and provisional ballots winds down, we’ve already seen two significant changes in coastal North County election.

The most dramatic is Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar’s victory over incumbent Third District Supervisor Dave Roberts. The final election night tally, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, put Roberts ahead by more than 2,000 votes, but as more votes were counted each day, Gaspar steadily ate into his margin of victory and 10 days after the election moved ahead, albeit by just 15 votes. Her margin of victory grew each day — as of Monday night, she was up nearly 1,250 votes — and Roberts conceded Monday, Nov. 28.

In the Encinitas Union School District race, challenger Leslie Schneider has surged ahead of appointed incumbent Patricia Sinay and appears likely to win a seat on the board. Schneider is one of two insurgents who challenged what she perceives as the board’s cozy relationship with Superintendent Tim Baird and his pet programs, including yoga. Her victory will undoubtedly lead to more scrutiny and less rubber-stamping, even though she’s just one vote — a powerful message was sent, and I have a hunch the other board members, and Baird, for that matter, are smart enough to hear it.

Elsewhere, the winners weren’t just those who were successful in their bids for public office.

In Carlsbad, former school board member Ann Tanner placed a respectable fourth in a race that pitted five challengers against two incumbents. Only one incumbent won, and Tanner — if she decides to run again in 2018 — is in a prime position to follow environmentalist Cori Schumacher’s path to victory. She built up plenty of name recognition and good will this year, and if the Schu-crew rallies behind her in two years she could prove a formidable challenger to incumbents Michael Schumacher (no relation to Cori) and Mark Packard, both of whom are seen as even more pro-development than this year’s incumbent slate, Keith Blackburn and Lorraine Wood. Tanner just needs to up her game and revise her platform to eliminate the obvious (and erroneous) and work on her performance at debates.

In Encinitas, newcomer Phil Graham has recently surged ahead of Tony Brandenburg in the daily vote updates. Encinitas voters like to get familiar with their candidates before they elect them, and quite often today’s loser is tomorrow’s winner. Should Graham decide to remain involved in politics, he needs to get out as much as he possibly can. He should attend Council meetings, seek appointment to some commission, do volunteer work and attend every civic gathering he can. He’s a smart, solid candidate, and Encinitas would be fortunate to have him on the Council.

In Oceanside, perhaps the biggest winner is Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, who wasn’t even on the ballot. While Jack Feller and Esther Sanchez both won their bids for re-election, the Oceanside City Council race was a crowded, nasty affair, particularly on social media. The mayor’s race, which incumbent Jim Wood handily won, was no different. Lowery was seen by many as the only grown-up in the room, the proverbial calm, cool and collected sort with exemplary people skills. He’s primed to fill Oceanside’s leadership void, with Wood approaching 70 and not in the best of health and the only other viable mayoral contender, Councilman Jerry Kern, eyeing higher office someplace else (he’s said to be focused on the Fifth Supervisorial District seat that will be vacated in 2018 by Bill Horn). A lot can happen in four years, but Lowery, at least at this point, is most likely to succeed.

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