Here are the top 6 things we've learned from last week's local elections.
No. 6: Incumbency wasn't all bad.
Turns out a record 30 years wasn't enough for Newport-Mesa school board member Judy Franco. In fact, nearly 60% of voters chose to bring her back for four more years. (Franco's tenure has been so long that history classes didn't exist when she first got on the school board.)
The landslide was particularly notable because Franco faced a quality candidate in the savvy Loretta Zimmerman, a longtime school volunteer. Plus, several columnists threw whatever weight they had behind Zimmerman (Note to future candidates: Work to have me endorse your challenger and you will be guaranteed to win).
The good news: The school district will continue to be well served by the respected Franco.
Runner-up: At 29 years, Trustee Roderick H. MacMillian served the second longest on the school board. He retired in 1994, citing the need to reduce stress on his ailing heart. Apparently, it was a good choice. Since then, MacMillian has lived a long and healthy retirement.
No. 5: In fact, incumbency is still quite powerful in Newport-Mesa.
In Newport Beach, incumbency was powerful enough to allow two of the three City Council members up for re-election (Mike Henn and Nancy Gardner) to run unopposed. The third incumbent, Leslie Daigle, received 63% of the vote against a single challenger.
Elsewhere, no incumbents lost but school Trustee Michael Collier, who was up against a popular candidate with higher name recognition, Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley.
The good news: The Newport Beach City Council is running well, so experience will be one of its strengths when the looming budget problems are tackled.
Out of step: Daigle's opponent, Mark Tabbert, campaigned against Measure V, an innocuous bit of bureaucratic housekeeping that was passed by 62% of the voters.
No. 4: Politics make strange bedfellows.
Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger is known for his conservative views, yet he encouraged and later endorsed Foley's successful run for the Newport-Mesa school board — despite having two years left on her council term. Foley, a moderate Democrat, was also endorsed by the local teachers' union and liberal politicians, including Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana).
So why would Mensinger — along with fellow conservative Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick — try to get a liberal like Foley elected to the school board? Is it too cynical to think that conservatives helped get Foley on the school board as a way of ridding the council of its only Democrat — without holding an election?
You can decide, but here's something else: The odds-on favorite to fill Foley's soon-to-be-empty council seat is Mensinger.
The good news: Foley is an excellent, well-liked representative who would have won the school board seat without the conservative cheerleading, and personally, I'd rather have her dedication channeled into our children's future than into city politics.
Hypocrisy: The local GOP slammed Newport Beach Councilman-elect Rush Hill for taking union money. It did the same to Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece for not being tough for voting for union contracts with minor concessions. But I'm pretty sure no one will say a word about conservatives endorsing union-backed Foley because her victory will likely result in another conservative appointed to the Costa Mesa City Council.
No. 3: Tried but tired political strategies need to be rethought.
In Newport-Mesa, the public safety unions, local GOP and even political consultant Dave Ellis (who has had a golden touch when it comes to Newport Beach elections) were losers this election. They painted their opponents, respectively, as out-of-control cop haters, out-of-touch union sympathizers, and out-to-lunch insiders. Voters didn't buy the false caricatures.
The good news: Perhaps a new respect has been earned for the sophistication of local voters.