City Council

Why Jan Pepper Came in First for Los Altos City Council Election 2012

Written by lalahpolitico

The Monday before Los Altos City Council election 2012, Trustee Cooper of Los Altos School District and I chatted during break. He asked me who I thought would win the Los Altos City Council race.   I said all the other candidates were too close to call except for one – Jan Pepper.  She would be one of the winners. I told him that she seemed to be popping up as everyone’s third choice in a “pick 3” race.

Jan Pepper is now the top City Council election vote getter of all time with 9,288 votes

The rest is history. Jan Pepper is now the top City Council election vote getter of all time with 9,288 votes, besting Val Carpenter’s 2010 record 6,582 votes.  But our Los Altos Politico “mandate” measure shows them both equal with landslide index.scores of 60.

 

Jan in 2012 and Val in 2010 won the top spot in very different ways.  In 2010 Val Carpenter was the only incumbent on the “pick 2” ticket. She narrowly out distanced  the newcomer Jarrett  Fishpaw  – her with a 31.68% share of votes cast and him with a 28.23% share.  His landslide index was about 40.  In that election, although there were 5 candidates, only 3 of them were really in earnest.   For many voters Val was the first choice or second choice candidate.

Election2012Spreadsheet

 

In 2012, the two issues of downtown vibrancy and Los Altos School District vs. Hillview Center undoubtedly divided voting patterns. Let’s assume voters in 2012  voted based on “platforms” and “resumes” rather than just based on whether they “liked” the inferred personality of candidates.

Jan Pepper appeared a moderate in between the two poles of downtown choice.

If you wanted a low growth – low traffic downtown, you should have voted for Jon Baer and incumbent Megan Satterlee.  If you wanted to maximize downtown change you should definitely have chosen Jerry Sorensen, and probably either Jeannie Bruins or Anabel Pelham.  Jan Pepper appeared a moderate in between the two poles of downtown choice.

 Huttlinger Alliance for Education endorsements mostly help:  Jerry Sorensen,  Jeannie Bruins

If you were sympathetic to the idea of  having the City of Los Altos jurisdiction rescue the Los Altos School District jursidiction from its facilities shortfall with the expenditure of significant City resources – possibly even including sale, lease or gifting  of the Hillview Center – then you should have voted for the Huttlinger Alliance for Education endorsements:  Jerry Sorensen,  Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper.  77% of Los Altos City Council votes cast were from Los Altos School District precincts as opposed to 23% from the Cupertino school district. precincts.


In the Cupertino school precincts, Sorensen got a 10% share of votes, whereas in the Los Altos School District precincts he got a 15% share of votes – virtually a 50% boost from the HAE and school board member endorsements.  As for Jeannie Bruins, she got a 28% boost from the HAE endorsements – her 13% share of votes in Cupertino district precincts rose to nearly 17% in Los Altos School District precincts.

Megan Satterlee had a 22.5% share of votes in Cupertino school district precincts, which was hammered by one-third down to a 15% share of votes in Los Altos School District precincts

More interesting was the hit Megan Satterlee took from not having “good” Los Altos School District credentials – she lives in the Cupertino school district herself and her voting record and public statements show caution in “handing over” Hillview Center to a semi-Los Altan governmental jurisdiction.  She had a 22.5% share of votes in Cupertino school districts, which was hammered by one-third down to 15% share of votes in Los Altos School District precincts.  The other three candidates, including Jan Pepper, had no significant schools penalty or boost.

 2012 is the widest gap between the top spot and second spot

What sets the 2012 results apart from all the prior City Council race is the wide gap between the top spot and second spot. Top spot getter Jan Pepper with 26.71% of votes did 10 points better than No. 2 Megan Satterlee with 16.77% of votes cast.  Compare that to  Val Carpenter winning top spot in 2010 with a 3 point spread or in 2005 with a  7 point spread.

 Ms. Pepper should get about double the votes of  the other candidates and did

So what does it mean? Lalahpolitico had many people ask her who should they pick for their third choice. One group were voting for Baer and Satterlee. Another group was voting for Sorensen and Bruins or Pelham.  Both these polar opposite groups were drawn to the apparent moderate Jan Pepper as a third choice.   You do the math?  If there there are 2 groups of people in the world and both groups agree their third choice is Ms. Pepper, that means Ms. Pepper should get about double the votes of  the other candidates.  And she did  – approximately.

Of course let’s not forget that Jan Pepper and her manager, Cathy Lazarus, seem to have run the most professional and expensive campaign. According to a recent Los Altos Town Crier, Pepper had raised $25,000, about $10,000 more than the next largest campaign chest.  It is not yet clear if she actually spent all of that. And let’s not forget Jan seems to have been the top “block walker.”  Although Baer, Pelham and Bruins also walked, anecdotal evidence suggests Jan kept walking right up to election day to sway the undecided. At Lalahpolitico’s precinct, lots of mail-in ballot voters did not vote early, but rather walked in to the precinct polling place on election day to turn in their ballot.

Chart of Prior City Council Elections for Comparison

Moderates Rule in 2013!

Looking at 2012 results in the  Election2012Spreadsheet, notice how the furthest from center candidates, Jon Baer, the conservative, and Jerry Sorensen, the progressive, were virtually equal in votes (14.30%) , and how that both just barely lost to Jeannie Bruins (16.03%) and Megan Saterlee ( 16.77%)  who were both more moderate. Satterlee should have had an incumbent advantage, but was probably actually hurt by her conservative endorsement from Packard and Carpenter.  Lalahpolitico thinks Sorensen, Pelham and Bruins  (14.29%, 11.86%, 16.03% respectively)  were splitting the voters who were “progressive” on the downtown issue.  And Pelham did not have the trust of the Los Altos School District  interest group.

 Satterlee should have had an incumbent advantage, but was probably actually hurt by her “conservative” endorsement from Packard and Carpenter

 Lalahpolitico Comment: The public’s “moderate” council choice in this high turnout 2012 election makes me wonder about the recent Downtown Survey. The results of that were used by the former council to justify regressive intiatives. I now question the survey goals, the sampling methodology , the sample size, and the actual questions in the instrument. A repeat survey is planned for 2014; it probably needs to be a redo.

Pepper  is First Choice for Global Environment

Of course some voters chose Jan Pepper as their first choice.  For those people whose top issue is the global environment, Jan Pepper had to be THE top pick. But we believe her moderate stance on downtown and the civic center, her moderate steps toward government transparency and her acceptability to the Los Altos School District interest group made her a “safe” choice to round out the council.  She has promised she won’t rush headlong one way or the other without broad support.

For those people whose top issue is the global environment, Jan Pepper had to be THE top pick

 

 

About the author

lalahpolitico

Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.