Incumbents Leano, Stark reelected; Reece looks likely to win

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

On an Election Night when the nation was evenly divided, voters in Claremont appear to have chosen consistency by reelecting all three sitting council members.

By 4:23 p.m. Thursday council member Jennifer Stark had claimed 74.4% of the votes in District 3, a full 48 percentage points ahead of her opponent, Maura Carter, who ran a very subtle campaign. The race in District 4 had tightened somewhat on Wednesday, but with 58% of the vote Mayor Jed Leano holds an insurmountable 16 percentage point lead over his challenger, Aundré Johnson. The vote tally in that race stood at 1,106 to 809. Meanwhile, in his race with Peter Yao, Mayor Pro Tem Ed Reece held at 54.3%, while Yao was at 45.7% by a full percentage point. Reece led by 127 votes, 808 to 681.

Measure CT, which would authorize the city to tax cannabis businesses if and when they are allowed to operate in town, was comfortably ahead on Thursday evening, with 61% of the 8,529 votes counted thus far. See the full story on Measure CT in this week’s edition.

“I’m honored and grateful to have earned the support from District 3 voters to serve Claremont on City Council for another term,” Stark said on Wednesday. “I take the challenges of local governance very seriously and to heart. This is work we do together. Our common ground is our commitment to our collective beneficial future that will be the result of working with, and for each other — not against each other. I appreciate my opponent, her candidacy inspired healthy and principled competition, which is a cornerstone of good elections.”

With the exception of Stark’s clear win, it may be too early to call the other two races with additional vote tallies taking place on Friday. That said, in previous Claremont municipal elections, early results were clear harbingers of the final outcome.

According to the city clerk’s office, the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder still has stacks of mail-in ballots to count. The county said that approximately 425 ballots need to be tabulated in District 2, 400 in District 3, and 600 in District 4. Those numbers are sure to change, however, as the county continues to receive ballots mailed on Election Day.

“I am encouraged by the initial voter returns and the positive trending,” Reece said Wednesday night. “I appreciate the community’s support and look forward to the final count so that I may continue the important work needed over the next four years.”

At Sanctuary Coffee Tuesday night, the mood was exuberant as Leano thanked his supporters during a brief speech. He attributed the apparent positive outcome to the many hours of grassroots campaigning from his largely volunteer staff and their get out the vote effort, which was conducted face-to-face while canvassing neighborhoods.

Leano also made it clear that a vote for his reelection was an endorsement for moving Claremont forward to become a more inclusive city rather than being satisfied with the status quo.

“It’s not because of the tally,” Leano said. “It’s not because of the vote total. It’s because, look at what we built. We built something absolutely amazing. We have put forward a vision of a more inclusive, just, and equitable city. We have a track record of success, and we will continue to build on that success. But more importantly, I believe we can build something amazing here together. Look at what we have done, and if this is what we have done in just five short years, I am really excited about what we can do for the next four.”

During a Tuesday election watch party at Espiau’s restaurant in the Village, Johnson, who is a film producer and director, compared campaigning to making a movie that had just wrapped. Still running on adrenaline from the final few days of campaigning, he said running for council was a rewarding experience.

On Wednesday Johnson said he was not ready to give up the fight until all the votes are counted.

“I am thrilled by the voter turnout in favor of our truly grassroots campaign and wish to thank everyone for their support,” Johnson said. “Our canvassing reflected incredible enthusiasm for our pro-Claremont message and strong dissatisfaction with Jed Leano’s agenda. With over a year of lead-time and a war chest five times larger than ours, it’s astonishing that the incumbent only leads by 212 votes at this time.

“There are still Vote-by-Mail ballots in process. We also shouldn’t forget that 338 District 4 voters were provided invalid Vote-by-Mail ballots. We need to ensure their votes are counted. In fairness to my supporters, I will wait until all votes are in,” he said.

In the race for the Division III seat on Three Valleys Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors, challenger Jeff Hanlon, with 50.35 percent of the 13,789 votes counted thus far, has defeated 19-year incumbent Brian Bowcock, who netted 34% of the ballots. Javier Aguilar came in a distant third with 15.5%.

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