Incumbents keep seats in Claremont City Council election

It was the incumbents’ night to celebrate in Claremont, as both Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay were re-elected to the city council.

Mr. Schroeder, who is entering his third term on the council, and Mr. Calaycay, who is entering his fourth term, handily beat the crowded competition. Mr. Schroeder received 32.18 percent of the vote, and Mr. Calaycay received 28.53 percent.

The closest competitor, Zach Courser, garnered 17.63 percent of the vote. Rounding out the rest of the field,  Anthony Grynchal received 7.93 percent of the vote; Abraham Prattella received 5.22 percent; Murray Monroe received 3.68 percent; Michael Keenan received 3.32 percent and Korey Johnson received 1.6 percent, according to the unofficial tally by the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.

It was all smiles and sighs of relief at Mr. Calaycay’s election night party at his home on Base Line Road, as the councilmember’s staff and supporters watched the first batch of numbers roll in at 8:15 p.m.

Mr. Calaycay, who is closing out his 12th year at the dais, said he was “honored” to be the top vote getter as the mail-in ballots rolled in.

“I’m very grateful to the voters for affording me this opportunity to continue to work for them,” he later said in a phone interview with the COURIER.

Mr. Calaycay acknowledged that there were some hurdles during the two-month campaign.

“It was a little bit more of a challenging race than I anticipated,” he said. “But again, that’s what elections are for.”

Mr. Calaycay’s campaign treasurer, Bill Buehler, said he was “ecstatic” over the news.

“We worked hard,” he said. “I say ‘we’ because we have a great team.”

Mr. Schroeder’s election night party was similar in tone, as city heavyweights mingled and chatted about the campaign while periodically glancing at the incoming results.

“So far, it looks good,” Mr. Schroeder said, noting he was anxious for all the votes to be tallied.

Not all candidates were holding a get-together on election night. Mr. Keenan, the perennial council candidate, was in Norwalk at the LA County Registrar’s Office to watch the ballot-counting process unfold in real time.

“It’s interesting. I got to see the whole process,” he said.

Seven of the eight candidates were on hand for six forums spread throughout February, as each council hopeful tried to convince the Claremont public to vote for them. Mr. Grynchal pushed his unverified plan for a “special water district,” Mr. Keenan implored Claremont to become a charter city and claim eminent domain over the electrical grid, Mr. Prattella promoted his “four-generation” plan for the city and Mr. Monroe outlined plans to put solar panels on city buildings.

At times, the candidates traded barbs. Notably, Mr. Courser was outspoken over the handling of the city’s rocky quest to take over the water system, as well as rising property crime rates. The incumbents fired back, stating the city fell victim to “a bad judge” and cautioned against reading the city crime stats at face value.

Mr. Calaycay was repeatedly asked to answer for his abstention on the city’s resolution to affirm its commitment to diversity, a symbolic resolution drafted as a response to Claremonters calling for a sanctuary city designation. In the end, voters relented on this sticking point and both incumbents cruised to victory.

When reached by phone the day after the election, Mr. Schroeder, who was in the middle of picking up his campaign signs, said he was “honored and humbled” to be elected to another term on the council.

“We’re ready to serve, and I’m happy I got re-elected,” he said.

Mr. Schroeder said he wants to focus on two things during his next term—development and getting people involved in the commission system. He said he wants to take a closer look at projects under development in Claremont to make sure they fit within the city’s character.

“I don’t want to be one homogenous town, but I certainly want things to be able to fit into various areas,” he said.

In 2015, Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Calaycay were tasked with creating the verbiage that imposed an eight-year term limit for commissioners and committee members. The current council unanimously approved the limits, however, Mr. Schroeder would now like to revisit the decision. 

“We have tremendous resources in the community, and to say, ‘Okay, you spent your eight years, we don’t need your service,’ that’s fine, but I think we should have the opportunity to have people come back to commissions if we get a dry spell when people are not applying,” he said.

Mr. Calaycay noted the ongoing effort to take over the water system, the possibility of a new police station and MS-4 storm water management as priorities in his upcoming term.

“We have a lot of significant challenges as we move forward,” he said, noting that addressing those challenges “in a responsible way” will be important for the city.

Mr. Courser, the closest challenger, said he was proud of his campaign but noted the circumstances surrounding the March election, including a low voter turnout, may have favored the incumbents. He remains hopeful that the election was an opportunity for more people to think critically about Claremont politics.

“I’m very proud there was a election this time and that it wasn’t cancelled like in 2015,” he said. “I think the number of challengers represented interest in the community and getting involved in city politics, and I take that as a positive sign.”

Mr. Courser said it was “too soon to say” whether he would run again in 2019, opting instead to focus on his work with the Traffic and Transportation Commission. He would also like to see the council and commissions more involved in policy issues, instead of leaving it all to city staff.

“There are lots of issues involving the Gold Line that will continue to come before us, and I look forward to contributing to the city in that way,” he said.

On election night, as the first numbers began to roll in, a visibly excited Mr. Calaycay was taking phone calls and receiving early congratulations from well-wishers, many of whom were still arriving to his home.

“Hopefully the message is they’re pleased with the job I’m doing,” he said.

—Matthew Bramlett


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