Incumbents Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth retained their seats on the Santa Clarita City Council in Tuesday’s election, which saw environmentalist and challenger Henry Schultz finish within about 4 percent of Kellar.
Only 13.7 percent of the city’s 74,723 voters bothered to cast ballots in the three-way, non-partisan race for two council seats. Nearly 60 percent of those who did vote cast absentee ballots.
The final but unofficial count showed Smyth with 39.9 percent of the vote, Kellar with 32.1 percent, and Schultz with 27.8 percent.
Smyth said he would continue with his council priorities.
“The first priority is to stop the Las Lomas project, get a handle on the growth that’s going on outside the city,” he said. Las Lomas is a project proposed for unincorporated territory south of Santa Clarita; it is likely to be annexed into the city of Los Angeles.
Smyth also identified more local jobs as a top priority.
Kellar identified economic development as the ongoing issue he would continue to focus on.
Of Schultz’s strong showing against him, Kellar quipped, “I’m too old to get nervous.”
“For a man who came out for the first time to run for office, he did an excellent job,” Kellar said.
Schultz, a Sierra Club activist who ran a grassroots campaign for controlled development, said he would “keep fighting for all the same issues I talked about during the campaign.”
Those issues include public ownership of the Santa Clara River, greater accountability from developers and more open space within and around the city.
“We thought, quite frankly, that (Schultz) was going to be a formidable opponent,” said Rick Winsman, a city planning commissioner and Kellar’s campaign manager. “Bob and Cameron had the experience and relationship with their constituents to win.
“The fact that there was only one candidate to run against (Kellar and Smyth) shows that the voters were satisfied,” Winsman said.
The city carried election updates on public access Channel 20, reporting first the results of the 6,148 absentee ballots that were mailed in.
Those showed Smyth with about 41 percent of the vote, Kellar with about 33 percent, and Schultz with about 25 percent.
“Past elections have shown that the absentee vote always accounts for a very high percentage,” Smyth said. “And it’s critical to get support and to win the absentees because it always amounts to well over 50 percent of the turnout.”
Polls closed at 8 p.m., and by 10 p.m. the results from the last precinct had been reported.
City Clerk Sharon Dawson said the low voter turnout was one of the worst in the city’s history.
Duane Harte, chairman of the SCV Chamber of Commerce and a member of Kellar’s re-election campaign, bemoaned the poor turnout.
“The unfortunate part still is that people will just not get out to vote,” Harte said. “If you’re going to sit back and complain about traffic … that’s what the voting system is for. (The votes) all count.”
Dawson said the results are unofficial; it may take until the end of the week to tally up final results.
Absentee ballots turned in at the polls and “provisional ballots” accepted from voters whose eligibility must be verified could change the results slightly, she said.
Dawson said volunteers and her hard-working staff made the night’s ballot-counting go smoothly, but there’s plenty of work ahead, she said.
“I’m going back to work in the morning,” he said. “I’ll be at my desk, you betcha.”