For any Newport Beach resident who thought that their vote doesn’t matter, think again.
In the tightest race in years, only 36 votes separated the two candidates for the District 3 City Council seat in the results certified by the Orange County Registrar of Voters on Saturday.
The certified results show incumbent and current mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and challenger Tim Stoaks both with 50 percent of the votes. Duffield received 18,458 votes, while Stoaks tallied 18,422.
For the first time in recent memory in Newport Beach, a recount has been requested for the local race from the Nov. 6 election. Residents Tim Stephens, Laurie Preedge and Susan Skinner requested the recount on Wednesday.
“With a race this close, it’s not uncommon for voters vested in an election to seek a recount,” Stoaks said. “It will be interesting to see how this plays out.”
Duffield did not respond to a request for comment, but on social media wrote that he will receive assistance from the county Republican party.
“If a recount is requested my volunteers will monitor the process and the OC GOP will provide legal and technical support,” Duffield wrote before the recount was officially requested.
Any voter can request a recount, and then of course pay for it, Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley explained in an email Tuesday. The Registrar’s office conducts the recount, a process that is open to the public and “conducted under the supervision of the elections official by recount boards, consisting of four voters of the county, appointed by the elections official,” according to the OC Voters website.
“There are no requirements – we have several options that would have to be defined by the requestor,” he noted.
Total cost would be close to $25,000, Kelley explained.
As of Wednesday, recount supporters had already raised $10,000 cash on hand and had pledges for almost the remaining $15,000. Most of the money raised has been in “bits and pieces,” a lot of locals donating small amounts, Skinner said in a phone call on Wednesday.
They anticipate starting the recount early next week, Skinner explained.
A recount could potentially take approximately seven days with three days of prep work, Kelley said.
This would mean the results of the recount would not be completed until after Tuesday’s City Council meeting, during which will be the “changing of the guard” process and the naming of a new mayor.
City Clerk Leilani Brown confirmed in an email Wednesday that Duffield will still be sworn in on Tuesday, pursuant to the Registrar of Voters’ certification of the election results.
Kelley is an excellent registrar, Skinner pointed out, but with such a high volume of votes and such a small margin of difference, there could be the possibility of human error. It would only take a few small errors to change the results, so supporters feel they should investigate the possibility.
“It’s such a narrow margin that we feel like we have to try,” Skinner said. “There’s a chance, and if there’s a chance, we’re going to go for it.”
The results were certified on Saturday, showing the highest turnout in a midterm election in nearly 50 years, according to officials.
Kelley reported that the total turnout was 71 percent, the highest for a midterm election in Orange County since 1970, when turnout was 76.3 percent.
Earlier in the week on social media, Duffield complimented Stoaks on a “spirited campaign.”
“He is a gentleman with the community’s best interest at heart,” Duffield wrote.
Duffield added that he is excited for his next term.
“I look forward to working hard for the residents, businesses, and improving our magnificent community,” Duffield wrote.
In other Council races, the results are clear.
Another challenger, Joy Brenner, solidly won the District 6 seat with 56.7 percent of the votes, beating out incumbent Scott Peotter. Brenner received 20,514 votes, while Peotter ended with 15,696.
“It is extremely gratifying to have the confidence of our community as indicated by such a significant win,” Brenner wrote.
Brenner also noted her disappointment in Stoaks’ narrow loss. He loves Newport Beach and has worked hard on numerous issues, she said.
“Although it seemed like we were working every waking moment, I can’t help but wonder what more we could have done for 37 more votes,” she commented. “Most people in the community didn’t think Tim [Stoaks] has a chance against an incumbent with a very well-known name, but I think we all underestimated our citizens’ discontent.”
As she joins the Council, her main focus will be transparency.
“When we say we want transparency, we mean it,” Brenner said. “My top priority for our new council will be to restore trust and transparency. We need to make sure that everything which can be shared with the public, is shared with the public.”
The General Plan update is also likely to be a Council priority, she added.
This election, with record turnout and a contentious campaign season in Newport, was tough, but rewarding, she added.
“As exhausting as it was, I loved the campaign process because I got to know many wonderful residents,” Brenner said. “I hope to maintain those friendships and be able to truly reflect the will of the people when I cast my votes.”
In another local Council race, for the District 1 seat, incumbent Diane Dixon beat out challenger Mike Glenn with 59 percent of the votes. Dixon gathered 21,169 votes while Glenn received 14,688.
Dixon also expressed gratitude for the support and confidence from voters in an email this week.
“Their support means the world to me,” she said. “Together we will continue to preserve and protect the unique and distinctive qualities that we cherish in our beautiful city.”
It’s an honor and a privilege to serve, she added.
“I’m looking forward to working with each and every one of my colleagues as we move forward to serve the people of Newport Beach,” Dixon wrote.
Dixon also mentioned continued attention on the large unfunded pension liability, which they will continue to work to pay down and save money in the long run, she said.
“My primary focus will be stability and civility going forward, based on my priorities of fiscal responsibility, transparency and listening to residents,” Dixon commented.
She is also looking forward to fully launching the newly created Harbor Department and beginning the General Plan update process.
The last few months have been enjoyable, she noted, and she is ready to continue her work.
“I loved the campaign process. I always enjoy meeting residents, making new acquaintances and responding to questions and concerns,” Dixon noted. “I believe we are extremely fortunate to have such highly engaged and informed residents.”
The engagement doesn’t stop just because the campaign is over, Dixon pointed out.
“I have already set the dates for my 2019 Town Halls!” she wrote.
Fellow incumbent Kevin Muldoon also won re-election for his seat in District 4, earning 67.9 percent of the votes over challenger Roy Englebrecht. Muldoon collected 24,227 votes, whole Englebrecht got 11,456.
“I am humbled by the final results and thankful to the residents for their support,” Muldoon wrote in an email this week. “The residents I spoke with during the campaign expressed their happiness with the direction our city has been going, and the voting results seemed to reflect that sentiment.”
He has several areas he wants to focus on as he continues his time on Council, Muldoon noted.
“I would like to continue to lead the charge to pay down the city’s long-term debts, work with our first responders to keep our community safe, and help organize the efforts to mitigate the impacts of John Wayne Airport,” Muldoon wrote.