The votes keep rolling in! Twice-weekly Los Angeles County posts revised election results. With votes remain yet be counted we are confident we have two winners — and both are incumbents. Councilmembers Lili Bosse and Julian Gold will serve another 4-year term beyond the nine years each has already served. That means stability for at least two years when three council seats will be up for grabs in the 2022 election. Here’s our preliminary take on the numbers.
First a caveat. Vote totals as reported by Los Angeles County as of March 6th are not final. Los Angeles Times reports a backlog of 675,000 still to be counted — about one-third of the 2.1 million votes cast in the county. Final election results will be certified by Los Angeles County on March 27th but we don’t expect margins to change much. For current totals and a final analysis visit our dedicated page: Election 2020: Beverly Hills Went to the Polls!
Incumbents walked away from the pack. The preliminary results show first-place winner Lili Bosse with a whopping 10 percentage point margin over second-place winner Julian Gold. Gold opened a 5 point lead over third-place finisher Lori Greene Gordon. The incumbents both ran strong campaigns and clearly won over a majority of voters.
There is some dissatisfaction with incumbents. One-third of all cast votes went to non-incumbent challengers. Without exit polls we don’t know what was in the collective mind of the electorate, but it seems like a substantial share of voters was looking for an alternative to the incumbents. Interestingly the two trailing candidates sent no mailer, bought no advertisement, and held no significant campaign event. Yet they netted one-in-ten votes. Of the non-incumbent votes cast they took about half despite showing no prior experience with city government.
This was Lili Bosse’s election. She was the expected front-runner and indeed met our high expectations by opening a very substantial 10-point lead over fellow incumbent candidate Gold. She’s a natural campaigner with a consistently positive message and theme (‘healthy city’) and that apparently resonated (her kick-off and closing party were packed with supporters). Her campaign reached voters repeatedly with well-produced mailers. Renters Alliance endorsed Bosse but she hardly needed the boost.
Julian Gold bested our expectation. The candidate established a fairly modest expectation when he posed this rhetorical question at his kick-off brunch: “You may ask, Why run for city council again?” But he had no ready answer to his own question and suggested no real motivating message for voters. Yet he campaigned hard: surrogates reached out to community people on his behalf; he reached out too; and his operation got out a steady stream of mailers and even TV ads. Perhaps he was motivated by the structural disadvantage of the touchscreen ballot (“hit the more button” for the him on the second screen) but whatever his motivation here was a candidate determined to win another term — and did.
Lori Green Gordon finished well but trailing candidates likely siphoned crucial votes. Gordon collected a very respectable 2,100 votes, according to preliminary results, which puts her 5% behind Gold (2,600 votes). The difference is currently 500 votes. Consider that votes cast for non-incumbent challengers Rowe and Green, who both ran on a “time for change” theme, as did Gordon, totaled about 1,000 according to the preliminary results. That’s more than enough to have elected Gordon if her well-resourced campaign could have disproportionately tapped the non-incumbent vote in a three-way race.
PAC money matters. The ‘Beverly Hills United to Support Bosse and Gold’ political action committee (PAC) came out swinging with a series of mailers and ads that tied candidate Gold to front-runner Bosse. (Read more about the PAC.) We can’t know how much of an effect the PAC had on the vote totals, but from the preliminary results we can guess it did give Gold a relative boost as he closed the gap with Bosse by a few percentage points compared to their last contest in 2011. His lead over third-place finisher Gordon is a substantial 5%.
Endorsers are overrated. It’s a bit of a Beverly Hills parlor game: how many boldface names and endorsers can a candidate button-up? The game starts early, in the fall, and by the time campaigns kick-off in January the websites fill up with endorsement pledges. This year the three top candidates claimed the backing of 400 endorsers on average. That’s a lot of names!
Bosse lead the pack with 500 signatories (plus well over a hundred honorary chairs and steering committee members). Gordon was backed by 415 endorsers plus 12 honorary backers but placed third. Gold had relatively fewer endorsers (308) plus 32 honorary backers and he placed second. Did that make a difference?
What we can say is that having no endorser can make a difference. Neither of the two trailing candidates had any endorser or honorary backer. Neither had a campaign chair nor trumpeted even a single testimonial. Yet they didn’t need it to potentially change the outcome of the race: they won a combined 10% of all votes cast and that was significantly larger than the margin of victory between second-place winner Gold and third-place finisher Gordon. The ‘spoilers’ may have cost her a seat.