The 2022 Beverly Hills municipal election is behind us and the voters have spoken. The preliminary election results show that incumbents Lester Friedman and John Mirisch are returning to City Council. They will be joined by challenger Sharona Nazarian, who could shift the balance of power to favor landlords. The incumbent treasurer, Howard Fisher, coasted to re-election. The results are not yet certified but it looks like victory is locked-in for the top-three finishers according to the latest update from the county registrar of voters.
Incumbent Councilmember Lester Friedman leads challenger Sharona Nazarian by only 8 votes as of the June 24th update — narrowing the gap to within striking distance of the front-runner. With only about two dozen votes left to count it is likely that Nazarian can pass Friedman for the top spot.
Working Nazarian’s favor has been her ability to garner a consistently greater share of additional votes as they are counted than any other candidate. In this last update for example she took 17 of the 59 newly-counted votes (to Friedman’s 10 additional votes). Indeed over the last three updates from the registrar, Nazarian has outpaced Friedman in the winning of new votes each time.
Why the late surge? It suggests an Election Day push to get voters to the polls AND to convince them that casting only one vote for Nazarian would help her disproportionately. That’s called a ‘single-shot’ approach and it works with voters who either are very motivated for one candidate or who are not motivated about any other candidate. If Nazarian prevails, then her win may be remembered as a triumph of so-called ‘single-shot’ tactical voting.
In the balance of this close Council race is the question of which of the two top-finishing candidates will first become mayor. Mayor is a ceremonial role in Beverly Hills because we don’t elect the mayor; instead councilmembers rotate into the office in a defined order based, in part, on the election finishing order. It matters! The perks of being mayor include the power to set the agenda and the authority to make councilmember appointments to Council committees. That may sound like inside-baseball, but committees play an important role in shaping issues even before they come to Council.
The mayor also manages the Council meetings and has the power (to some extent) to favor or disfavor public participation generally, or even to limit or to expand the time at the mic for any specific stakeholder. And the mayor is of course the spokesperson for City Hall.
If Nazarian can net four additional votes then she will become mayor as soon as March of 2024 — a year ahead of Friedman.
What about the other finishers? Incumbent Councilmember John Mirisch distantly trails the front-runners in third place by 930 votes. He hasn’t closed that gap as additional votes come in. Incumbent councilmember Bob Wunderlich missed re-election by only 73 votes. He too isn’t gaining any appreciable ground as new counts come in.
Incumbent Howard Fisher handily won re-election to treasurer by beating challengers Jake Manaster, a longtime city commissioner, and an unknown candidate, Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe (who didn’t stump at all). This reflects the power of incumbency, presumably, because nearly nobody among the electorate knows the candidates. The low-profile job practically ensures we know next-to-nothing about how the incumbent performed in office.
The challengers didn’t put up much of a fight: Fisher more than doubled Manaster’s votes and totally eclipsed Pantera-Rowe. However Pantera-Rowe’s showing is better than we expected. Her qualifications for the job seemed thin (if not downright dubious) and yet she won more than 600 votes. The treasurer is a position with big responsibility for investing the city’s millions. It appears that 600 voters were willing to roll the dice on a totally unknown and inexperienced candidate.
Term Limits Measure
Measure TL supporters ran away with this contest! That suggests that there is widespread support for term limits on local officeholders. Indeed there was no organized support or opposition that might have generated any passion. Yet this measure did manage to capture the public’s attention (even if it wasn’t about chicken welfare).
One one hand, the outcome was a little surprising given our city’s supposed liberal alignment.But as we observed after the last presidential election, Beverly Hills steps to the right! On the other hand, Mirisch’s reach for a fourth term may have given some juice to the term-limits issue. (A fourth term is uncommon but is not unheard-of in Beverly Hills.)
Here’s some backstory: last fall City Council tried to shut Mirisch out of the ballot with a city term limits ordinance. But the effort failed on a legal point. So we found this measure on the ballot but it couldn’t apply retroactively.
This contest is a real nail-biter. Back in 2017 the Council race was tight too: only 18 votes separated elected councilmember Wunderlich from fourth place challenger (and incumbent) Nancy Krasne. That made a big difference in how Council approached amendments to the rent stabilization ordinance and it may yet make a difference this time too:
Sharona Nazarian’s views on tenant rights are not known and her service on prior commissions doesn’t offer a clue.
In the larger scheme, any time Council changes there is acute attention on what else can change. There are very significant commercial developments proposed or on the drawing boards. The new mixed-use overlay zone is likely to prompt redevelopment of Wilshire, Robertson, La Cienega, and even parcels on select segments of Olympic and South Beverly Drive. How will a reconstituted Council with a new member vote on them?
We will also see some major redevelopments in our multifamily areas. Properties on the endangered list include 236-256 North La Peer, 132-144 South Spalding and 149-159 South Maple. How the city proceeds where it comes to multifamily preservation and the inclusion of deed-restricted affordable units may hinge on a swing vote.
We’re a small town with big, big stakes. That’s why anyone who has city business or who is engaged in city politics is constantly refreshing the county registrar’s results webpage each Tuesday and Friday. The next update will come this Tuesday at about 4 pm. Will it make a difference? Aside from bragging rights, not really because the results at this point are all but certified by the state.
Got a comment about the election? Please get in touch with Renters Alliance!
Note about our City Council chart. It looks different than the chart posted by the county registrar of voters. That’s because our chart shows each candidate’s approximate share of ballots cast in contrast to the country registrar’s chart (see below) which shows each candidate’s share of votes cast.
The registrar’s chart shows each candidate’s claim on votes cast in the race. (Each voter can cast a vote for up to three candidates.) The top two finishers each garnered just over 18% of the votes cast.
We were more interested to show each candidate’s claim on the electorate. That is the proportion of voters who cast one of their vote for the candidate. This measure shows that each top-two finisher was able to persuade about 40% of voters to cast a vote for them. The third place finisher was able to persuade only about 33% of voters.
An extreme example shows the difference. If the top three finishers were able to persuade voters to cast their three votes only for them, then each candidate’s share of the votes is 33.3% because these three winners split the votes equally. However in this example each candidate would have persuaded 100% of voters who cast a ballot in that race to vote for them. (The rest of the field garnered no vote and thus were unsuccessful in persuading any voter.)