Leon Worden

One week out, it's all but in the bag

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, April 8, 1998

rank Ferry and Laurene Weste made it clear after the last election that they would run this time if two incumbents bowed out.

Two incumbents did bow out, and if good, old-fashioned campaigning still counts for anything, then Ferry and Weste are in good shape to capture those two seats. Both have mounted extremely effective absentee ballot campaigns — which worked to Ferry's advantage two years ago when he was the only one with a good absentee ballot program.

Ferry and Weste's absentee efforts have had the dual consequence of complimenting the city's official drive to increase voter participation through mail-in ballots.

"People are starting to realize they don't have to be absent to vote absentee," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said recently. By last Friday the city had received over 7,000 absentee ballot requests — the most ever — of which over 4,000 had already been completed and returned.

It has been a fairly clean election, as local elections go. The only mud came late last week in the form of a weak direct mail piece from supporters of Marsha McLean who made the amateurish mistake of combining a negative with a positive about their candidate — the net effect being a waste of money. And their potentially illegal use of a photo showing the city seal could come back to haunt them.

But that's inconsequential when measured against the type of campaigns that Ferry and Weste have organized. Ferry raised the bar last time around when he spent $30,000 on his campaign, and this year the sky's the limit. Weste is well on her way to waging the first $50,000 council campaign in city history, and with multiple campaign mailers slated to drop in mail boxes the last few days before the election, it looks like she is unstoppable.

The also-rans who can't raise the cash are bellyaching. Of course they wouldn't be, if the roles were reversed.

Candidates who can raise $50,000 in a city election have to have an incredibly broad base of support, and here's why. Under city law, nobody can give a candidate more than $250. You do the math. For a candidate to raise $50,000, she would have to raise funds from a minimum of 200 different sources. In truth, most contributions come in increments of $50 or less, translating into hundreds, even thousands, of financial supporters.

If I were a betting man I'd put my money on Weste, pardon the pun.

If there is to be a spoiler this time, it is Cameron Smyth. Smyth minces few words about his desire to serve in the state Assembly or Senate one day. I've got nothing against ambition, but to me, serving this city takes a special kind of dedication. The City Council isn't just another political job. I would hope candidates are more interested in serving their city than in using City Hall as a place to pass through on their way to a career in Sacramento.

Jo Anne Darcy barely needs to lift a finger in this election. All the polls show that she will return to office next Tuesday.

And well she should. At the risk of repeating last week's commentary, Jo Anne has served this city and its people with grace, dignity and devotion. Even before city formation in 1987, Jo Anne was making this a special place to live through her tireless volunteer work with the SCV Senior Center, the Walk of Western Stars and as executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

While on the council she has been president of the statewide Independent Cities Association, a state film commissioner and president of the North County Transportation Coalition, seeking solutions to our regional transportation needs.

Not even their opponents can question Jo Anne Darcy's or Laurene Weste's integrity and commitment to our community.

A parks commissioner since 1988, Laurene has been the sparkplug behind the creation of every new park, recreational program and trail in this city. She has been involved both as a city commissioner and a private citizen in curbing gang activity and providing safe alternatives for latchkey kids.

Another candidate who knows something about kids is Frank Ferry. It's the rare teacher who is as highly admired by his students. Frank is a hard worker whose volunteer efforts demonstrate his passion for Santa Clarita. He has solid ideas for solving our traffic problems and making us the number-one safest city in America.

On Tuesday, please vote for Darcy, Ferry and Weste — not because they WILL win, but because they SHOULD.

    Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident.

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