Local City Council Election Results Reveal Mixed Preferences

People+walk+out+of+the+polling+area+in+San+Mateo+County.+Polling+booths+had+to+be+re-imagined+to+fit+COVID-19+social+distancing+regulations.+Photo+courtesy+of+Reena+Kagan.

People walk out of the polling area in San Mateo County. Polling booths had to be re-imagined to fit COVID-19 social distancing regulations. Photo courtesy of Reena Kagan.

Sylvie Venuto, News Editor

In addition to the ongoing vote counting for the 2020 presidential election, local elections were held on Nov. 3, with a total of 32 local elections held in San Mateo County.

City Council members make up the City Council, serving four-year terms and acting as the legislative body for the city. The City Council annually selects the Mayor from the City Council members. The Mayor represents the city at ceremonial and public functions and is the lead officer of the city, according to the Menlo Park website

Elizabeth Lewis and Diana Hawkins-Manuelian won the two Town of Atherton City Council positions. Ray Muller won the City of Menlo Park District 5 City Council position, and Jen Wolosin won the City of Menlo Park District 5 City Council position. Lisa Guathier, Carlos Romero and Webster Lincoln won the three City of East Palo Alto City Council positions, according to the San Mateo County voting and election results page.

Menlo alum Antonio Lopez (‘12), who ran for East Palo Alto City Council on a platform of “essential issues that [he has] seen since [he] was growing up” in East Palo Alto, narrowly lost his race. Lopez came in fourth place, with a total of 1,931 votes, which is equivalent to 15.21% of the vote, according to the San Mateo County website. The loss is particularly poignant, given that the top three finishers — Guathier, Romero and Lincoln from first to third place finish — are to receive spots on the East Palo Alto City Council for a four year term, according to the City of East Palo Alto website. Lopez trailed Lincoln by only 127 votes, or a total of 1%, according to the San Mateo voting and election results page.

One of the main differences in local elections across Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto was the differing issues of importance to the inhabitants of each city. East Palo Alto has a median household income of $64,794, 12.6% of people living in poverty and 40.6% of the population were immigrants in 2018, according to the United States Census Bureau’s 2018 survey of East Palo Alto. The major most contentious issues of the city council election in East Palo Alto were the housing crisis, the pandemic and police reform, according to East Palo Alto’s website.

However, in nearby Atherton, which has a median household income of $250,00+, 3.4% of people living in poverty and where 20.8% of the population were immigrants in 2018, according to the United States Census Bureau’s 2018 survey of the town of Atherton, the most contentious issue was the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which provides protection to Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and neighboring unincorporated areas in addition to Atherton.

Of the estimated 21,194 residents over the age of 18 in East Palo Alto, a total of 12,699 people voted in the City Council members election. This voter turnout represented just over 59.9% of the residents over the age of 18. Much differently, in Atherton, 5,332 of the 5,502 residents over the age of 18 voted in the City Council election, over 96.9% of residents over the age of 18.

Additionally, campaigning rules in each city differed based on the local law. In East Palo Alto, no one entity (person or committee) is allowed to contribute over $500 to a certain candidate who is running for East Palo Alto City Council, according to the East Palo Alto Code of Ordinances section 2.68.010 about the limits on campaign contributions. Lopez raised a total of $23,240.12 through 279 donations, according to the Donorbox for the Committee to Elect Antonio Lopez for City Council. Similarly, to allow for transparency, in the Town of Atherton, candidates who spend more than $2,000 in a calendar year are required to fill out a form declaring their donations, according to the Town of Atherton’s elections guidelines page.