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Ace in the Hole



There are two major Humboldt County political parties. I call them the "progressives" and the "conservatives," though I'm more than willing to field other suggestions. Regardless, the salient point of last week's election was that it was the most lopsided contest since the rise of the progressive vote a decade ago.

The conservative sweep of Eureka and county government was all but total. Only District Attorney Paul Gallegos swam against the tide, and by his smallest margin to date. There are still nearly 13,000 absentee and provisional ballots left to be tabulated, which means that Fifth District Supervisorial candidate Patrick Cleary could conceivably overtake opponent Ryan Sundberg when everything is accounted for a few weeks hence. But it would take a considerably stronger late showing than anything Cleary received on Election Night. A few other losing candidates -- including Dave Meserve (Arcata City Council), Ron Kuhnel (Eureka City Council) and Gallegos opponent Allison Jackson -- have slimmer chances of turning it around.

The starkest change of regime was in Eureka, where conservatives now enjoy firm control over city government. The hot-button issue -- Eureka kazillionaire Rob Arkley's big-box anchored Marina Center project on the edge of Old Town -- received overwhelming support at the polls, in the form of Measure N. City government is, for all intents and purposes, out of the loop as regards the proposed development; only the California Coastal Commission and the courts now stand in its way.


They chewed over the results on KMUD's Monday Morning Magazine show this week. Hosts Dennis Huber and Rondal Snodgrass welcomed progressive party leaders Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, Shane Brinton and Pete Nichols to their airwaves, and they all commiserated. To the credit of all involved, the conversation was inward-looking. They mostly agreed that the left had failed the electorate in this go-round. Too many campaigns chased big money instead of working the grassroots. Critically, they agreed, the left failed to articulate its vision: It did not put forth a tangible picture of the city and county it hoped to build.

Near the end of the hour, talk turned to a bit of unfinished business. Who would be appointed to take Neely's seat on the Coastal Commission? The all-powerful state agency, which possesses the final say about land use decisions in coastal California, is a bulwark against wanton development (or against just about any sort of development at all, critics would say). Neely's seat is designated to an elected official from the North Coast. Her defeat means that the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will soon send a nominee, or list of nominees, to Governor-elect Jerry Brown, who will make the choice and the appointment.

Huber, Snodgrass and Nichols started throwing names around. For instance, they said, how about progressive Supervisor Mark Lovelace, the Board of Supes' Arcata representative? All agreed that Lovelace would be a powerful representative, and one who should be given every consideration. (The panel, again to its credit, didn't allow even a hint of vengeance into its tone of voice: "You Republicans don't like Neely? Well, how do you like this?")

I hazard that this would be a high hill to climb, regardless of the fact that Lovelace regularly masters arcane bureaucratic dominions in about a tenth of the time it takes readers of the Times-Standard technology column to figure out Twitter. In the first place, barring a Cleary miracle we are looking at a divided Board of Supervisors. More than that, two members of the previous left-liberal majority -- Jimmy Smith and Cliff Clendenen, both of whom represent conservative districts -- can reasonably be expected to tack at least slightly to the right over the next two years. So it would be unlikely that the board would give the nod to Lovelace, its last remaining dyed-in-the-wool prog.

Closer to the point: Do you remember the name Steven Glazer? That's right -- he's the high-powered PR dude and former mayor of Orinda who Arkley hired to run outreach after lashing out at (outgoing) Eureka City Councilman Larry Glass a few years ago. (See "Town Dandy," Sept. 27, 2007). Previous to that, Glazer consulted on the Marina Center project in some unspecified capacity. Previous to that, he ran a pro-big box political campaign in Cotati.

He's been in the news lately, too. His latest job was to serve as Governor-elect Jerry Brown's campaign manager -- a position that could conceivably give him a few cashable chips, one would think. If Marina Center critics are looking to replace Neely with one of their own, they're going to have to contend with that unpleasant fact.

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