Updated at 6:57 a.m.
Editor's Note: Adds additional quotes and historical context.
Tony Beall, Carol Gamble and Brad McGirr won election to seats on the Rancho Santa Margarita City Council on Tuesday.
With all 31 precincts reporting, Beall was clearly the class of the field, totaling more than twice as many votes as Kenney Hrabik, the businessman who has been very critical of the current mayor.
Here's the voting breakdown for the four-year term, of which there were two seats:
- Tony Beall: 10,095 votes, 44.9 percent
- Carol Gamble: 7,654 votes, 34 percent
- Kenney Hrabik: 4,752 votes, 21.1 percent
Here's the voting breakdown for the two-year term, of which there was one seat:
- Brad McGirr: 5,456 votes, 41.3 percent
- Larry McCook: 4,216 votes, 31.9 percent
- Glenn Acosta: 3,547 votes, 26.8 percent
Beall said Rancho Santa Margarita's overall health was a benefit to the incumbents two years after voters elected new members to the council, Steve Baric and Jesse Petrilla, who was only 28 at the time.
Petrilla endorsed Hrabik, though Baric was noncommittal.
"We proudly ran upon our record of achievement for the residents of RSM—No. 1 safest city in the state, very strong financially with a balanced budget and $20 million in reserves, and I’m gratified the residents appreciate that we have delivered the highest level of municipal services for them, that they appreciate the job we have done for them," Beall said after 1 a.m., before leaving a private residence for home.
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"What we have promised the residents—myself, Carol and Brad—is that we will keep Rancho Santa Margarita moving in that same direction, and that’s what we will do. Our city is a model for cities across the state to emulate."
Hrabik had been an active campaigner, longer than his two opponents in this election season, and his marked vans were parked around town spreading his message. In the end, he was unable to break the grasp of the more seasoned politicians. He had vowed to end health benefits to council members and instill term limits on the council.
He tried to paint the incumbents as greedy politicians, and the environment of the city as non-business friendly. Hrabik, owner of the Dove Canyon Courtyard, had been involved in a contentious fight with neighbors and the City while trying to get a Conditional Use Permit for his wedding/banquet reception venue, a process that took more than two years.
"Tonight is a landslide victory, not just for Tony Beall, Carol Gamble and Brad McGirr, but for Rancho Santa Margarita," Beall said. "It's a reaffirmation of everything that makes our community such a special place to live. And it’s a repudiation of those who would smear their own community and its leaders in an effort to advance their own personal political agendas.
"That means the future of RSM is bright. After years of hard work, the voters realize our city is very strong, our future is bright and they reject those who tried to say otherwise. Results matter, and for years we have delivered exceptional results for the people of RSM."
Perhaps most surprising about the result was the margin of victory in a race that many thought could be close.
"Tonight's victory is a real landslide," Beall said. "When you double by a percentage basis what your opponent receives, that's a real landslide."
Beall's use of the word landslide may have been a chide at Petrilla, who several times referred to his victory in 2010 as a landslide and has at times tried to embarrass Beall on the council dais.
Petrilla became the youngest councilman in city history by winning 22.9 percent of the vote to Steve Baric's 21.4 and Gary Thompson's 21.2. In his "landslide" victory, only 573 votes separated Petrilla from incumbent Neil Blais, who finished fourth and was unseated.
Thompson, an original council member when the city incorporated on Jan. 1, 2000, retired just a couple of months into 2011 to tend to the ailing health of his father, who eventually passed away.
There were 21 residents who applied to fill Thompson's open seat on the council. Hrabik was on the short list of three councilmembers, but it was eventually Gamble who was appointed after Petrilla—training in Fort Knox with the California National Guard—removed himself from the process after an embarrassing teleconference in which he insisted on naming only one candidate on his short list instead of the three the council agreed to name.
Petrilla's one candidate: Hrabik.
Voters on Tuesday seemed to validate the short-handed council's decision at that time by giving Gamble another four years.
Brad McGirr is a planning commissioner for the city—he was appointed by Beall—and will join Beall and Baric as attorney who will sit at the dais. He said during the campaign that the only reason he would run is if he were unhappy with the city's leadership or if there was an opening. There was an opening, created by Jerry Holloway's decision to not run for reelection.
Holloway endorsed McGirr.
McCook finished fifth in the 2010 election, joining the campaign late and running on a shoestring budget; he collected 13.4 percent of the vote from 4,326 residents, and he has been in the community the past two years handing out business cards and introducing himself to anyone close enough to hear him.
Holloway told Patch during the campaign that McCook would be a formidible opponent because "he's starting with a 4,000-vote lead, a reference to those who had already voted for McCook once.
Somewhat surprisingly, McCook received fewer votes than he did in 2010, though he captured a larger percentage against a smaller field.
Updated at 12:22 a.m.
Brad McGirr's wife had enough. She needed to go home and go to bed, so McGirr opted to go home after a night of celebrating with Rancho Santa Margarita City Council members Tony Beall and Carol Gamble.
No longer at Tijeras Creek Country Club, that party had moved to a private residence.
Even though McGirr's wife, Julie, needed to call it a night, McGirr said he wasn't about to go to sleep.
With 11 of 31 precincts reporting, McGirr had 40.0 percent of the vote for the one available two-year seat on the five-person council.
Larry McCook had pulled 33.5 percent, which equated to a 560-vote deficit.
Glenn Acosta had 26.5 percent of the votes, which included absentees and the first reporting precincts.
"I'm going home so my wife can sleep," McGirr said as Election Tuesday turned into Results Wednesday. "I'm going to be up all night watching this. As long as it takes—until I'm comfortable."
He said he may not be comfortable until 25 precincts report.
"I'm new to this, I'm a novice," McGirr said. "Everyone else is saying it's a done deal but I don't feel that way.
"I'll feel better when it's over."
Incumbents Tony Beall (44.9 percent) and Carol Gamble (34.2) still had a comfortable lead for the two available four-year seats ahead of businessman Kenney Hrabik (20.9).
Amid the din of noise at Tijeras Creek Country Club on election night, Jerry Holloway's voice could be made out between laughter and discussion.
"First three term mayor?"
The reference by Holloway was to Tony Beall, who became the first man in Rancho Santa Margarita government to hold the position of mayor in back-to-back years. Beall has been one of the most visible ambassadors in city history, and it looks like a lock that he will go onto the City Council for a third consecutive term.
It also looked like a good night for Carol Gamble, who was one of the city founders and an original council member when the city incorporated on Jan. 1, 2000. She resigned in 2004 to care for her ailing father, but won a two-year appointment over a field of 21 when Gary Thompson resigned last year.
With the absentee vote filing in from RSM's precincts, Beall had 45.3 percent and Gamble 34.4 percent of the first votes counted.
They are running for two available four-year seats. The third man in the race, businessman Kenney Hrabik was lagging at 20.3 percent.
Holloway looked at the numbers and said that Hrabik would have to leap the Grand Canyon in order to get the second seat.
The other council race is for a single two-year seat, and Brad McGirr had the lead with 41.2 percent. Retired CEO Larry McCook was second at 33.9 percent, and civil engineer and Trabuco Canyon Water District board member Glenn Acosta had 24.8 percent.
McGirr was less comfortable with his lead than Beall and Gamble, but he did take some solace when he was informed by Patch that the walkup vote of three of four precincts—City Hall, the Bell Tower Regional Community Center, the library and Park Terrace—had him as the leading vote getter. Acosta was the leading vote getter at the community center with 75 votes to McGirr's 69 and McCook's 64.