Updated: Farrer and Pierson Win on Council, Ballot Measures Pass Easily

Malibu voters take to the polls at the Point Dume Club House in 2018. 

[Update, 8 a.m.:] Longtime school volunteer and activist Karen Farrer, perhaps best known politically as a founder of AMPS (Advocates for Malibu Public Schools), was the top vote-getter in the 2018 Malibu City Council election, securing a seat for herself on council for the next four years. Lifelong Malibu resident, planning commissioner and business owner Mikke Pierson was behind Farrer, after all votes were counted by 3 a.m. the morning after Election Day, earning Pierson the second vacant seat on council.

In total, with all 10 precincts and Vote By Mail ballots reporting results, Farrer earned 1,971 votes, Pierson 1,737. Behind Pierson were Olivia Damavandi, with 1,335; Jim Palmer with 1,093; and Lance Simmens, with 449.

Measure G, proposing an ordinance legalizing recreational marijuana, passed handily, 68.54 percent “Yes” to 31.46 percent “No.”

Measure M, the $195 million Malibu-only school bond, also won on a tide of overwhelmingly “Yes” votes—69.95 percent of voters favored the measure.

Malibu’s representative on the school board, Craig Foster, won re-election, with all incumbent candidates retained in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education race: Laurie Lieberman was the top vote getter, followed by Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jessewein, Oscar de le Torre and Foster. A newcomer, Ann Maggio Tanawalla, did not earn enough votes to win a seat.


It was too early to call the 2018 Malibu City Council race by the time The Malibu Times went to print in the early morning  hours of Wednesday, Nov. 7. 

Five candidates were vying for two open seats on Malibu City Council—Olivia Damavandi, Karen Farrer, Jim Palmer, Mikke Pierson and Lance Simmens. The seats were vacated after council members Lou La Monte and Laura Rosenthal were termed out of office.

With Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots and 70 percent of precincts counted, Farrer was ahead in the race with a total of 1,549 votes, followed by Pierson’s 1,340. Then came Damavandi, earning 1,102, Palmer with 917 and Simmens with 363. Seven precincts had reported results by 1:58 a.m. Wednesday, following polls closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday evening.

By 2 a.m., Measure G, which would legalize recreational marijuana inside the City of Malibu, was ahead with 67 percent of voters in favor of the proposed change. Measure M, a $195 million school bond, was also ahead with 68.5 percent “Yes” votes. Both measures appeared likely to win.

All incumbents were poised for re-election in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education race—Laurie Lieberman had earned the most votes with VBM and 61 percent of polling places showing results. After Lieberman came Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Oscar de la Torre and Craig Foster, with hopeful Ann Maggio Thanawalla behind. The top four vote-getters in that race will earn seats on the school board. All polling places reporting at the time were located in Santa Monica.

With no official numbers available, turnout appeared robust in Malibu for a midterm election widely predicted to draw record numbers nationwide. A total of 2,750 votes were cast for council members (each voter may select up to two candidates) by Vote By Mail voters in 2018, compared to 3,454 in 2016, the year of a presidential election.

Judy Abel, a poll worker inspector at Fire Camp 8 (serving residents of unincorporated Malibu) said her precinct was busy all day Tuesday, despite hiccups. Fire Camp 8 was altered to include some residents from Pepperdine, as well as Latigo and Corral canyons. 

“It was a far drive for many unfamiliar with the new location to vote and confusing for many voters as well, who got lost driving up Las Flores to get to the location on Rambla Pacifico, which is serviced by a private road,” Abel wrote in an email to The Malibu Times—where she is also a freelance reporter.

Abel said turnout at the polling location was “very busy,” but pointed out it was not clear whether that was due to an expansion of the area the precinct served.

Outside Malibu, some races were ready to be called by Tuesday evening, including the campaigns for governor and state senator.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D) was 16 percentage points ahead of his Republican opponent, John Cox, in the gubernatorial race with more than half of polling places reporting results. Newsom will take over for termed-out Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) was re-elected to her sixth term in Washington, defeating challenger Kevin de León, also a Democrat. 

Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat representing Malibu in the 33rd District, defeated Republican challenger Kenneth Wright. The LA Times called the race for Lieu with only 18 percent of precincts reporting.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a Democrat, ran unopposed for his seat representing District 50.