Silverstein, Grisanti, Uhring Lead Council Race as Election Day Counting Ends

Election 2020

Though Malibuites may not officially know for several days who their three new city council members will be, candidates Bruce Lee Silverstein, Steve Uhring and Paul Grisanti maintained slim but steady leads through election night, Nov. 3, and as the LA County Registrar-Recorder’s Office announced “semi-final results” at nearly 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4.

The three highest vote-getters will fill seats vacated by 2016’s “Team Malibu” slate, which consisted of Skylar Peak, Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner and Rick Mullen. Peak and Wagner are terming out, while Mullen was running for re-election this round—but, as of Wednesday morning, seemed to have fallen short, coming in at seventh place as of latest results. 

Aside from Silverstein, Grisanti, Uhring and incumbent Mullen, four other Malibuites were in the race. Doug Stewart came within 150 votes of Uhring’s third-place spot at one point during the night, though he remained in fourth place as of 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. Mark Wetton, Andy Lyon and Lance Simmens made up the other council hopefuls. 

The 2:30 a.m. vote count was: 

1. Bruce Lee Silverstein (1,979)

2. Steve Uhring (1,890)

3. Paul Grisanti (1,888)

4. Doug Stewart (1,747)

5. Andy Lyon (1,675)

6. Mark Wetton (1,666)

7. Rick Mullen (1,291)

8. Lance Simmens (846)

Final results might not come in for a few days as there were “still many outstanding ballots to be counted,” the county registrar’s office wrote.

The only local ballot measure for Malibu voters this year was Measure T, which would increase transient occupancy tax (TOT) from 12 to 15 percent. The tax is levied on tourism-related businesses such as short-term rentals. According to Ballotpedia, the measure would generate an estimated $775,000 annually for municipal services. The measure had garnered 2,877 “yes” votes and 2,144 “no” votes as of “semi-final results” on Wednesday.

Also on the ballot were three seats on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, for which eight candidates ran. But none of those candidates was from Malibu, which is only represented by one current board member, Craig Foster. 

By the early morning hours of Wednesday, two incumbents led that race: Jon Kean (with 19,455 votes) and Maria Leon-Vazquez (with 18,392 votes), followed by newcomer Jennifer Smith in third place (with 17,554 votes). 

Earlier this year, Foster endorsed both Kean and Smith, but argued vehemently against the re-election of Leon-Vazquez: “Twenty years [on school board] is more than enough,” Foster wrote of his fellow board member, saying that Leon-Vazquez’s five terms so far had “given her reflexively anti-Malibu bias.”

This year’s pandemic coincided with a massive overhaul of voting in LA County, where vote centers replaced precincts, allowing all county residents to vote at any center countywide. In addition to new voting equipment—tablets replaced traditional paper ballots—all voters in the county received vote-by-mail ballots and were encouraged to avoid vote centers when possible by using ballot drop-boxes or mailing their ballots, free of charge. 

Vote centers in Malibu were notably quiet on Tuesday and during early voting in the lead-up to the election, devoid of the usual lines of voters waiting to cast ballots. At midday on Election Day, vote center workers reported there had been no lines that day at any of Malibu’s three vote centers.

On average, Los Angeles poll workers are in their 60s and 70s, but because those age groups are highly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the county recruited more than 200 LA County Lifeguards to serve in their stead. 

Many of those lifeguards were first-time poll workers, such as Deirdre Fisher and Liz Krystofik, who led the way at Webster Elementary. Fisher lives “up Encinal,” while Krystofik, a 2015 Pepperdine graduate, lives in Ventura.

“It was great to get a location close to work, here in Malibu,” Kystofik said. The pair joked that the location was perfect in case they were needed for an ocean rescue at their home beach, Zuma. 

They were even cheerful about working on Halloween: “That was fun. We saw crazy costumes. We even saw an inflatable T-Rex,” Krystofik said. 

All three Malibu voting centers reported that they had seen about 100 voters per day since they opened, with about double that number on Election Day. 

A 60-year-old election worker, Charlie, who declined to give his last name but said he lives “up Corral” and grew up on Broad Beach, said he was “the only old guy—everybody else [training to work at Malibu Christian Science Church vote center] was a kid.”

It’s kind of exciting being here,” Charlie continued. “The community feel has been tremendous, the sense of community … I don’t know if politics matters in that.”

Other races

At 2:30 a.m., George Gascón (with 1,495,894 votes) led incumbent Jackie Lacey (with 1,284,244 votes) in the race for LA County District Attorney. 

In the race for California State Senator, 27th district, Democrat incumbent Henry Stern (with 149,504 votes) defeated Republican opponent Houman Salem (with 78,275 votes).

Richard Bloom, Malibu’s representative on the CA Assembly, was on pace for a landslide victory over his opponent, Will Hess. Bloom had secured 137,781 votes to Hess’ 31,557 vote tally by the time counting paused Wednesday morning. 

In the race for U.S. House Representative, 33rd district, Democrat incumbent Ted W. Lieu (with 211,426 votes) also defeated a Republican challenger, James P. Bradley, who had 95,130 votes.

The presidential election was deemed too close to call, though notable developments throughout the evening included former Vice President Joe Biden flipping Arizona to blue and President Donald Trump continuing to carry many of the states he had in 2016. 

Check back here for up-to-date local election information. Final numbers may not be available for up to 30 days.