Victors call win a vote for Malibu

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Ken Kearsley says the election of the incumbents and Pamela Conley Ulich was a victory for Malibu. Walt Keller says it was a loss, and the residents don’t even know yet.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

Tracy Domingo Special to The Malibu Times

A joyous crowd erupted Tuesday night at the Malibu Inn as the results came in from the seventh and final precinct to clinch the City Council election victories for Jeff Jennings, Ken Kearsley and Pamela Conley Ulich. The three then got on stage together to address their supporters.

“This is a huge victory for Malibu,” Kearsley said.

Meanwhile, at Granita Restaurant a small number of people remained as it became apparent Walt Keller, Jay Liebig and John Mazza were not going to win. Liebig said he was disappointed with the results, but said he and others opposed to the current City Council would continue to remain active in Malibu politics.

“We’re going to stick to this council like glue,” Liebig said. “We’re going to keep fighting for the next two years for sure. In two years, we will take back the City Council for Malibu.”

The 2004 City Council campaign was a battle between the incumbents, Jennings and Kearsley, and those who were endorsed by Malibu Community Action Network, Keller, Liebig and Mazza. Conley Ulich often stayed out of the disputes. Residents were bombarded with mailers, brochures and other advertisements depicting opposing sides in a bad light. It was a heated campaign, with accusations of unethical behavior coming from the two sides about their opponents. This was despite the city having hired an ethics consultant to oversee the election.

In the last two weeks of the campaign, Malibu CAN activist Ozzie Silna sent out three brochures that depicted the incumbents as being pro-development and Conley Ulich as being silent on the issue. Jennings said he believed voters were able to see through the brochures as being propaganda.

“You can’t think that they did not have any effect on the voters,” Jennings said. “But I think the encouraging thing is the voters took the time to look through the political rhetoric.”

But those attending the gathering at Granita were insistent that the current council was pro-development, and some of them said the results of Tuesday’s election were devastating to the city’s future. “Malibu lost, and the residents don’t even know it yet,” Keller said.

Former Planning Commissioner Jo Ruggles said, “Rural Malibu, as we know it, is gone. This council supports big development and urban amenities.”

Mazza had a more optimistic take on the situation, saying the fight for rural Malibu continues. Mazza, who did not enter the race until mid-March, was a write-in candidate, so his name did not appear on the ballot. He said that probably hurt him in the election. He received 1,234 votes. Mazza said since only 39 percent of the people voted, the results should not be taken as a mandate.

“I am very disappointed in the voter turnout,” Mazza said. “I don’t think the results represent the true feelings of Malibu.”

Kearsley, who received the most votes in the election, said he was proud of Malibu residents for electing him. He said by doing that, they showed a love for the city.

“The voters did not like me,” he said. “They voted for Malibu. They voted for the kids and for the seniors, and for rational behavior.”

Jennings, who received the second-highest vote total, credited his victory to a responsible tone he set during the eight years he has served on council.

Andi Peterson contributed to this story.