The partying started early for education activist Laura Rosenthal at Taverna Tony restaurant Tuesday night, when absentee ballots were counted, showing a clear lead for her out of the 10 candidates running for two Malibu City Council seats. By 10 p.m. television producer Lou La Monte, one of the quieter campaigners during the race, was running in second place, with only 53 votes ahead of John Mazza.
After polls closed, Rosenthal received 1,607 votes and La Monte, 1,235. Mazza got 1,182 votes and Steve Scheinkman came in fourth with 1,083 votes.
“I’m happy for myself, but I’m really happy for Malibu,” Rosenthal said of her win.
Rosenthal, the only female running in the race, said her first goals as a new city council member include working on a grey water ordinance and reevaluating controversial renovation plans for the new city hall, to be located at the former Malibu Performing Arts Center.
“I want to start mending rifts developed in the city, and bring us all together and make us one city again,” she said Tuesday night.
La Monte described his possible win as “absolutely fantastic,” and said the first goal he aims to achieve as a new city council member is getting the California Highway Patrol back to Pacific Coast Highway “to make this a safe place again.”
Nearby at Charlie’s restaurant, Scheinkman and Mazza held their campaign party, which was standing-room only.
“It’s not over yet,” Mazza said Tuesday night. “It’s unfortunate that negative campaigning works in Malibu. Two hundred fifty nine provisional ballots have not been counted yet. I want to say thank you, Malibu. We ran a very professional campaign and had to fight a very dirty opposition. It’s the people who care who worked on this campaign.”
“John and I are proud of the campaign we ran,” Scheinkman said Tuesday night. “We tried to focus on the issues and ran a clean and respectful campaign. Right now, it’s too close other than to congratulate and wish Laura [Rosenthal] the best; and she’ll act in the best interests of Malibu.”
As results from the election came in, supporters of Mazza and Scheinkman were melancholy, but then became excited and optimistic. After the first four out of seven precincts were reported, Mazza was only behind La Monte by 21 votes, 894 to 873.
“The suspense is killing me, I can’t stand it!” one attendee said.
Others wondered whether candidates Ed Gillespie, Michael Sidley and Harold Greene had taken votes away from Mazza and Scheinkman. But as the remaining results were reported, the mood turned somber again, as Rosenthal and La Monte edged out Mazza and Scheinkman once and for all (not including the provisional ballots, which are not yet counted). Before leaving for the evening, supporters broke into applause and said in unison “Thank you for running!”
Both Rosenthal and La Monte were joined by more than 200 people at their campaign celebration Tuesday night, including rival city council candidates Kofi, Matthew Katz, Harold Greene and Jan Swift.
Katz and Greene said they would not run in the next election.
“Tomorrow, whether I’ve won or not, my dog will still love me, which puts my priorities in the right place,” Greene said. “If Scheinkman doesn’t win, he should run again as an independent when he gets more experience under his belt.”
Katz said, “Even though I’m not elected, I’m going to keep going to the council, keep demanding answers, keeping accusing them and keep pointing fingers.”
Responding to whether or not he would run in the next election, Kofi said, “My job is always to add value to people’s lives so I serve everyday. I don’t need a city council platform to add value. I don’t pay attention to numbers. Everyone’s a winner.”
Also in attendance were Mayor Sharon Barovsky and Councilmember Andy Stern, whose seats will be taken by Rosenthal and possibly La Monte.
“I am thrilled to be handing the torch over to two great people who will be excellent council members,” Stern said.
Barovsky, during a public celebratory speech delivered when the election results were announced, said, “In all the elections I’ve been involved in this is the election that really pleases me the most. I’m just so excited and pleased. I had great fears about who was going to [replace us] and I wanted to feel good abut who was going to be there.”
She also said she supported Rosenthal and La Monte because they represented honesty and positivity.
Former Malibu Mayor Ken Kearsley also attended the Rosenthal/La Monte party, and said he was not surprised by Rosenthal’s win.
“She ran a good campaign and got a lot of grass roots support,” Kearsley said, adding that if La Monte didn’t win it was because he was less known.
Jimy Tallal contributed to this story.