The April 2000 City Council race got a little more crowded this week when present Mayor Carolyn Van Horn and former Mayor Jeff Jennings announced they will be candidates for the council.
Van Horn, the longest-serving member of the council, was elected to a two-year term on the first Malibu City Council, in 1990. Thereafter she was re-elected to a full, four-year term in 1992 and to another four-year term in 1996.
Jennings served one term on the council, from 1994 to 1998, after an election in which he edged out Councilman Walt Keller by 51 votes. In his bid for re-election in 1998, he was defeated by 29 votes by Councilman Tom Hasse.
There are currently three open seats in the next council election, and, as of now, there are four officially announced candidates with a fifth probably jumping in shortly. The field also includes Councilwoman Joan House and Planning Commissioner Ken Kearsley. The only other incumbent who has not yet announced is Walt Keller.
Although the names of all of the candidates are the same, what has changed significantly is that there have been and continues to be major shifts in the alliances on the council. Initially, Keller, Van Horn and House were allied. In the last few years, however, that relationship has worsened significantly until it has become evident that Keller and Van Horn are barely on speaking terms with House, and House is often the object of attacks by Keller and Van Horn or their surrogates. The alliance that brought Keller, Van Horn and House to overwhelming victory in 1996 seems totally shattered, and House, who is allied with Councilman Harry Barovsky, is not only running for re-election but is championing the cause of Kearsley.
In another very strange turn of events, Hasse, who is not up for re-election until 2002, has also split with his former allies Keller and Van Horn, and, as is apparent from the letters to the editor (see Keller letter this week in response to Hasse letter last week), it is a split that appears to be growing wider and more acrimonious as time passes. The council tends to split 2 to 2 with Keller and Van Horn on one side, Barovsky and House on the other, and Hasse frequently the swing vote.
The politics of the next election may also be very different. Because the old, slow-growth alliance (of Keller and Van Horn) is apparently now estranged from Hasse, the two have lost what they thought was going to be a dependable third vote on the council, and they are rumored to be looking at a third candidate to run with them. The names of Planning Commissioners Jo Ruggles, Charleen Kabrin and Andy Stern have been mentioned. It is rumored Stern is reluctant to run and the Ruggles candidacy is opposed by Gil and Joanne Segal and some others in that group. It’s unclear if Kabrin is even interested in running. Since Kearsley and House, as did Hasse, also come from that slow-growth group, it’s far from clear how their core group of voters, who have always been very loyal, will vote when faced with having to choose between people they supported in the past and who are now running against each other.