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Dwyer is first incumbent to lose since 1996

Huntington Beach mayor pro tem's vote on a plastic bag ban may have helped cut down his base, leading to him receiving only 10% of the vote this election.

November 14, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Devin Dwyer talks about the various issues facing Huntington Beach during the Surf City Tea Party candidate forum Monday.
Devin Dwyer talks about the various issues facing Huntington… (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

If there's been an upset in this year's Huntington Beach City Council race, historically speaking, it's incumbent Devin Dwyer's fifth-place finish.

Dwyer, the city's mayor pro tem for the last year, held 10% of the vote as of Wednesday morning, placing behind Barbara Delgleize and the three candidates who stand to take the three open seats: Jill Hardy, Jim Katapodis and Dave Sullivan.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters has not yet certified the results, but Dwyer's standing has not changed since last Tuesday.

According to Senior Deputy City Clerk Rebecca Ross, no incumbent council member has lost in Huntington since 1996, when Vic Leipzig (a former Independent columnist) finished fourth. (Sullivan, coincidentally, was also among the candidates who finished ahead of him.)

So what went wrong for Dwyer?

"I think it was a perfect storm when I look back at it, all the things that contributed to it," the councilman said Tuesday.

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As for what could have contributed, Dwyer pointed to a number of possibilities: the influence of the city's police and fire unions, with which he's sometimes been at odds; his shaky relationship with parts of his conservative base; and even the overall Democratic sentiment that accompanied President Obama's reelection victory.

Mayor Don Hansen and Councilman Matthew Harper, who expressed sadness about Dwyer's apparent loss, both surmised that his "yes" vote regarding a plastic bag ban may have played a role in voters' rejection.

The council voted in August 2011 to direct city staff to bring forward a law that would ban stores from using plastic bags — with a few exceptions. The decision sought to reduce litter by encouraging customers to stock reusable bags instead.

Planning Director Scott Hess said the council directed staff to prepare an ordinance and environmental impact report but will not vote on the matter until the city has received enough funds to cover the cost of the report. The city is still awaiting the money.

Hansen said the mayor pro tem may have made other votes that went against traditional Republican philosophy, but the plastic bag ban was the most damaging.

"It's unfortunate for Devin," he said. "I supported Devin and still do. I think that Devin has a couple votes in his record that alienated a good chunk of his base."

Harper, who applauded Dwyer for his work on the council, said the vote may have cost him some key support, including from the Orange County Register, which endorsed Delgleize, Sullivan and Erik Peterson.

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