Fullerton: Whitaker Seeking Re-Consideration of Vote On Council District Election Sequencing

Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker has requested re-consideration of the February 21 council vote on which council districts would be on the 2018 and 2020 ballots.  At that meeting, Whitaker voted with Councilmembers Doug Chaffee and Jesus Silva (both Democrats) to schedule District 2 and 5 for the 2018 ballot and Districts 1, 3 and 4 for the 2020 election.

This had the effect of forcing Whitaker’s Republican colleague, Greg Sebourn, off the council in 2018, and subsequently stirred considerable angst in Republican circles.

Some Background
Both Sebourn and Silva were originally elected at-large but both live in District 3. Sebourn is up for re-election to a second full term in 2018. Silva was elected last November and isn’t up for re-election until 2020.

The council had two options for sequencing District 3. Scheduling for the 2018 ballot would allow both Sebourn and Silva to run on equal footing as incumbents. Whomever won would then serve a four-year term as District 3’s representative on the city council.

The other option was placing District 3 on the 2020 ballot. That would allow Silva to complete his at-large term and then run for re-election as the District 3 councilman. Sebourn, however, would be forced off the council in 2018 at the end of his current term. If he chose to run in 2020, it would be as a private citizen.

At the February 21 meeting, Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald (supported by Sebourn) move to place Districts 3 and 5 on the 2018 ballot. Silva made a substitute motion to instead schedule District 2 and 5 for 2018 (which Chaffee). That put Whitaker in the position of casting the deciding vote – and he voted in favor of the Silva-Chaffee plan.

The political impact of that choice is and was obvious. First, it politically short-circuited Sebourn for the reasons noted above. Secondly, it gave Silva a free ride to run for the Board of Supervisors next year from the 4th District – where the Democrats piled up an 8-point registration advantage last year.

If Whitaker had supported the Fitzgerald-Sebourn motion, Silva could still run for supervisor, but would be forced to choose between that or running for a full-term as the District 3 councilman. And even if Silva chose to run for supervisor under this scenario and lost, he would still get to serve out his full at-large council term until 2020 – giving him a semi-free ride.

Generally speaking, councilmembers only request re-consideration when they want to change their vote, so it won’t be surprising if Mayor Whitaker decides, upon further reflection to supporting placing Districts 3 and 5 on the 2018 ballot and Districts 1, 2 and 4 on the 2020 ballot.

Stay tuned.

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