Election night 2013 ends with Najarian, Friedman, and Sinanyan in lead; estimated 4,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted.
By Ted AYALA
The night dragged on, but the spirits of the two-dozen city staffers and volunteers at Election Day headquarters never ebbed. Beginning at 8 p.m., ballots submitted in Tuesday’s city election were processed and counted. Ballot boxes from Glendale’s various precincts arrived in carts throughout the night. Then, just a little after midnight, cheers and applause were heard. The counting was over – for the evening.
With 20,343 votes cast and a voter turnout of 18.2%, the results of Election Day 2013 in Glendale had been confirmed. But for some candidates, it was too soon to declare victory. Approximately 4,000 provisional ballots have yet to be counted. According to City Clerk Ardashes Kassakhian, the process to certify those ballots may take up to two weeks.
“I can guarantee you that the numbers you see tonight will change when we count those ballots,” he said. “Those ballots may very well change the outcome for some candidates.”
At the end of the evening, incumbent Glendale City Councilmembers Ara J. Najarian and Laura Friedman held their seats. Zareh Sinanyan secured third place, taking the place of outgoing councilmember Frank Quintero, who did not run. Najarian held a wide lead through the whole evening, with nearly 2,000 votes separating him from Friedman.
Najarian arrived around 8:40 p.m. to observe the tallying process and to speak to some of his campaign aides, who were also observing the count. Smiling and looking upbeat, he stayed briefly before heading off to his vote-counting party at Phoenicia, a nearby Lebanese restaurant.
“Not to be confused with the ancient civilization,” he added before stepping out.
His campaign staff was in a more sober mood, reflecting on the challenges posed not only by Najarian’s challengers in Glendale but also by the fight he ultimately won to retain his seat on the Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) board of directors – a fight that pitted him against fierce opposition from the cities of Alhambra, San Marino, and Duarte, not to mention from L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
In the end, though, Najarian’s staff shared their candidate’s optimism.
“We ran a great campaign,” said Hrag Kitsinian, Najarian’s campaign manager. “We’re feeling very confident tonight.”
The battle for second and third place in the Glendale City Council race turned out to be more volatile, with Friedman and former city worker Sam L. Engel, Jr. in the respective top slots at the start of the evening before their lead crumbled with a surge from Zareh Sinanyan and Chahe Keuroghelian. Both of them held the second and third place until late in the evening when Friedman again assumed second place, Sinanyan falling to third. Keuroghelian dropped to fourth place while Engel stalled at a distant fifth.
Sinanyan’s strong showing Tuesday night was a stunning comeback after a month of being dogged by controversy over racist and homophobic remarks allegedly made by him on YouTube were discovered last month. Sinanyan has acknowledged the controversy by stating that the comments do not reflect his beliefs but he has stopped short of actually denying the accusations.
Though major figures rescinded their support in the wake of the scandal – most notably Congressman Adam Schiff – strong backing from the city’s Armenian community, as well as the support of Councilmember Rafi Manoukian, enabled Sinanyan to pull ahead. His battle may not be over yet, however. Some 800 votes stand between him and Keuroghelian, who also posted strong results and has enjoyed Manoukian’s boosting in the past.
Manoukian himself was also a candidate, though not an incumbent for city council. Instead he campaigned to become city treasurer, a position which the current incumbent, Ron Borucki, declined to run for again. Running unopposed, Manoukian was assured victory, though opposition of a sort was mounted by Measure A, which sought to make the position of city treasurer one appointed by the city manager rather than by popular vote. That measure was soundly crushed: 11,602 votes opposing the measure with just over 4,000 in favor.
Another measure that went down in defeat was Measure C, which would have allowed the city to bypass the open-bidding process for bond issuances. The gap between the “yes” and “no” votes, about 1,700, is narrow enough to leave the possibility of the result being overturned by the counting of the provisional ballots.
The Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) school board race was also hard-fought. Armina Gharpetian, who amassed the largest war chest of all the candidates, came in at a solid second place, with incumbents Greg Krikorian and Christine Walters placing first and third respectively.
The race for city clerk generated some heat earlier last month, though incumbent Kassakhian quickly pulled a commanding lead that would not be relinquished. His challenger, Stephanie Landregan, who ran on a platform of vote-counting transparency, was among those watching the tallying. Though she lost, Landregan was beaming all night as she and a friend viewed the results of the election online. She also expressed approval for how the City Clerk Office managed this year’s ballot counting.
“They’ve done a good job,” she said. “And isn’t this a great thing for all of [the city] to take pride in?”