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Fortier’s name on ballot may have altered outcome

Since Tuesday’s election, Claire Fortier has affectionately picked up a nickname that Ross Perot may relate to — spoiler.

The Sierra Family Care chief executive officer and journalist said Thursday she’s unsure how to interpret the 475 votes she received during the South Lake Tahoe City Council election, according to El Dorado County’s unofficial results released this week.

Fortier dropped out of the race 17 days after announcing her candidacy.



She cited family and work commitments that made her realize her priorities in life lie elsewhere.

But Fortier received 5.8 percent of the vote, beating two of the eight candidates — Gunnar Henrioulle, who had 5.5 percent and Mark Cutright with 3.6.




“I have no idea why. Everything in my life hasn’t come easy. I don’t know what to make of it,” she said.

To some degree, one feeling comes to mind — regret.

“I really wished I had run. I do feel that at this time I could have done some good,” she said. “It would have sent a huge message if I had won.”

There are various theories over the mind-set of the voters who gave Fortier the nod. They range from voter dissent and support to a strategic conspiracy to ignorance of the fact that she had withdrawn from the race.

“I think the candidates didn’t realize I had people come up to me and say, ‘I’m voting for you anyway,'” she said.

County Registrar Michele Mac Intyre said this voting behavior is common in some circles. She’s heard of an incumbent sheriff in another state who was re-elected after he died.

“People do funny things. We’ve had calls (in El Dorado) from people who ask, ‘How come we don’t have none of the above’ (listed),” she said.

Mac Intyre reported that Fortier missed the deadline to give the county written notification of her pulling out of the race. The deadline for candidates to indicate that they had decided not to run was Aug. 14. The ballot was printed eight days later, with the proofing process extended over the following week.

“She didn’t notify us until after that,” she said.

Fortier formally announced she was pulling out Aug. 29, prompting questions from her supporters and fellow candidates.

“I wonder why she entered the race so late and pulled out so soon?” asked former candidate Michael Phillips, who conceded the third open seat to incumbent Hal Cole by only 75 votes.

“It takes the wind out of your sails. I’m definitely disappointed (that) people are afraid of the unknown, but part of me is relieved,” Phillips said. “I felt I ran a good campaign. I have nothing over my shoulder and no one in my pocket.”

He cites the city’s power structure and campaign donations — which topped a high mark of $56,000 collectively — as contributing to the outcome.

Nonetheless, he refused to rule out running again.

Tuesday night’s showing has apparently taken former candidate Mark Cutright out of City Council politics, referring to this year’s run as a crash course in political maneuvering.

“I learned a lot about the political system and how it works, and thank you very much,” Cutright said, adding his belief that Fortier’s votes influenced the race “if people voted blindly.”

Former candidate Pete Mac Roberts agreed to a certain extent.

“She’s a bit of a spoiler — for her to go in and drop out in days. They should not have put her on the ballot. It definitely disturbed the voting,” he said.

But even without getting elected, Mac Roberts said he’s satisfied with the council members selected.

“I’m going to back all five,” he said.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com


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