‘People were just tired of the same old thing’
November 9, 2005
Supporters, political pundits and even an opponent of Norma Santiago, who captured Tahoe’s District 5 seat on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors with the most votes late Tuesday night, have theorized her victory may have a deeper meaning than popularity.
Many people believe the South Lake Tahoe woman could have represented a candidate that motivated anti-establishment or Democratic voters seeking a new face and fresh approach. She ran against South Shore attorney Dennis Crabb – who waged an expensive campaign for the seat – as well as businessman Lou Pierini and mobile notary Stephen Reinhard.
“I think that disconnect I talk about in the community was cemented in the BID, even though it’s a city issue,” Santiago said. “But quite frankly, people were just tired of the same old thing. We’ve had the same problems for years, and nothing seems to get resolved. I know the Democrats showed up. But I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent; everybody knows we need change, and that change needs to be progressive,” she said Wednesday morning after getting less than three hours of sleep.
With more votes to be counted before final results are posted, the county Elections Department is unable to come up with a party and demographic breakdown yet.
Santiago mentioned being a Hispanic woman as a possible factor in the race.
“Norma is really a fresh voice,” said Pat Banner, who serves on the city’s Latino Affairs Commission. She believes an area with a population over 30 percent Hispanic is long overdue for this representation in local office.
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Several people commended her get-out-the-vote campaign and vigilant volunteers. Santiago received endorsements from the Democratic and Green parties, and members came out to help her walk the streets with her message.
“She’s a part of the community and really understands the voters,” said Michael Donahoe, president of Sierra Club’s Tahoe chapter.
Pierini, who garnered 28.1 percent of Tahoe votes, believes he and Santiago (33.9 percent) split votes against Crabb.
“There’s the anti-establishment thing, but the most important factor was she played the two-party system,” he said. “I think nationally there’s an anti-Republican movement going on.”
Pierini was referring to President Bush’s low approval ratings and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initiatives losing Tuesday. He and Crabb are Republicans. Reinhard has no party affiliation.
Lake Tahoe Community College sociology instructor Scott Lukas agreed, citing New Jersey’s and Virginia’s Democratic-driven upsets.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued a statement Wednesday pointing to Dean’s party as the reason for Schwarzenegger’s resounding defeats.
LTCC Political Science instructor Steve Adams said he believes the outcome is based on a “backlash against the establishment.”
“I think the days of the good-old boy-network is over. A lot of people up here are uptight about what’s going on. I think the mid-term elections (next year) will be telling,” Adams said.
Bill Crawford, who has never had a loss of words on the perceived establishment, said these times remind him of his winning one of three seats in the 1998 race for City Council. He spent $80.
“My election proved you can beat the big money,” he said.
According to financial disclosure reports for the period ending Oct. 22, Santiago spent $8,548 – far short of the $47,242 Crabb put out.
With all 24 precincts reporting, Santiago raked an unofficial tally of 33.9 percent – 1,796 votes. The county registrar reminded the district that 6,500 absentees and 102 provisional ballots still need to be counted. He estimated the counting will be completed by Tuesday. The election is expected to be certified Nov. 18 – with a second election due in June to determine the winner of another four-year term.
For now, Santiago said she’s eager to get started on her new post. After 16 years, she’s leaving her job at Tahoe Women’s Care to go to work for the county, where her salary will be $64,459.
On Wednesday morning, she placed “thank-you” postings on her campaign signs.