CITY HALL — For months it’s been billed as a historic election, with a wave of Republican victories expected to send some longtime Democratic incumbents packing and shift the balance of power in Congress.
But you wouldn’t have known it in Santa Monica on Tuesday, where outside of the City Hall polling station the lone demonstrators were a couple of Santa Monica College students from a pro-choice club who were holding signs in support of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown.
If there were any members of the Tea Party faithful flooding the polls, they went about their business quietly. Unsurprisingly, anecdotal evidence collected outside of City Hall showed a definite liberal streak among local voters.
Robin Manzer, who rode her bike to City Hall, said she was most passionate about voting for Democrats in the top-of-the ticket races and voting to approve Prop. 19, the state initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use and allow cities to adopt their own taxes and regulations for its sale.
“I would love to see the state rake in all of that un-captured revenue,” she said.
Twenty-year Santa Monica resident Terri Lee said she was partially motivated to vote by fear — but not the kind that Glenn Beck pedals on his Fox News program.
“I’m scared that Sarah Palin is going to end up president someday if people don’t wake up,” she said.
But with both national parties emphasizing the importance of get-out-the vote efforts, there appeared to be one national trend that was holding true locally, at least in the early going.
Eric Weinstein, a precinct inspector at City Hall’s polling station, said turnout by early afternoon had been “twice what I would have guessed.”
As of 4 p.m., an estimated 30.3 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles County had cast ballots at the polls, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office.
The figure is based on a survey of 30 selected voting precincts countywide, according to Eileen Shea of the registrar-recorder’s office.
There were 4,449,415 registered voters in the county as of Oct. 19, the close of registration to vote in this midterm election, Shea said.
More than a million of those registered voters had requested vote-by- mail ballots — a record high, she said.
Long after news organizations announced Republicans had won a majority in the House, candidates for local offices and their supporters remained tense, awaiting the first polling numbers.
A wide swath of Santa Monica voters were particularly anxious over the outcome of Measure Y, the proposed half percent sales tax increase.
Shari Davis, co-chair of the Yes on Y campaign, said calls to voters were still being made 20 minutes before polls closed at 8 p.m.
“Our volunteers went above and beyond to inform voters and get them out to vote today,” she said.
The campaign was planning to host a reception at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel to watch the results roll in.
Outside of City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, Ocean Park resident Kristina Andresen expressed the opinion of many when she said Measure Y was top-of-mind.
“What’s going on with the schools is really important to everyone,” she said, referencing the possibility the measure’s passage could result in a $6 million annual windfall for local public schools.
With a deep lineup of candidates running for City Council, Andresen said she was still mulling her choices as she headed in to vote.
“I guess I’ll make my decision when I’m standing in the booth,” she said.
Altogether, 10 candidates vying for three four-year terms on the council were on the ballot. Jeff Decker was the lone qualified write-in candidate seeking election.
In the race for two, two-year council terms, five candidates were on the ballot.
At candidate forums in recent weeks the future of the Santa Monica Airport, Measure Y and, of course, development and traffic proved to be the central campaign issues.
In the contest for four Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District seats, eight candidates were in the running.
The school board contest pit a group of well-funded challengers against three Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights-backed incumbents who were seeking new terms.
With multi-million dollar school district budget cuts in each of the last two years, it was up to the incumbents to convince voters the district weathered the state budget crisis in relatively good shape because of their leadership. New-comers were at times pointedly critical of the sitting board, with some challengers accusing members of financial mismanagement.
Despite moments of contention and some campaign tactics that prompted criticism, local races were nevertheless civil when compared with statewide and national races.
Amy Clark, another Santa Monica resident who came to City Hall to vote Tuesday afternoon, said she was turned off by television attack ads in the races for governor and U.S. Senator, but felt differently about local politicians.
“I’m a community oriented person in Santa Monica and feel like this is my chance to hopefully make a difference,” she said. “I find it very positive within the city.”