By Andrea Swayne
Scott Schoeffel, the incumbent Dana Point city councilman on the ballot, captured 29.7 percent of the vote to win reelection Tuesday.
Carlos Olvera, former Dana Point Historical Society president and past planning commissioner was also elected, winning 27.1 percent of the vote in a close race for the second open seat against current Planning Commissioner Norm Denton, who ended the day earning 25.2 percent.
In fourth place was candidate Ed Stevenson with 17.9 percent.
Schoeffel watched the results come in at an informal gathering with colleagues, family and friends at Olamendi’s Mexican Restaurant in Capistrano Beach on Election Night. He remained confident as the returns consistently showed him holding a comfortable lead throughout the evening as results were updated in 30-minute increments by the Orange County Registrar’s Office.
The race to watch was the contest between Denton and Olvera, as the two traded places a few times, coming within a handful of votes of each other at certain points. It wasn’t until the second to last update at 12:30 a.m. that it became clear who the second-place finisher would be.
While Schoeffel joined forces with Denton to campaign, he said he would be happy to work with either Denton or Olvera.
“It was a close and exciting race and I’m looking forward to welcoming Carlos to the council and continuing with the important work that we’re doing for our residents, businesses and visitors,” Schoeffel said. “I am also very grateful to the community for affirming their confidence in my leadership.”
Denton was admittedly disappointed in the outcome but wished to thank those that helped with his campaign and the residents who gave him their vote of confidence at the polls.
“It was a night of ups and downs,” Denton said. “It was not the result I was looking for but I want to thank all my supporters for a hard fought race.”
Olvera said he fully expected to be in a close contest with Denton and despite seeing the vote tally bringing them back-and-forth between the second and third spot, at times within less than a dozen votes, he kept the faith.
“Watching the results come in was pretty much what I expected. Denton was a formidable competitor and I was not surprised to be in such a close race with him. I’ve known Norm for a long time. We have worked together in the past—I as a part of the Historical Society and Norm as a planning commissioner—on historic preservation projects and I have the utmost respect for him.” Olvera said. “Even with the votes so close, I didn’t give up. The positive feedback I received from supporters throughout my campaign led me to hold on to the belief that as long as there were more votes left to count I still had a good chance.”
Olvera said his decision to run came when only Schoeffel and Denton had announced their intention to run for the two open seats early on. While he has thought about and been encouraged to run for City Council in the past, this year he decided to throw his hat in the ring, because he didn’t want to see the two seats filled by default, with no other choices.
“I am very pleased with the outcome of this election and my main goal is to ensure that residents of Dana Point continue to come first,” Olvera said. “We are a destination resort city. That is our tax base. We have a good city staff that listens to the council and I am proud to now be a part of it.”
The fourth candidate, Ed Stevenson, also chose to run because he believed the people of Dana Point deserved more choices and because he believed that as a newcomer to city government he could provide a fresh, outside perspective.
“Am I disappointed? Sure; of course. Did I know I had some limitations going in? I did,” Stevenson said, noting that being relatively unknown in the Dana Point political scene as well as suffering an eye injury early in his campaign had a somewhat negative effect on his chances for election.
At about the same time he filed his candidate papers, Stevenson suffered a detached retina and underwent surgery to correct it. The injury was a major factor in his decision to concentrate more on his health than the campaign and to declare that his campaign would neither spend nor raise more than $1,000.
“I absolutely don’t want to sound like my eye situation is an excuse, but the timing was horrible,” Stevenson said. “Once I made the decision to adhere to a $1,000 campaign limit, I tried to make the most of it. I tried to make it work for me, along with the fact that I was the ‘outsider’ candidate.”
Stevenson said he still believes he has what it takes to win a City Council seat, including past political experience and the strong support of family and friends in getting his message out, but the outsider image he thought was an advantage was simply overshadowed by the other candidates’ many years of service to the community. Before moving to California, Stevenson was heavily engaged in the political scene of New York’s Suffolk County, but upon relocation to the West Coast, found himself more focused on raising children and either coaching or managing their sports teams, he said.
“This election prompted my desire to reengage in local politics. I really enjoyed the process and gained some valuable experience,” Stevenson said. “I enjoyed getting to know the other candidates and there is not a negative thing I can say about any of them. In two years there will be three spots open and I am already considering another run at it. In fact, the campaign has led me to consider returning to the public sector professionally as well, should the right opportunity arise.”
One of the most important issues the City Council will face going into the new year are the Town Center and Doheny Village Revitalization Plans.
Both Schoeffel and Olvera have been quoted as saying they want both projects to move along more quickly and will work toward helping to make that happen during their time as city councilmen.
Olvera said he favors creating a roadmap of some sort for the plans, to provide more clear direction as well as measurable milestones for the projects.
“The main thing is to create a list of steps to accomplish, so residents and business people can understand the time frame to completion,” Olvera said. “I too have been involved in the Town Center plan for over 20 years, so this is not a new project to me.”
As for some of the negative campaigning reported during this election season in the City Council race as well as other local races—robo calls and hit pieces—both newly elected councilmen said they prefer not to dwell on that.
“It comes with the territory. It’s just an unfortunate part of politics but I believe the final vote reflects the voters’ sentiment in me and shows that they believe as I do, that past community involvement speaks volumes.”
The two will take their new places on the City Council in December joining Steven Weinberg, Lisa Bartlett and Bill Brough. Mayor Lara Anderson will be leaving City Council, as she has termed out.
CITY OF DANA POINT CITY COUNCIL RESULTS
Number to Vote for: 2
Completed Precincts: 30 of 30
Vote count, percentage
Vote Count Percentage
J. SCOTT SCHOEFFEL 5,704 29.8%
CARLOS N. OLVERA 5,189 27.1%
NORM DENTON 4,828 25.2%
ED STEVENSON 3,426 17.9%