Voters Opt for Known Over Unknown at City Council

Michael Cacciotti

So Pas voters stuck to the tried and true for the City Council, even though for the first time in the city’s history the votes were cast from within districts and not citywide, when they returned longtime councilmember, Michael Cacciotti, to a fifth term.

The longtime councilmember defeated 56-year-old Eric Brady, a newcomer to local politics, by a vote of 929 to 357, according to the county returns. Of the 15,620 registered voters for the November general election in South Pasadena, 8,280 exercised their right to vote, about 53.01 percent, which is an unusually high number for a midterm.

Diana Mahmud ran unopposed for District 5 and garnered 1,305 votes.

District 4 had about 2,831 registered voters and District 5 had about 3,527, according to city statistics.

City officials said it was difficult to define the exact boundaries of the districts because they are “an odd shape,” according to Chief City Clerk Marc Donohue. He said the general boundaries for District 4 are east of Fair Oaks Avenue and north of a large portion of Monterey Road, while the boundaries for District 5 are south of a large portion of Monterey Road and east of Huntington Drive.

The city was forced to hold the election by districts because of the threat of litigation last year that claimed So Pas was violating the state’s Voting Rights Act.

Cacciotti, who was first elected to the council in 2001, re-elected in 2005, 2009, and 2013, did not shy away from his longevity on the council. In fact, he declared he was running for District 4 now for the same reason he ran the first time.

Meanwhile, Brady, who started out running a respectful campaign, changed his tone after the candidates’ forum the first week of October. It was at that candidates’ forum that he was called out during the public question portion of the forum, so much so that the moderator counseled Brady to not “take this personally.”

Brady sent out fliers attacking Cacciotti’s special interests and outdated ways of solving problems. Many community members said the negative campaigning turned them away from Brady and into Cacciotti’s camp.

Brady also said he was grateful for the opportunity to run for local office and believed many of the issues he raised were now being finally addressed.

“I am gratified by the experience of running for office for the first time, and I want to thank the many South Pasadena residents who I was lucky enough to meet and talk with during the campaign,” Brady said.  “Also I want to send a special thanks to my campaign volunteers and many well-wishers for their support throughout the race. It’s hard to run against almost 20 years of incumbency. Michael Cacciotti has a lot of people in South Pasadena that have become very accustomed to voting for him. And of course, he has the benefits of being able to raise campaign funds easily after so many years of running for office. Still, I’m proud of our efforts. There were so many people who called, emailed and came to meet with me to discuss their concerns – mainly, that South Pasadena City Council wasn’t necessarily addressing some of the issues that really impact residents. I’m also pleased to see that the City Council has lately begun to work on some of the issues we talked about during our campaign – homelessness, more long term planning when it comes to budget issues, and affordable housing. I feel like we made a difference with our campaign, and that was what this was all about.”

Cacciotti, on the other hand, expressed his relief in winning a fifth time, saying there’s much work still yet to be done on behalf of the city.

“I am humbled and grateful to all the residents and volunteers who supported and voted for me in this election,” Cacciotti said. “I always become a better person and public servant each election as I have the pleasure of walking door to door and personally meeting our community and listening to their concerns and ideas. One resident in the Raymond Hill Neighborhood I met said that I was the first candidate that visited his apartment building in the 18 years he has lived in the city. I am very excited to continue the hard work with my dedicated colleagues on our City Council and our friends on the School Board in making South Pasadena a safe, sustainable and welcoming community in which to live, work, play, raise a family and/or retire.”

Diana Mahmud

Mahmud was brief in her after-election remarks, saying she was grateful for another term on the council and the defeat of the UUT repeal.

“I am very pleased and excited to return to council to work for the benefit of our residents for another four years. Thank you for this privilege. And I am so very grateful to our residents for their resounding rejection of the effort to repeal our Utility User Tax. Special thanks to the No on N co-chairs Yuki Cutcheon and Ed Donnelly, and all the many volunteers who distributed lawn signs, made calls, wrote letters to the editor and donated to the campaign.”

City Treasurer Gary Pia and City Clerk Evelyn Zneimer ran unopposed and were re-elected. These positions are more ceremonial.