As elections go, incumbent El Dorado County Supervisor John Knight’s loss to newcomer Ron Mikulaco for the District 1 Supervisor seat was quite a surprise. People across the county are still talking about it and what it means to the district.
Knight outspent Mikulaco 4-to-1 yet it wasn’t enough to retain his seat.
So what happened?
Anti-incumbency sentiment is running deep in El Dorado Hills. Supervisor Knight should have picked up on this after the resounding defeat of former EID director Harry Norris by Alan Day last year. That election result was a harbinger of more to come.
In this armchair political observer’s opinion, Knight just didn’t view Mikulaco as a very strong opponent. And judging by Mikulaco’s shallow understanding of the issues and his weak performance in public debates, this opinion appears justified. But attendance at those debates was sparse. And many of those attending did so to support their candidate.
The final vote numbers in El Dorado Hills speak for themselves. Just 9,239 or 31 percent of all eligible voters went to the polls to cast a vote. Of a total population of 42,108 residents there are 29,678 people 18 years and older. Of that total Mikulaco received 4,981 votes to Knight’s 4,237. This means Mikulaco won this election with just 16.8 percent support.
Are voters (or shall I say residents) in El Dorado Hills that detached from important issues impacting them? To be fair, this district isn’t alone in voter apathy. Statewide turnout at the polls averaged a paltry 24 percent.
One need not look very far to see what ails the state. Just look at those currently representing us now — Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and you get the point.
But closer to home, we expect residents to understand the issues affecting them. So it’s questionable why there’s so much of an anti-incumbency attitude on the western side of the county. Perhaps it’s backlash from the high number of homeowners currently underwater or those merely treading water.
Residents in El Dorado Hills have access to local news information via the Mountain Democrat and Village Life newspapers. Some even subscribe to the Sacramento Bee for their “local” news coverage though it’s unlikely they’ll read anything related to water rates, crime, school matters or tax issues affecting their El Dorado Hills’ lifestyle.
Unfortunately many El Dorado Hills non-voters simply reside in El Dorado Hills. It’s where they hang their hat. It’s where they rest in between commutes to their jobs farther down the hill. Ask some residents which county they reside in and don’t be surprised to hear — Sacramento.
I had no pony in the race for Supervisor. It’s not my district. But to believe someone can win an election simply by standing along the onramp to Highway 50 in the morning waving to commuters is quite a stretch.
No, I’ll give credit to Ron Mikulaco for out-hustling John Knight. He knocked on more doors, walked more neighborhoods and worked hard to win this election. And he rode the wave of anti-incumbency sentiment to victory.
When I first met Ron in my office several weeks ago, he came across as a bright, energetic individual with a mind like a sponge. What he doesn’t know he’ll learn. And that’s just the way it is with most newly elected officials. It takes time to get their feet wet — as EID director Alan Day is now experiencing.
Whether Mikulaco stands the test or not really depends on how well the voters in his district — all 9,239 of them taking the time to vote — feel about his job performance four years from now.
But just to play it safe he may want to jot down the names of the 4,981 voters supporting him. Because if that’s what it takes to win an election in El Dorado Hills then it really doesn’t matter what the other 20,439 non-voting residents have to say about how their district is run.
If they don’t like the job Ron Mikulaco is doing then perhaps they can call their mayor, Kevin Johnson, or one of their other Sacramento County district supervisors to complain to.
Richard Esposito is publisher of Village Life and the Mountain Democrat. Contact him at [email protected].