Noelle Mattock and Terry Crumpley survived a polite but crowded contest for the two El Dorado Hills Community Services District board seats contested on Nov. 6.
Crumpley held a narrow lead on the day after the election, but when the Nov. 11 results were posted Mattock was on top with 5,295 votes: 21.06 percent, followed by Crumpley’s 5,271 votes: 20.96 percent, Chuck Hammond’s 4,529 votes: 18.01 percent, Guy Gertsch’s 3,688 votes: 14.67 percent, Don Clark’s 3,515 votes: 13.98 percent and Bill Tobin’s 2,753 votes: 10.95 percent.
The effervescent Tobin took the electoral thumping in stride at his Rotary Club on Wednesday morning, quipping “It’s good to see a winner in the room,” when victorious Cameron Park CSD candidate Sean Tucker walked in.
The race pitted two confident incumbents determined to overcome a contentious and ultimately litigious firing of former General Manager John Skeel against four strong challengers with long and varied public service resumes.
In campaign literature and Village life profiles, incumbents Guy Gertsch and Noelle Mattock boasted a strong record of park projects and a financial turnaround in the face of unprecedented revenue shortfalls.
But it was easy to lose sight of that substance in a race that played as a down-ticket welterweight match on a ballot with a headlining heavyweight presidential bout that had pundits spinning for days about the importance of ground game strategies involving sophisticated phone banks and social media campaigns.
But in local races, Facebook and phone banks seemed to have less sway than a local ground game conducted on local ground, the stuff on the side of El Dorado Hills Boulevard specifically, with the ground in front of local front doors a close second.
The victors were each armed with a strong message, which they took to the voters in person on the side of the road and by canvassing neighborhoods.
Mattock leveraged her position as an incumbent, helping Ridgeview resident Lorene Nelson, who opposed a proposed cell tower near her home. Nelson in turn distributed Mattock yard signs to her appreciative neighbors.
Mattock’s strategy also included oversized campaign signs, recycled from her first campaign, posted at the busy intersections that have become El Dorado Hills campaign central.
Challenger Crumpley entered the race with no prior elected experience as the first candidate for local office to overtly tout a Tea Party affiliation.
She was enthusiastically endorsed by the Tea Party Patriots of El Dorado Hills, but credits supervisor-elect Ron Mikulaco’s in-your-face roadside campaign acumen for her strong finish.
She witnessed the long-shot supervisor candidate’s side-of-the-road salesmanship first hand in May as one of his few volunteers. He returned the favor with brief appearances on El Dorado Hills Boulevard on her behalf in the days before the election.
When the early results showed Crumpley clinging narrowly to a second place position, Mikulaco accurately predicted that her aggressive last-minute ground game would improve her standing as the night wore on.
“She really hustled,” he said. “That’s what it takes when you’re an outsider.”
Crumpley’s Tea Party buddy and campaign coach Jay Lensch savored the favorable results with her on Tuesday night.
“Terry had a good message, but it doesn’t matter if people don’t know you,” he said. “Face it, most people can’t keep track of the local races.”
But they vote anyway.
Lensch also helped Mikulaco early on, and studied his victory. “He didn’t have the strongest message, but he was out there staring into every windshield with a thumbs up,” he said. “He was sincere. People got that.”
Lensch encouraged Crumpley to adapt Mikulaco’s strategy, and joined her on El Dorado Hills Boulevard. Importantly, he brought along an American flag and stood behind her waving it.
Like other candidates, she also spent hours walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors, which she described as hard work, but an important and informative two-way exchange with a constituency far more concerned about water rates and traffic congestion than CSD politics.
“I had good experiences walking,” she said. “Talking to people was very positive.”
But it was also inefficient. In the end, the massive exposure to hundreds of cars per hour on El Dorado Hills Boulevard is what mattered, said Lensch.
“It apparantly mattered a lot,” echoed Crumpley, who said she expected a neck-and-neck battle with her fellow challengers, especially Tobin, sho she’d befriended over the course of the campaign. She also got to know and respect Gertsch, and was saddened when he conceded in a heartfelt text message, see story on villagelife.com.
Mattock also acknowledged the depth of the field and credited said she hopes the challengers remain active in the CSD.
Money doesn’t appear to be a huge factor in either victor’s success. Both reported raising roughly $3,000. Crumpley also loaned herself $1,200, she said. Village Life has yet to validate either candidate’s campaign filings.
Crumpley wasn’t the only candidate with a roadside ground game on election eve. Supporters for both judge candidates and the incumbent fire board members were all out in force.
“It got pretty crowded on the boulevard last night,” said Crumpley. Expect it to get more crowded next time.