Auburn City Council campaign dramatic till end
True to form, the Auburn City Council election ended with dramatics – and a wager yet to be collected.
More than two weeks of waiting for certification after election night results left the race too close to call, the final count had incumbents Dr. Bill Kirby and Keith Nesbitt winning in a tie with 3,181 votes apiece, or 33.3 percent, and challenger Gary Moffat falling 38 votes short at 3,143. The three were competing for two open seats on the council.
On Monday, Kirby said he was still waiting for a congratulatory call – and $100 – from challenger Gary Moffat. Moffat publicly bet Kirby he would win the election after a debate in front of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce.
“I wouldn’t mind if he donated $100 to my Rotary club,” Kirby said.
Moffat said Kirby would get his money.
“I waited 15 days to get the results of the election, so he proved to be a very patient man,” Moffat said. “I’m sure he can wait a few more days.”
Bets aside, the election determined that the City Council would remain in tact for at least another two years, when three seats will become available. Moffat said he “hasn’t ruled out” running again in 2014.
“I think I really developed some awareness in the community,” he said. “And I think with three seats open, I’d have a reasonable chance of being elected next time.”
Auburn’s tradition of making the top vote-getter next in line for city mayor has been complicated by the tie between Kirby and Nesbitt, but Nesbitt said Kirby offered to let him take on the role first, which would put Kirby next in line after that. Ultimately it’s up to the Council to decide, they said.
“I feel like the voters rewarded the people who have been working hard for them,” Nesbitt said. “I think most of Auburn thinks the Council is doing a pretty good job, so I just appreciate the fact they’re giving us four more years to keep doing it.”
Nesbitt said his top priority would be working toward “creative” ways to continue the city’s streetscape program. Kirby said top on his list is reaching a solution regarding regional wastewater.
Kirby, who has been chairman of the Placer County Wastewater Authority for the past four years, said negotiations are “nearing the end” but challenges still remain.
After the final results were certified Wednesday, Moffat issued a statement congratulating Nesbitt and Kirby, and on Monday he told the Journal that he learned a lot during his first time running for public office.
“I would have kept my mouth shut on specific occasions,” Moffat said.
When asked to elaborate, he said: “I don’t want to rehash the election, but there were times when I spoke out and I should have just kept my feelings to myself because when I did no good purpose was served.”
Moffat clashed most publicly with Kirby. In one instance, days before the Nov. 6 election, Moffat said Kirby accepted “tainted” money when developer Martin Harmon contributed $2,000 to Kirby’s campaign.
“Gary Moffat and his supporters made this a very dirty election, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” Kirby said. “They didn’t make it about the issues. It got very personal and very inappropriate.”
Moffat said the fact the election was so close should be a sign to Kirby and Nesbitt that they don’t have a “mandate” from voters.
“I hope they understand that one third of this community at least was willing to make a change,” he said. “So I think that based on the issues I brought up, I would hope they could at least consider addressing some of those problems.”
Moffat said he would like to see the Council hire a full-time economic development professional and continue to develop new initiatives to inject new life into the economy.
He said he hopes the first-responders who endorsed him, such as the Auburn Police Officers Association and the Auburn City Fire Local 4110, get a fair shake in contract negotiations.
“This is an opportunity for retribution on the part of my two opponents,” Moffat said. “I just hope they approach this professionally and get the job done and give the police a contract they deserve and that is a fair contract. They need to stop holding these guys hostage and get these things settled.”
Kirby said the idea of exacting “retribution” on those unions who didn’t endorse him is “absurd.”
“Those associations supported Moffat in order to put pressure on us during negotiations and frankly that’s just as wrong,” said Kirby, adding that he is “sensitive” to the needs of unions as his son -in-law is a police officer and daughter is a teacher. “You can’t let an election affect your labor negotiations in any circumstance whether they’re for or against you. It has to be what’s fair for the taxpayer and citizens of Auburn … and obviously we have to be fair to our employees.”
Nesbitt echoed those sentiments.
“All is fair in love and war but in the end you can’t hold grudges and go into any negotiations or whatever and treat people different because they didn’t support you,” he said. “That’s not fair to the city.”
Nesbitt said he congratulates Moffat for working “very hard” and having a “very strong” campaign.
Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews