Kirby leading, Nesbitt, Moffat too close to call in Auburn Council race
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, incumbent Dr. Bill Kirby and challenger Gary Moffat are in line for the two available Auburn City Council seats.
Kirby had the most votes at 2,419, or 33.6 percent, and Moffat edged Keith Nesbitt by two votes for the second seat – 2,375 to 2,373.
Nesbitt, running for his third term on Council, said there is “absolutely” more to be determined still and that his confidence that he showed earlier in the night remained in tact.
“I’d have to wait and see the final results,” he said. “There’s a lot of provisional ballots. We waited all night for updates, so I have no comment until I see the final numbers.”
Earlier reports showed the race in a dead heat, with all three candidates hovering around 33 percent of the votes.
Reached by phone around 9:30 p.m. before the precincts were reporting 100 percent, Kirby said he didn’t expect the race to be decided Tuesday night.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, and it’s always good to be ahead,” he said with a laugh.
Nesbitt took it a step further around that same time, saying he congratulates Moffat on a hard-fought campaign but that the Council will remain intact.
“I’ve got to respect Gary Moffat’s efforts. We figured he would do very well in the absentee ballots,” Nesbitt said. “Our committee thinks that we’ll beat him handily at the polls, so congratulations to him. He made a very good showing, but we’re very confident of a victory.”
Moffat, owner of Carpe Vino in Old Town, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday night.
It was Moffat’s first time running for a public office.
Throughout the campaign, Kirby and Nesbitt urged voters to keep the current Council intact while Moffat sought to break up the status quo.
Kirby is a urologist who has been on the Council since 2008, served on the Auburn Recreation District board of directors for four years and is also involved with the Auburn Rotary Club.
Nesbitt has touted his plan to make Auburn more “walkable.” He has previously served on the economic development commission and chaired the Placer County Planning Commission.
Running on a platform as a small-business owner with a hardworking background borne out of his Chicago upbringing, Moffat campaigned relentlessly, with the latest reports showing he outspent his opponents combined total nearly by double.
Some voters said they were especially impressed by Moffat’s effort to reach out to the community.
Janie Pittman, a 55-year-old medical assistant from Auburn, said Moffat visiting her house and later calling her at home “really impressed her” and earned her vote.
“That’s my first time in my entire life in voting that there has actually been a candidate that has come to my door,” Pittman said.
He continuously challenged Kirby and Nesbitt, saying enough hadn’t been invested in economic development projects. He made it clear that he would bring adamant opposition if another proposal to make Auburn a charter city is brought before the Council.
Kirby and Nesbitt both said they would consider getting behind another charter movement if citizens presented a desire to do so.
Kirby and Moffat clashed over the move to a regional sewer, and when Moffat said the Council had dragged its feet during the past 10 years on the issue, Kirby rebuffed him and said his comments were lies.
They took turns calling each other “idiot” in days leading up to the election, when Moffat labeled Kirby’s $2,000 campaign donation from developer and area philanthropist Martin Harmon “tainted money.”
Still, a number of people interviewed leaving the polls at Auburn Recreation Park said they supported both Kirby and Moffat.
Chris McConnell, a 42-year-old nurse who has lived in Auburn for three years, voted for Kirby and Moffat, saying although they “don’t get along,” the fact they disagree on a number of issues could be a good thing.
McConnell said they should balance each other out.
“Hopefully they find a balance that will support the majority of the people in Auburn,” he said. “They definitely come from two … completely different professions but that doesn’t mean they can’t work together and do good for the community.”
Asked how they could move beyond some of the negativity that surfaced during the campaign, Kirby said the atmosphere on Council is much different than that of a debate.
“City Council is not where you have spirited discussions … it’s where you sit and talk about issues you might have a different view and then you vote,” Kirby said. “I’m pretty confident that we’re going to have a strong, fiscally conservative majority whether he wins or not. I think his liberal ideology is not going to dominate the City Council.”
James, 51, and Susan Baird, 50, moved to Auburn after getting married a couple months ago and they said they spent Monday night researching the local candidates on the Internet.
They said they were disappointed in the amount of information available online about Kirby, and cast their votes for Nesbitt and Moffat.
“He’s an incumbent, and Auburn seems to be working on making a comeback, so we felt also that somebody who (would) … not have the learning curve of not being new on the panel would help continue the growth,” Susan Baird said.
Rob Ortiz, 34, and wife Jessica Ortiz, 27, both said they voted for Kirby, with Rob citing his long tenure in the community and Jessica his accessibility.
“I really like him. He comments a lot on the Journal articles,” she said. “And I think it’s good he’s active in the community.”
Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews