Beach 2016: Stage set for Redondo’s Election Ballot Battle Royale
by David Mendez
The June resignation of Redondo Beach District 1’s City Councilman Jeff Ginsburg was a surprise to all, but it was hardly the first shot fired towards the 2017 election season. That honor goes to Mayor Steve Aspel, who went public with his plans for reelection last January.
Aspel’s announcement came during a “Mayor’s Reception” held at the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce. He later said that the decision wasn’t an easy one, that he’d been worn down by the negativity of a “small minority of people” in Redondo Beach.
But he credited his daughter, Brett, with changing his mind.
“She put it in my head: Don’t be scared away because you don’t want to deal with nasty people; there are nasty people no matter where you go,” Aspel said.
In August, outgoing District 2 Councilman Bill Brand, a critic of development within the city, announced that he would be challenging Aspel for the City’s top seat.
In his address before supporters, he cited “a lack of leadership and vision” as his catalyst.
While the two have began to butt heads with greater frequency, Brand has also leveled criticism at his fellow Council members for their “lack of experience,” referring in particular to Council members Laura Emdee, Christian Horvath, both of whom were elected in 2015, and Martha Barbee, who was appointed to fill a vacancy earlier this year.
Brand has since thrown his support behind Nils Nehrenheim, for District 1, and Todd Loewenstein in District 2. His original endorsement for District 4, Alex Bannerman, did not file application papers by the deadline.
Barbee was chosen to replace District 1 Councilman Jeff Ginsburg following his June resignation from the City Council. In an emotional address, Ginsburg citing the failing health of his Texas-based father-in-law for his decision.
The tipping point, he said, came during a hearing to decide the fate of the Legato Redondo mixed-use development. Ginsburg’s wife had flown to Texas, but because the meeting was of high importance, Ginsburg decided he was needed in California. Not being able to support his wife in her time of need broke his heart.
“I realized that it’s going to get tougher before it gets easier, and I didn’t want to be in a situation where I wasn’t showing up at meetings,” Ginsburg said.
Ginsburg’s resignation cleared one lingering issue. Due to real estate interests held by Ginsburg and his family, the California Fair Political Practices Commission recommended he recuse himself from decisions related to waterfront redevelopment.
According to Redondo Beach’s City Charter, the seat was filled by appointment rather than special election due to the length of his tenure.
Though a host of potential candidates sprung up, Barbee was chosen to replace Ginsburg on July 20. A former software engineer and businesswoman, Barbee said she “made deals in five languages” while learning to also listen well in all five. After stepping away from corporate life and moving to Redondo Beach, Barbee became deeply invested in community work, taking volunteer positions in the 33rd District PTA and other organizations across the city. Brand called her a “dynamo.”
“I’m extremely impressed with all she’s accomplished, her enthusiasm, open-mindedness and ability to bring people together on complex issues,” Brand said.
The appointment process was a catalyst for 2017’s batch of District 1 candidates. Now running for election, Nehrenheim cites his work both for ROW and Save the Riviera — both organizations founded to challenge major development projects in Redondo Beach — among his qualifications. A frequent attendee at City Council meetings, Nehrenheim often advertises his candidacy in every address before the Council.
Candidate Rolf Strutzenberg has taken a quieter road. His addresses to the Council have held to their topic of discussion, though he has poked fun at Nehrenheim’s self-promotion before doing so.
District 4, currently represented by Steve Sammarco, will also have a new council member next March. Sammarco tearfully announced his resignation earlier this month, citing medical concerns related to a car crash and stroke earlier this year.
The March ballot is loaded, featuring 18 candidates for eight local offices, including three on the Redondo Beach School Board.
Three other contenders for Mayor have registered, including Michael Sachs, Chris Mowatt and regular rabble-rouser Eric Coleman.
In District 2, former Redondo Beach School Board member Loewenstein will face off against current Planning Commission Chair Doug Rodriguez. In District 4, Suzy Royds, John Gran and Adam Wachter are running to replace Sammarco.
Three incumbent members of the Redondo Beach Unified School District Board of Education, Brad Waller, Brad Serkin and Michael Christensen, are all running for reelection. Former City Councilman and current Harbor Commissioner Matt Kilroy is challenging for one of the three seats.
Incumbent City Attorney Michael Webb is running unopposed for his seat.