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Sterling Retains Seat; Alessio Joins Council
Ruth Sterling (pictured right), for more than two decades a member of the council, was the top vote getter in Tuesday's voting and will serve into her 80s on the La Mesa panel.
Kristine Alessio, the local lawyer who has been a fixture on the city's Planning Commission, was first among the challengers and will assume the seat vacated by Dave Allan, who chose not to seek re-election.
Alessio (photo right, below) outpaced colorful local art dealer Shannon O'Dunn and challengers Patrick Dean and Laura Lothian, who failed to get traction in a crowded field.
In fact, the size of the field may have worked in Sterling's favor. With long years of service and strong name recognition, Sterling papered the town of signs and kept enough support to outdistance four other challengers who worked to gain supporters and divided whatever anti-incumbent sentiment may have been directed at Sterling.
Some familiar with local politics had predicted a Sterling defeat, but in the end, city voters went with the familiar -- choosing both an incumbent and Alessio, who will be new to council, but not at all new to the City Hall scene. As a long-time member of the Planning Commission, Alessio has worked closely with city staff and benefitted in her campaign from wide support among La Mesans who were familiar with her work weighing local development projects over the last decade. Alessio also had deep local roots in local school and civic groups, which she counted on to garner support that, in fact, came.
So much like the national political scene, when the dust settled on the campaign, there was change, but not as much as some thought would come.
Sterling returns to a council with deeper fissures between she and Mayor Art Madrid than existed when Sterling supported Madrid's opponent two years ago.
Madrid has lost a pretty loyal lieutenant with Allan's departure and finds himself working with a council that has demonstrated a willingess to thwart his desires with more frequency in the last two years. Sterling and council members Ernie Ewin and Mark Arapostathis have teamed up to slap down some of Madrid's efforts lately and, if she proves to be a Madrid supporter, Alessio would only give the mayor a second vote in a world that requires three to do anything.
And in the world of the endless election cycle, the race that ended Tuesday could signal the next competition that, in some quiet ways, has already been underway. Madrid, mayor for more than two decades now, will also be nearing the octogenarian status as his current term ends.
Two years ago, Lothian, who clearly had to see Tuesday's results as a rebuke of some sort (she was the lowest vote getter in a five way race), actually performed much better in her race against Madrid two years ago. Whether these results give Ewin or Arapostathis -- or both -- the nerve to take on Madrid for the mayor's post in two years, will remain to be seen.
Madrid has proven to be resilient and he has said he would like to complete a new City Hall before leaving after more than three decades of city service.