The Day After in Costa Mesa: Deja Vu of 2012, But Worse — But Also Provisional Grounds for Hope

Foley and Humphrey

“Hello, we’d like two seats please. Yes, two. We’d like to sit together. No, that’s TWO. Two seats. One for each of us.  Is that possible?” (Photo credit: Thepot Stirrer of, which you should read for more on this race!)

Here are the results of Costa Mesa’s City Council race for three available seats.

Sandy Genis 15.982 votes — 17.9%
Steve Mensinger, 14,199 votes — 15.9%
Gary Monahan, 13,945 votes — 15.6%
John Stephens, 13,790 votes — 15.5%
Colin McCarthy, 13,450 votes — 15.1%

Those are, of course, the 2012 results.  Genis was able to join the Council as an ally of Wendy Leece.  Mensinger joined as an ally of Jim Righeimer.  And only 155 votes separated Righeimer’s ally Gary Monahan and Leece’s ally John Stephens for the third seat.

So close, so close!  And now, after 2014’s election, that seems like a landslide.

Once again, a female candidate came out first — and two men battled it out for the last seat on the dais, but it was much closer this time:

Katrina Foley, 6,667 votes 26.4%
Jim Righeimer, 5414 votes — 21.4%
Jay Humphrey, 5393 votes — 21.3%.

Jim Righeimer is part of the Jim Righeimer team, of course.  Jay Humphrey is an ally of Genis and Foley (and the outgoing Leece.)  But here’s the difference between 155 votes and 21 votes — by which I do not mean 134 votes.  The difference is that there are legitimate grounds for a recount and legitimate reason for hope that it will be successful in putting Humphrey ahead of Righeimer.

Those Costa Mesans who don’t know a lot about provisional ballots are about to learn.

A provisional ballot is what you cast when you don’t appear qualified to vote in an election because, say, you’ve moved within the city or just moved to the city within the county.  Your vote isn’t tabulated on election day; it’s counted provided that further investigation shows that you were qualified to cast the ballot within the city.

My sense is that the most common reason for a provisional ballot is that someone moved apartments since they last registered.  Who tends to move a lot?  People without a lot of money.  Students.  Democrats.

So, presuming that there is a recount, starting with a count of provisional ballots, you can expect that it will move in the direction of Jay Humphrey.  And you can expect that Jim Righeimer’s lawyers will be there objecting to counting every single provisional ballot.  It’s a pretty fitting role for Righeimer, actually.

Righeimer’s pulling ahead of Humphrey, who had trailed for most of the day but finally taken the lead, in the very last count put a damper on what was otherwise a most excellent day in Costa Mesa.  Righeimer’s charter proposal, Measure O, went down to a howling defeat.  Foley is back on Council.  And everything would have been beautiful had Humphrey defeated Righeimer outright.  But alas — Fate is not yet done toying with us, and may yet deal us a most unkind blow.  (Lesson: VOTE FOR BOTH PEOPLE ON THE REFORM SLATE, NOT JUST ONE OF THEM!)

If he remains in office, Righeimer will of course pretend to treat his razor-thin victory as a total vindication and intensify his efforts to destroy the city.  So we’re all going to be looking hard at Costa Mesa, and praying for a provisional miracle.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)