The political tumult in Fullerton continues with just 28 votes separating two candidates in a race for a City Council seat as the registrar of voters’ office heads into the final days of counting Election Day ballots.
In a contest that at times showed two candidates separated by just one or two votes, former Councilwoman Jan Flory took a 28-vote lead Sunday over incumbent Travis Kiger. There still are an unknown number of ballots to count.
The tight council race comes as the city has taken center stage statewide, with Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva, a Democrat, winning a surprise victory over GOP Assemblyman Chris Norby and giving Democrats a super majority in the 80-member Assembly.
A total of 12 candidates ran for three City Council seats in the Nov. 6 election. Incumbent Bruce Whitaker was the top vote-getter with 15,413 as of the close of counting Sunday night. And newcomer Jennifer Fitzgerald, a former planning commissioner and district aide to Rep. Ed Royce, comfortably won the second seat with 15,106 votes.
But the third seat still is a tossup between Republican Kiger, who only won election to the City Council in June, and Democrat Flory, a lawyer who previously served on the City Council from 1994 to 2002.
The drama surrounding the Kiger-Flory race is a continuation of the political upheaval in Fullerton that began July 5, 2011, when mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas was beaten by six Fullerton police officers.
His death five days later led to the retirement of then Police Chief Michael Sellers and the recall election in June of three of the five council members. Three of the police officers have been charged with felony excessive use of force and other crimes.
Kiger won his council seat in the recall election. He and Whitaker are backed by Fullerton businessman Tony Bushala. Fitzgerald is part of the rival GOP camp that includes Royce and former state Sen. Richard Ackerman.
Ballot counting is almost finished in Orange County. After Election Day, 272,485 ballots were left to count, mostly paper mail-in ballots turned in at the polls and “provisional” ballots. As of Sunday night, 21,974 were left to count countywide. It is unknown how many of those affect the Fullerton City Council race.
Provisional ballots are ballots where the voters’ name may have been inadvertently left off registration lists or other issues made it necessary to check the ballot and verify the eligibility of the voter.