David Mendez

A Brand new day in Redondo Beach

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Redondo Beach Mayor-elect Bill Brand with State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi at Brand’s victory party. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

As Steve Aspel predicted often throughout the city’s tumultuous election season, the sun came up again on March 8. With it came a new mayor for Redondo Beach.

Councilman Bill Brand defeated incumbent Mayor Steve Aspel 51.91 percent to 43.81 percent on election night, by 855 votes, capping off a night in which Redondo voters were swayed by the promise of a higher quality of life through the prevention of overdevelopment. Measure C, a harbor rezoning measure championed by Brand, figured to play a large part in the results.

“It’s been a long road,” Brand said after the final results came in. “Sixteen years, but who’s counting?”

The bulk of the unofficial results came in from the County Recorder’s office just after midnight on March 8, following a long day of get-out-the-vote efforts by Brand and his supporters.

The party at Samba Brazilian Grill, overlooking King Harbor, kicked off in earnest shortly after 8 p.m., when the room filled with supporters of Brand, Measure C, and council candidates Todd Loewenstein, Nils Nehrenheim and Suzy Royds.

Tensions were high initially, but eased as the first returns, tallying vote-by-mail ballots, signaled an early lead for Brand, though one that appeared close enough that the two might be headed to a runoff.

For many observers, that was the predicted result. A field of five candidates, including Aspel, Brand, Eric Coleman, Chris Mowatt and Michael Ian Sachs, was presumed to depress vote totals for both Aspel and Brand, who were the clear favorites.

Coleman and Sachs, the third- and fourth-place finishers, however, were in attendance at Brand’s party. Mowatt, for his part, was enjoying a quiet night at home with his family.

Brand took an opportunity to thank the many supporters in attendance, including Hermosa Beach Mayor Hany Fangary, Torrance Councilman Tim Goodrich and State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.

However, he reserved his highest praise for his longtime friend and fellow activist Jim Light, who drew huge cheers.

While spirits were high at Samba, the tone was decidedly more muted in at HT Grill in Riviera Village.

By 11:30 p.m., most of the party had cleared out, leaving Aspel, District 1 candidate Martha Barbee and unopposed incumbent City Attorney Michael Webb awaiting results alongside a few friends and family members.

Incumbent Redondo Beach Mayor Steve Aspel watches as election results, showing a widening gap behind eventual winner Bill Brand, refreshed in the early hours of March 8. Photo by David Mendez

At that point, Aspel was unconcerned — like many, he was planning for a runoff.

“I’m good,” he said on the patio of HT Grill. “I expected to lose the absentees.”

But around midnight, South Redondo precincts — Aspel’s perceived stronghold — began to roll in, and Brand’s lead grew, putting him 11 points ahead of Aspel.

By 12:30 a.m., Brand’s victory party reached a fever pitch as cheers could be heard from outside of Samba.

“I knew it’d be close between Steve and I,” Brand said, glitter stuck in his hair from the celebration. “I’m really happy it didn’t go to a runoff.”

As the results sank in, Brand began looking to the next few months.

“I’m looking forward to building consensus on the waterfront, on the South Bay Galleria and on Artesia,” Brand said, referencing the biggest development hurdles facing the city. “I’m looking forward to implementing what the community wants so we don’t end up building a mall that the community obviously didn’t want. Now Redondo has a mayor who never supported CenterCal.”

The next morning, Aspel seemed largely at peace as he reflected upon the results.

“As you saw, we had to fight Measure C. That was a tide that wasn’t going to turn back,” Aspel said. “The bottom line is, other things we’ve done in the city go unnoticed and it all went to that one item. That’s how it is, and how local politics work.”

Aspel admitted that he had yet to call Brand — a late-night, obscenity-laden call from a Brand supporter put a sour taste in his mouth. But this weekend, Aspel said, he plans to clean out his office and prepare it for Brand.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s his office, and I’m not going to try and force anything through,” Aspel said. “The voters spoke, and I don’t think it’d be appropriate to try and change anything up…I’m just going to move on and enjoy my life and family.”

As for Brand, his next plans were simple.

“I think I’m going surfing,” the Mayor-elect said. “I haven’t gone surfing in a long, long time.”

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