David Mendez

Nehrenheim wins in Redondo Beach, balances council

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Councilman Todd Loewenstein, Mayor Bill Brand, and Councilman-elect Nils Nehrenheim celebrate on Tuesday night at Samba Brazilian Grill. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

After a Tuesday night landslide, Nils Nehrenheim appears to be all but a lock for the District 1 City Council seat, beating incumbent appointee Martha Barbee.

“The numbers are overwhelming; it’s an absolute mandate at this point in time,” Nehrenheim said at his election night party, in District 2’s Samba Brazilian Grill. “The numbers show it; people are not happy with the way things have gone.”

Initial vote counts show that Nehrenheim took 1834 votes to Barbee’s 1181, or 60.8 percent to 39.2 percent. The result, Nehrenheim said, is proof positive that the voters of Redondo Beach are ready for a change.

“The electorate is now woken up; they’re not happy about anything that’s going on,” Nehrenheim said. “I think that’s the overall vibe in the city.”

The results of the March election would seem to bear that out. Overwhelming margins of victory were the norm, as slate-mates Measure C, Bill Brand and Todd Loewenstein won by thousands of votes on March 7. Those wins for the Mayor’s seat, over incumbent Mayor Steve Aspel, and District 2 City Council, over Doug Rodriguez, along with Measure C’s change of harbor-area zoning aimed to tank CenterCal Development’s proposed Waterfront: Redondo Beach redevelopment project.

John Gran’s victory in District 4 over Suzy Royds also appeared to be in favor of a change in the status quo, as residents admitted to being increasingly unhappy with representation provided by former Councilman Steve Sammarco. His choice to back Royds did not seem to help as she took only 35.5 percent of the vote to Gran’s 54.5 percent. (Adam Wachter won the other 10 percent.)

Nehrenheim’s victory is hugely important to Brand and his supporters, who have aligned themselves over concerns regarding large developments and associated increases in traffic. He is now able to provide the second vote in 3-2 City Council votes, granting Brand the possibility to use his veto power to nullify Council decisions he disagrees with. Had Barbee won, the possibility of 4-1 votes would have nullified Brand’s veto power, according to the City Charter.

“Now we have a firewall to protect the people of Redondo,” Wayne Craig of Rescue Our Waterfront, an organization co-founded by Nehrenheim, said on Tuesday night. “This is a big win for the people of Redondo.”

Nehrenheim supporters reveled in his victory on Tuesday night, a few taking care to brag about his win in the face of endorsements by area newspapers. Some even floated the idea of issuing recall votes against District 3 and District 5 council members Christian Horvath and Laura Emdee to further tip the balance of the City Council.

One-time Nehrenheim opponent Rolf Struzenberg, who came in third against Nehrenheim and Barbee in March’s general election, was there to celebrate the victory. Struzenberg lent his support to Nehrenheim for the runoff campaign.

“I’ve told Nils I believe he has a lot of potential, that he’s a diamond in the rough,” Strutzenberg said. “It’s just a matter of gaining experience, getting some scars and earning some wisdom. That takes time.”

The next morning, Martha Barbee seemed to be in good spirits despite the loss.

“I’m feeling thrilled I made the decision to celebrate my son’s birthday. I felt I’ve been away from my kids and family long enough,” Barbee said.

“I’m thrilled I had the privilege and honor to represent my community for the last 10 months, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world,” Barbee said. “I also wouldn’t change anything about the way I ran my campaign, keeping it on my issues and what I stood for.”

A second and final count of votes, for ballots mailed in during the late days of the election, is scheduled for May 25.

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