OCEANSIDE — The unofficial election results posted by the City Registrar of Voters at 2 a.m. Nov. 3 show fiscal conservatives Jerry Kern and Gary Felien as the winners for Oceanside City Council.
Councilman Kern maintained slightly more than 30 percent of the votes throughout election night, and candidate Gary Felien held close to 25 percent of the votes, edging out incumbent Chuck Lowery by less than 2 percent.
Candidate Rex Martin garnered an unofficial 10.86 percent of the votes, which is close to the 10.63 percent of votes for Ken Crossman, who withdrew from the race.
Results will not be verified until the councilmen are sworn in Dec. 2, but Felien was already celebrating on election night as he continued to hold his lead. “I certainly have the greatest appreciation for those who worked on the campaign and gave donations,” Felien said. “I enjoyed the whole election process, going door to door, participating in debates. I contacted thousands of voters, it’s a rewarding endeavor.”
Felien walked more than 23 districts in the city and campaigned until election polls closed at 8 p.m. Nov. 2. “I had a fabulous campaign team,” Felien said. “I can’t think of anything more that could have been done.”
Felien said he will focus his efforts on reducing city employee pension costs and making Oceanside more business friendly. “I hope the math proves me wrong but it’s (city pensions) a huge expense no one is taking seriously or preparing for. It’s just like a tsunami once you see it, it’s too late.”
Incumbent Jerry Kern said he felt fairly confident of his win before results were posted. After defeating the recall election in December and pushing the charter city proposal through in June, Kern said he felt he had citizens’ support. “I’m feeling in pretty good shape,” Kern said. “It’s really a race for second place.”
Kern’s unofficial win as councilman comes after two years of continuous campaigning. “I’m ready to take a break from the campaign trail and get down to business,” Kern said.
He said he will be working on keeping water rates low and reeling in city employee pension costs. Kern said he is not satisfied with the contract agreement the city settled with firefighters and hopes the city will be pulling the belt tighter for upcoming contracts with police and general employees. “We can’t use our reserves to pay pensions,” Kern said. “Funds are limited. We’ll have to cut down on services, that’s the problem.”
Councilman Chuck Lowery has also been on the campaign trail for the past few years, running for council in the November 2008 election, as a candidate in the recall election in 2009, and as a winner in the June special election prior to this race.
Lowery said he will continue to serve his term with his eyes wide open, looking at all the issues that the city faces. “I’m motivated by the people of Oceanside who have done all kinds of work to get me reelected,” Lowery said. “I’m completely grateful and humbled to so many people who are completely dedicated and come from all different neighborhoods throughout Oceanside.”
Lowery also sees city pensions as an area of concern. “We can’t pay the pensions we committed to paying four years ago,” Lowery said. “I’m working hard to undo the deals these other people made. Kern and Feller (Councilman Jack Feller) continue to attack me, by saying I didn’t do enough, when they approved these deals with their peer group.”
Lowery is pleased with the improved contract the city passed with firefighters, that includes less paid holidays and a payment of 2.5 percent to their own pension. The contract will save the city $702,000 over its two-year term.
Repairing the sewage system and funding operation costs are also concerns Lowery will continue to address.
“In my short four-month term I was willing to work with all council members,” Lowery said. “I want to work harder to represent the people of Oceanside, even the ones not thinking about anything but a single issue. Even with this tight budget there are so many projects moving forward.”