◼ Kerrigan exuberant 11/04/04
Bohn supporters 'shocked' at landslide loss
by HANK SIMS and EMILY GURNON
When the first vote returns came in a little after 8 p.m. Tuesday, Chris Kerrigan couldn't know that he had a small lead. He was sitting in council chambers with the rest of the Eureka City Council, taking a look at a first draft of some revisions to the city's architectural design standards he has been championing over the last few months.
Victorious Eureka City Council candidate Chris Kerrigan (left) prepares to thank hhis supporters while Mayor peter La Vallee stokes up the crowd at the Lost Coast Brewery.
But just over an hour later the 25-year-old was standing on a chair upstairs at the Lost Coast Brewery, ready to deliver his victory speech to a screaming crowd of about 75 of the people who contributed to what he called "the best grassroots campaign that Eureka has ever seen."
"We countered the big money, and we did it with manpower and good old grassroots democracy," he said.
Though an unknown number of absentee ballots remained to be counted, Kerrigan had racked up a convincing 59-41 percent victory at the polls.
Kerrigan said that when he went door to door in his campaign, talking with citizens, he found consistent support for the main issues of his campaign -- good jobs, smart growth and community design standards.
"Tonight, almost 60 percent of Eureka embraced that message, and we are going to continue to go forward and work for those goals," he said.
Kerrigan went on to thank challenger Rex Bohn for what he called a "spirited campaign."
His supporters, though, were clearly more interested in celebrating their candidate's strong success in what was assumed by many to be a close race.
Eureka City Council candidate Rex Bohn, left, chats with backers Willie (center) and Royal McCarthy at OH's Town House Tuesday night after election results came in.
Charlene Cutler-Ploss, a member of Eureka's Design Review Committee who went door-to-door to advocate for Kerrigan, said that she was proud that voters rejected a challenger who she thought was put forward and propped up by special interests -- the county's developers.
"We feel phenomenal," she said. "It reaffirms my belief in the electorate and in the best man winning. It shows that I'm not the only one in Eureka who feels that my vote cannot be bought."
Mayor Peter La Vallee, a strong Kerrigan supporter, said that though he was disturbed at the rising costs of running a City Council campaign in Eureka -- in the end, the two candidates raised and spent over $100,000 -- he, too, was overjoyed at the election's result.
But La Vallee had some choice words for whoever was behind the anonymous group calling themselves the Eureka Coalition for Jobs, which had put out a flurry of last-minute anti-Kerrigan ads and mailers. The mayor said that by choosing to hide their identities, backers of the ads demonstrated that they lacked the courage of their convictions.
"To the guys who did that ad, the Eureka Coalition for So-and-So?" he shouted. "Grow some balls."
It was early in the evening when a crowd of Rex Bohn's supporters at OH's Town House heard the news that their guy had been defeated -- badly. They weren't happy.
"Well, I guess Arcata runs Eureka now," said Janeth Mariante, Bohn's campaign treasurer. "This really, really sucks."
Bohn himself stepped up to the microphone at 9 p.m., delivering some of his characteristic humor. "I want to thank everybody for coming to the Virginia Bass-Jackson re-election party," he said laughing, referring to the Eureka City Councilwoman and OH's Town House owner who ran unopposed in Ward 2.
"It's been a fun ride," Bohn, 50, continued. "The voters have spoken, but that does not mean we cannot make Eureka a better place. We ran a good, clean campaign. We ran it on issues and ideas, and I'm proud of what we did."
Supervisor Roger Rodoni, in his trademark cowboy hat, shouted out, "Run again. I did!" to applause from the crowd.
Many of those at the restaurant, decorated with red and blue balloons, said they were surprised that the election was so decisive.
"I'm shocked. This is stunning," said Bohn supporter Jeff Lang. "This election broke right down party lines. People don't necessarily look on who the best candidate was. They look at what party they are. To me, man, that is the biggest atrocity of this vote."
Marian Brady, who volunteered on Bohn's campaign, agreed with Lang that the "go-clean" approach may have backfired. "We went too nice," Brady said, referring to Bohn's commitment to avoid negative campaigning. Lang said Bohn "had a folder full of dirt" on Kerrigan that he never used. He did not elaborate.
Others at the gathering included Bohn's campaign manager, Chris Crawford, Councilwoman Virginia Bass-Jackson, and Eureka City Manager David Tyson, who rebuffed a reporter with "I'm off the clock."
Sporting a "Proud to be a Bohn-Head" hat, Royal McCarthy, who said he had gotten to know Bohn through Ducks Unlimited, said he was "stunned" at the vote. "I had no idea that it would go this way, really," McCarthy said.
Bohn told the Journal that his plans for the future were uncertain. "I want to make sure that the promises made to the city of Eureka are followed through. We need to find some real jobs for our kids. I had a lot of support from the young people because they wanted to stay here. I'm not gonna stop trying to do that."
Would he make another try at politics? "Never say never," Bohn said