Photo, left: Baber and McWhirter's victory party at Tiramisu Trattoria in La Mesa
Republicans, developer-backed candidates in Council race
Updated November 5, 2014 (La Mesa) - Mayor Art Madrid, who has led La Mesa for the past 24 years, has been unseated by Councilman and teacher Mark Arapostathis. With 100% of precincts counted, Arapostathis has received 58.8% of the vote to Madrid's 41.11%.
Billl Baber, a member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District with strong name recognition, cinched victory wtih 27.71% of the vote. He is also an attorney, political consultant and registered lobbyist representing building contractors. Guy McWhirter, an insurance agent and political newcomer, also won with 23.31% of the vote.
Baber texted the following message: "Thank you voters for choosing me as your new La Mesa City Councilmember. Congratulations to our new Mayor Dr. A. I am pleased we passed our term limit initiative. Term limits puts a ticking clock on every Councilmember. Let's not waste any time. Let's get to work to improve La Mesa."
Photo, left: Mary England and supporters awaited election results at Bo Beau's in La Mesa.
Mary England drew 19.97% of the vote, drawing support largely from downtown merchants she has served as Chamber of Commerce president. Patrick Dean, the lone Democrat in the race, took 16.62% despite a majority Democratic registration in the city of La Mesa, indicated that not even a substantial get out the vote effort by the Democratic party could beat the big money poured into the race by development interests and the Republican political machine. Pete Gregorovic, running as an outsider, finished with 12.39% of the vote.
Term limits won by a large margin, with over 66% of the vote. Prop J, the initative to regulate marijuana clinics in the city, lost 54.68% to 45.32%. An additional initiative to make the city clerk an appointed, not elected position passed by a narrow margin.
Big winners in La Mesa include development interests and the Republican Party. Arapostathis,along with Council candidates Bill Baber and Guy McWhirter, all had endorsements and substantial campaign contributions from the pro-development Lincoln Club as well as the County Republican Party.
The election marks the end of an era in La Mesa, where Mayor Madrid, 80, has led the city as mayor for a quarter of the city's 100 years, also serving for many years on the city council before winning his first mayoral race. He championed efforts to pass a ballot measure raising sales tax that enabled construction of a new library, police and fire stations and was the first mayor in the San Diego region to sign the U.S. Mayors' Climate pledge to take action against climate change. He also points with pride to La Mesa's high ranking as a walkable city and helpin create a safe routes to schools for children among his accomplishments.
In recent years relations between the Council and Mayor have grown contentious and Arapostathis has said he will strive to restore civility and a closer working relationship among council members. Arapostathis has twice been named teacher of the year and also heads up junior theater programs, earning widespread respect in the community.