Six members of the City Council picked a seventh in a relatively painless process on Tuesday night, selecting Meagan Froemming Harmon, an impressive 32-year old corporate attorney, as their new colleague.
Harmon emerged from an estimable group of 10 applicants for the gig, besting county transportation program manager Brittany Oderman Heaton by a 4-to-2 vote to win the appointment.
Amid the endless debate about millennials, housing, transportation and Whither State Street in the Post-Amazon Economy, Harmon seems a very solid choice for the downtown 6th District, not only via demographics but also because of the private sector sensibilities and financial acumen she brings to a council that needs both.
Although the voting went only three rounds and took less than an hour -- Josh has the play-by-play over at Noozhawk -- there was still plenty of inside baseball and intrigue. Six key takeaways:
1-The conventional wisdom is always wrong. Going into Tuesday night, the local pundit class was nearly unanimous (see #6 below) that the two contenders to watch were those with the deepest local political connections: Dem activist and Board of Supes aide Gina Fischer and Grant House, the ex-city council member with decades of policy-based public service on his CV.
To their credit, however, the incumbents appeared to have done due diligence on the candidates, in some cases via multiple meetings and conversations, and ended up with two relatively unknown finalists, who rose up on their merits, not because of partisan politics or pre-existing alliances. Hats off.
2-It ain’t over til it’s over. While Harmon, her hubby and toddler no doubt are still shaking out the cobwebs after all-night bottle service hearty partying in Vegas in celebration of the short-term appointment, the clock is already ticking on the 249 days before the Nov. 5 election, when she will have to be on the ballot and win if she wants to keep the seat.
Voters then will determine who fills the remaining two years of the term won in 2017 by Gregg Hart, whose election to the Board of Supes created the council vacancy. Recent city law prohibits Harmon from using the “incumbent” label as a ballot designation, setting the stage for a wide-open race in which, among others, the politics and policy junkie Fischer, who lost Tuesday despite high-profile political support (think Hannah Beth, Paula and Laura) would be formidable.
3-Cathy did the right thing. At the start, Mayor Cathy Murillo voted and spoke strongly on behalf of Heaton, whose leadership on the Neighborhood Advisory Council Murillo said has greatly impressed her. As the press corps started checking the Goa Taco take-out menu after two rounds of 3-to-3 votes and no early end in sight, Mayor Cathy swiftly calculated that a dug-in, drawn-out battle was in the interest of exactly no one, noted that Heaton and Harmon appeared to have made everyone’s top two list and switched her vote to Meagan. Well played.
4-No country for old men. Back before the last Ice Age ended, Randy Rowse came on the council via a similar appointment process as unfolded on Tuesday night; then, it was the seat of Das Williams, newly off to Sacramento, that was up for grabs amid a much larger field of wannabe replacements.
The deciding vote for Randy came from none other than Grant House -- the very same now vying for a return trip to City Hall - a move that enraged many of House’s fellow lefties, no fans of Randy’s business minded politics, so there was considerable speculation in the cheap seats that Rowse would now return the favor and back House. Alas, it was not to be – Randy is not an enthusiast of political gamesmanship, and his decision not to play this one proved he’d made the same, ruthless, Old News judgment on House his colleagues had.
5-Kristen boxed herself in. Council member Jason Dominguez, Cathy Foil-in-Chief, set the stage for La Alcaldesa’s magnanimity by effectively boxing in Kristen Sneddon over a head-scratching promise the 4th District rep made at the start of balloting: Because her husband is a muckety-muck working at the county, Kristen said, she could not vote for either of the two candidates also employed by the county (Heaton and Fischer) – if both were in contention – although she could vote for either, if only one of them had been nominated.
So, Colonel Mustard with the Candlestick in the Conservatory. Gotcha' so far, Kristen...
During the second vote round, Sneddon started making anguished noises that sounded as if she was preparing to jump from Harmon to Heaton – at that point the only county-employed candidate – when the pro-Harmon Dominguez suddenly nominated Fischer – without intending to vote for her – thus trapping Kristen in the box she’d built herself by promising not to choose between two county employees.
With Sneddon - still! - Dominguez and Rowse for Harmon, Cathy’s switch gave Harmon the fourth vote she needed. Dominguez swore to Newsmakers that in nominating Gina, he was not trying to be crafty, just seeking to move the process off the dime by introducing a possible compromise candidate. Bottom line, he ended up with bragging rights and a tactical triumph over his arch-rival, the mayor.
(Caution: Do not operate heavy machinery if you read through the above item ).
6-Even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while. In the last episode of Newsmakers TV, the host pressed each of our four guests to predict who would get the appointment and all four (we name no names, Nick Welsh, Laura Capps, Dale Francisco and Josh Molina) uttered some version of “Gina Fischer, Grant House or maybe both.”
Then Mr. Crankypants set them all straight with a fearless forecast: “The correct answer is Meagan Froemming Harmon!”
You could look it up.
Images: Meagan Harmon takes the oath of office from City Clerk Sarah Gorman; Harmon awaits the verdict with fellow candidates Grant House (L) and Brittany Oderman Heaton, behind; Gina Fischer (ginafischer.com); Mayor Cathy celebrating at the Women's March; Randy Rowse; Kristen Sneddon and Col. Mustard; Blind Squirrel (pinterest ).