Menlo Park election: Mueller, Carlton likely elected to council | November 14, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - November 14, 2012

Menlo Park election: Mueller, Carlton likely elected to council

by Sandy Brundage

Ray Mueller and Catherine Carlton will join the Menlo Park City Council next year, unless there's a surprising twist as the final vote counts trickle in.

The streets of downtown Menlo Park were nearly empty on election day — perhaps people were still waiting in line to vote; some residents reported what seemed like record turnout at the polls.

A lone woman on a corner of Alameda de las Pulgas waved a sign for Romney 2012/Catherine Carlton/Yes on Prop 32. She got to celebrate only one of those outcomes.

With 4,303 votes for Mr. Mueller, and 4,163 for Ms. Carlton, the newcomers topped incumbent Kelly Fergusson, who had 3,910 votes, according to the county.

"I'm excited but cautiously optimistic," Mr. Mueller had said earlier in the evening as he headed for an election night party at Trellis. "If things stay the way they're trending, I'm really excited."

Asked about the high point and low point of campaigning, Mr. Mueller said he'd reached both in the space of 24 hours, when he received an email from someone who had voted for him, but told him she regretted it after hearing about some of his comments on issues facing the city.

He said that left him feeling sad. "There's one thing, when you're campaigning you start to realize that the issues facing the city can be so complex, that people really want to reduce them down to sound bites and they're not."

After sending an email in response and then talking to the voter this morning, Mr. Mueller said the two found accord. "That was the high point, because it confirmed for me that I'll have the patience to listen to people and work through the issues."

He praised the campaign for staying civil. Unlike past elections, no hit pieces turned up in the mail and if there were shenanigans, most did not reach the ears of the Almanac.

Also celebrating at Trellis was Ms. Carlton. "Well, I think it's too early to tell. ... I feel like I can't get too excited yet. Like they say, it's not over until the fat lady sings."

She too enjoyed her time campaigning. "It's very exciting to me to talk to someone about ideas and have that person get so excited that they start donating their time to help out, knocking on doors and walking." Ms. Carlton said she also appreciated what she learned about the city, which presented an orientation for candidates that introduced the role of each department, an experience she'd like to bring to all residents of Menlo Park.

Ms. Fergusson, who was seeking a third term on the council, said she had called the winners on Nov. 7 to congratulate them.

"I really appreciate their vision for the future of Menlo Park," she said. "I feel like I'm leaving the city in very good hands, and I've had 10 great years of community service and have really enjoyed working with the public."

When asked whether she would manage the campaign differently in retrospect, Ms. Fergusson said she has no regrets. "I have a full-time job. I ran the campaign on my evenings and weekends — I wish I could have knocked on 200 more doors."

Belle Haven resident and Housing Commissioner Carolyn Clarke was in fourth with 2,525 votes, leaving firefighter Dave Bragg in fifth place with 2,115.

Ms. Clarke took a break from pizza at High 5 Star in Belle Haven to share her perspective from the campaign trail. "I was in training, right?" she said with a laugh. "My biggest lesson is if you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

Look for her to return to the ballot, this time starting to plan a campaign 12 months ahead and making sure to line up enough donations to get the word out about her candidacy. Still, she said, it was a "first step towards unifying Menlo Park. But the work is just beginning."

Dave Bragg sent out a short announcement following the election to thank his supporters; he described getting more than 2,000 votes "a great feeling. My family, my employees, and my friends are probably thankful that I will have more time to spend with them."


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