Planning Commission Chairman Jerry Deal used a familiar formula to unseat a Burlingame City Council incumbent: spend a ton of money.
Deal edged Councilmember Russ Cohen by just 84 votes in Tuesday’s election. Deal spent an average of $24.45 for each vote he earned, compared with $8.45 for Cohen and $8.49 for Mayor Terry Nagel, who received the most votes.
“When you are running against an incumbent, you don’t have the same podium that they’ve got,” Deal said. “It’s tough to unseat an incumbent, especially when you know that a lot of people look for that little asterisk and the word ‘incumbent’ when they look at the ballot.”
Deal said that getting his name out was particularly important this year with the expected low voter turnout, which was just one-third of the 2005 Burlingame votes cast.
Councilmember Ann Keighran, who endorsed Deal and Nagel, also spent more than $40,000 to lead all candidates in 2005. She received more votes than any candidate that year, including then-incumbents Rosalie O’Mahony and Cathy Baylock, who are still on the council.
Cohen defended his low-funded campaign Wednesday, as he has done throughout the election season.
“We did everything we wanted to do,” Cohen said. “We did it happily as we were going about it.”
“We talked to people one-on-one,” he said. “That’s the best way to reach people.”
Money was not the only factor in this election. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Peter Comaroto, who spent far more than any candidate other than Deal, finished last with just 11.6 percent of the votes.
Deal said his first priority will be expediting the Safeway renovation project, perhaps by compromising with the corporation more, he said.
The new grocery store at Howard Avenue and El Camino Real could include more shops and housing, but Deal said he did not hear much support from residents for multi-use options while campaigning.