James Toma and his supporters celebrated on election night at the West Covina Elks Lodge.
James Toma and his supporters celebrated on election night at the West Covina Elks Lodge.

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

WEST COVINA — First-time candidate James Toma was elected Tuesday to the West Covina City Council, receiving the most votes, 3,161 or 19.43 percent.

Also elected to the five-member council were retired business analyst Corey Warshaw with 2,260 votes (13.89 percent) and veteran Lloyd A. Johnson with 1,998 (12.28 percent).

The other candidates were West Covina Unified School District board member Mike Spence, 1,975 (12.14 percent); governmental affairs director Kimberly Caceres, 1,751 (10.76 percent); Councilmember Andrew McIntyre, 1,574 (9.67 percent); businesswoman Karin Armbrust, 1,503 (9.24 percent); Councilmember Rob Sotelo, 1,315 (8.08 percent); and probation supervisor Armando D’Avila, 734 (4.51 percent).

With Toma consistently in the lead throughout the night, he and his supporters celebrated at the West Covina Elks Lodge.

James Toma with Covina City Councilmember Marquez (left) and State Sen. Ed Hernandez.
James Toma with Covina City Councilmember Jorge Marquez (left) and State Sen. Ed Hernandez.

“I had a very professional staff, good people working with me,” he said. “We had a good message and we had a really receptive community that was ready for some change. So I think this vote shows that people … didn’t want the status quo. That’s what this election’s about.”

In addition to appointed incumbents McIntyre and Sotelo, a former appointed councilmember, Armbrust, did not make the cut.

Toma, a deputy attorney general with the state Department of Justice and a former legislative aide at the State Capitol, said that his first priorities are “to examine the budget — we have some big financial challenges in our city — but also changing the way we do business, being more open and transparent with the community. It’s not going to be about whose friend is coming to the city with a particular project, and who you know, but about what’s right for the whole city …

“In terms of policy issues, the budget’s a big one, figuring out a way to improve our public safety. We have a declining number of law enforcement officers and firefighters, so we have to work on those issues. And get some of our vacant properties back in business because that’s what makes sales tax revenue for our city. There’s a lot of things that we have to do.”

Regarding his past political experience, Toma said, “I was familiar with campaigns, I volunteered in past campaigns, but it’s one thing to see it from a volunteer point of view, it’s another thing to see it from a candidate’s point of view. So it’s been a huge learning curve, but I’ve got smart, professional people who know how to do campaigns.”

Among those people are two elected officials who attended the election night party, State Sen. Ed Hernandez, whose district includes West Covina, and Covina City Councilmember Jorge Marquez.

Hernandez was “one of the first persons that I sought out when I thought about running for City Council,” Toma said, “because he’s so well respected in the area … He’s been a tremendous help in terms of giving advice, giving me his endorsement.”

He was also inspired by Carolyn Arndt, who campaigned against the building of a medical office building in the local library’s parking lot and made the public realize “something is not quite right in West Covina.”

Toma was accompanied by his wife, Minerva, their children, Cruz Kenzo and Paz Akemi, his in-laws and his cousins.

Thanking everyone who spent weekends canvassing neighborhoods on his behalf, Toma said, “Tonight’s very special for me … I think it’s a very special night for West Covina … It’s been brewing for a couple of years now, maybe longer, but I think the people of West Covina really got the message through all of our efforts that we can do better.”

He predicted that he and the other two winners, also first-time elected officials, “are going to do a very good job representing our community and making us feel proud to be part of this city.”

In the Diamond Bar City Council race, Martin Nakaishi, senior project manager at Parsons Corp., was in last place out of six candidates with 674 votes (6.54 percent).

The three open seats went to Councilmember Steve Tye, 2,453 (23.81 percent); Councilmember Ling Ling Chang, 2,293 (22.25 percent); and Walnut Valley Unified School District board member Nancy Lyons, 2,157 (20.93 percent). Also in the running were Councilmember Ron Everett, 1,685 (16.35 percent) and businessman Joseph Kim, 1,042 (10.11 percent).

Chang, a former mayor, is also a Republican candidate for the 55th Assembly District.

In the race for the Trustee Area 1 seat on the Downey Unified School District Governing Board, incumbent Martha Sodetani received 605 votes (90.30 percent) to challenger Victor Manuel Malagon’s 65 (9.70 percent).

James Toma's supporters look at L.A. County election results.
James Toma’s supporters look at L.A. County election results.

Bay Area Results

In South San Francisco (San Mateo County), Mayor Pro Tem Karyl Matsumoto, who is nearing the end of another four-year term on the City Council, was elected to a two-year seat with 2,762 votes (59.1 percent). Also running were Planning Commissioner Carlos Martin, 1,231 (26.3 percent) and mechanic Collin K. Post, 681 (14.6 percent).

Matsumoto was first elected in 1997 and re-elected in 2001, 2005 and 2009. She served as mayor in 2000, 2004 and 2009, and is only the second woman to serve on the South San Francisco City Council.

She announced in August that she was running again “to provide greater stability during a time of executive-level retirements,” including the city manager, fire chief and public works director. In September, she said she was withdrawing for personal reasons. In October, she said she was back in the race but would take some time off to take care of her 100-year-old mother.

“I’m really gratified and pleased people have voted me back in to let me finish work,” Matsumoto told The Daily Journal. “There are major challenges ahead with the new city manager and I’m anxious to go to work.”

In San Ramon (Contra Costa County), PTA/PTSA member and nonprofit leader Rene Matsumoto finished third in a race for two seats on the City Council with 3.480 votes (26.90 percent).

The winners were Fremont Unified School District teacher Harry Sachs, 4,030 (31.15 percent) and Vice Mayor Dave Hudson, 3,782 (29.24 percent). Also running was lawyer Thomas von Thury, 1,574 (12.17 percent); 70 write-in votes accounted for 0.54 percent.

In the race for three seats on the board of the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District (San Mateo County), landscape architect and parent Naomi Nishimoto finished in fifth place with 1,570 votes (11.9 percent).

The winners were high school teacher Charles “Chuck” Velschow, 3,029 (22.9 percent); attorney and mother Suvarna Bhopale, 2,361 (17.8 percent); and supply chain manager Amy K. Koo, 1,805 (13.6 percent). Also running were physician/entrepreneur Herbert R. Neuman (fourth place, 1,784, 13.5 percent); businessman and parent Rakesh N. Hegde (sixth place, 1,466, 11.1 percent); and educator Kelly Redmon (seventh place, 1,231, 9.3 percent).

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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