In the history of Elk Grove mayoral elections, winners in competitive races have never reached a majority

With election results certified, the Elk Grove City Council will have two new members next week that will share a trail with many others who preceded them in their first terms - they were elected by a plurality, not a majority of voters.

When Mayor-elect Bobbie Singh-Allen and District 3 Councilmember-elect Kevin Spease are sworn-in, they will have secured their positions with a plurality of voters. Singh-Allen beat incumbent Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly with 46-percent of the vote, while Spease won with 33-percent of the vote in the five-person race for the open seat.

While the races for city council seats, particularly when an incumbent is in the race, often have winners with majorities, the victor for competitive mayoral races since Elk Grove voters started directly electing their mayor in 2012 has never achieved a majority.

In the first mayoral race in 2012, Gary Davis reached 49-percent. Davis' highwater mark for that first race benefitted by a well-financed 14-month campaign and high name recognition. 

That race included then Elk Grove City Councilmember Sophia Scherman, who came in second place with 16-percent. With the 2012 election, Scherman's district was eliminated to facilitate the voter-approved creation of a directly elected mayor. 

Even though Scherman was an incumbent of sorts in that contest, in her reelection campaigns in 2004 and 2008, she won with a plurality. In the city's first election in 2000, Schmerma came in third place in the 20-plus candidate field. 

After Davis ran unopposed in 2014, in 2016, the trend continued when then-City Councilmember Steve Ly won the seven-person race. Ly won the mayor's position with 44-percent and was reelected in 2018 in the three-candidate contest with 41-percent (see video below for mayoral races totals 2012-2020).

This year, although Singh-Allen had a record 38,341 votes, she benefitted from the high-interest Presidential election, which drew a record 82-percent turnout in Sacramento County. Singh-Allen's plurality of 45-percent barely edged Ly's 2016 44-percent.

As Elk Grove Mayoral races unfold in the future and given the history over the last five election cycles, there are a few things we can expect. Given the high visibility of the job and its perceived launching pad for higher political offices, we can expect there will be more than two candidates who pursue the office. 

Unless there is a change in the laws governing general-law cities in California, Elk Grove mayors and some councilmembers will continue to be elected by a plurality which can open the door for a variety of electoral manipulations.     

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