Donovan Poised to Replace Khubesrian | Candidates Drop Out of City Council Race

Donovan told the South Pasadena News he still intends to run his campaign 'as though I have an opponent'

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | South Pasadena City Council at City Hall

With two prospective candidates formally pulling out Wednesday, John (Jack) Donovan’s quest to succeed Dr. Marina Khubesrian as the Second District’s representative on the South Pasadena City Council has gone from a long slog to a long wait.

Only a week ago he was ramping up to face Khubesrian, a two-term, two-time mayor who he said would be a “formidable opponent.”

But last week Khubesrian, facing a possible criminal investigation for using a fake email to threaten a council colleague, pulled out of the race. Then on Wednesday, South Pasadena Beautiful President Marianne Veach and resident Rachel Johnson–both of whom also pulled papers to run against Khubesrian–opted not to file their nomination papers, leaving Donovan the only person standing when the nomination window closed Wednesday afternoon at 5 pm.

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Donovan told the South Pasadena News he still intends to run his campaign “as though I have an opponent. I want the people to know who they are voting for and why.”

Donovan, a metals marketing entrepreneur who has lived in South Pasadena for four decades and previously served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and as volunteer commissioner with the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), said he is concerned about the “general direction” of the city.

In particular, he believes the city’s multiple commissions have suffered under the current administration because they are allowed no input in the decision-making process.

Donovan also believes the city has not performed well in its financial management. As a candidate, “a priority for me would be to get the city back to fiscal stability.”

Johnson could not be contacted but Veach, a life-long South Pasadenan whose great-grandparents came to town at the turn of the 20th century, said she pulled papers to run over her concern there would be only a single candidate in the race, one she believes has not put forward a substantial platform. But she decided against filing after concluding the time commitment could total 40 to 50 hours per month, if not more.

“I agonized over it.” While certain she is qualified, Veach and her husband–who works long shifts–have a 3-year-old child to look after.

Veach, 40, said the City Council “needs some younger, fresher, more progressive bodies on it.” She is concerned about “how sustainably we are living in South Pasadena,” about affordable housing and how the city will go about providing more units with access to public transit.

“More than half the people in town are renters like me who live here because the schools are good, it’s safe, and we want a good, happy community, but are always worried we are not going to be able to stay. That’s the voice I wanted to have.

“But the system is not set up for people like that run,” she said, because council members receive only a $300 monthly stipend and must make a huge time commitment. “Most people in town can’t afford to do that and that means we have a City Council that is not representative of most people in this city.”

The evaporation of Donovan’s opposition still leaves the city with two competitive city council races. Incumbent Mayor Robert Joe will face City Clerk Evelyn Zneimer for the District 1 seat, while four candidates will vie for the District 3 seat being vacated by Dr. Richard Schneider: Michelle Hammond, Jon Primuth, Alan Ehrlich, and Jaz Sawyer.



Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.


  1. It would seem that all candidates — and the sitting City Council — will have to take a facts-based stand on the utility users’ tax renewal in the foreground, not in the background, of the historical meltdown of administrative and financial operations. This ain’t a time to get elected because you rode in an antique convertible at the Festival of Balloons parade, people. This ain’t your daddy’s Mayberry anymore.

    Don’t get me wrong: I know from experience that the City needs a UUT. But how much? The City Council failed in their responsibility to satisfy the voters’ right to an informed decision. Rights and responsibilities are the bedrock of republican government. Ask the Framers.

    Mark me. As in the case of the sales tax increase, the South Pas voter has lost before the November game began. The voters approved the sales tax increase (placed on the fragile business community) without staff disclosure of long-term projections for pension and retirees’ medical subsidies. Now, the UUT will decided without the City having done any financial reporting 3 years, and having failed to produce an audit in 2.5 years.

    The cynical “pony in the pile?” The Council acted to put a PERMANENT UUT on the ballot because Ms. DeWolfe told them that’s what “voters want.” Sun Soo could not have done a better job in the art of political war. The community has been blackmailed into supporting a permanent UUT.

    Game. Set. Match. Checkmate. Strike three. My beloved South Pas has been deceived into a permanent tax cash flow system supporting the skyrocketing costs of government pensions and expensive medical subsidies for retirees without benefit of supporting calculations required of pre-algebra students at SPMS.

    Next? Expect vague explanations about the lack of money for the 21st Century progressive services that residents want unless and until somebody produces a credible financial projection of the 5- to 10-year General Fund future.

    It’s a sad reflection on the community when parents blather on about the school district but don’t do their own homework. Worse still that they haven’t been taught basic study skills by their elected and appointed teachers.

  2. The negativity and child-like bickering through-out South Pasadena has reached a level I never dreamed possible.
    Mr. Donovan says he will campaign to show people “who they are voting for and why”. Let us hope his campaign, though unopposed, will speak directly to issues facing the city without resorting to the negativity we now witness on a seemingly regular basis.