A challenger whose message didn’t seem to resonate with voters was unable to dethrone an incumbent long on experience and known as an effective leader during Tuesday’s election in South Pasadena.
Eric Brady, an unknown on the local political scene, fell far short in his election bid for a City Council seat, and was soundly beaten by Michael Cacciotti, a four-time mayor over a 17-year span on the council.
When the votes were tabulated, Cacciotti, first elected to the council in 2001, won his seat for a fifth term, winning easily 72.24 percent to 27.76 percent, picking up 929 votes to Brady’s 357 in the District 4 race. It marked South Pasadena’s first election in the newly established five council districts.
South Pasadena City Council member Diana Mahmud, City Clerk Evelyn Zneimer and City Treasure Gary Pia ran unopposed and were all re-elected Tuesday.
For Cacciotti, however, he ran a highly successful campaign, pushing his strengths in working with fellow councilmembers in continually balancing budgets. He recognized the city’s achievements through his years in office, citing a lower crime rate, efforts to ease traffic congestion and the need for public transportation throughout the region as keys to reaching voters. He also stressed infrastructure revitalization, including reservoirs, streets, curbs, gutters and side walk improvements that have enhanced the quality of life for residents since first being elected.
When he’s not serving the city, Cacciotti is a deputy attorney general with the State of California Department of Justice. Prior to that, he was a deputy state attorney with the California Department of Transportation, and previously served as an attorney for the speaker pro tem of the California State Assembly.
In addition to his council seat, he sits on a number of boards, including the South Coast Air Quality Management District, where he is a strong voice for the environment and advocate for clean air. Through an initiative launched by Cacciotti, South Pasadena’s Garfield Park became the first municipal park in the United States to be maintained entirely by gas free, electric commercial lawn equipment. Every opportunity, usually during City Council meeting, Cacciotti urges city officials to make all-electric purchases when it comes to making automobile purchases.
Recognizing his solid track record, Cacciotti had endorsements from South Pasadena Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Marina Khubesrian, current Council members Diana Mahmud and Robert Joe, Board of Education members Suzie Abajian, Michele Kipke, Julie Giulioni and President Jon Primuth. U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu and State Assembly member Chris Holden also gave their endorsements.
It appears Brady had little to sway voters outside of a campaign that sought change, suggesting in campaign materials that Cacciotti was in office too many years and a new candidate was long overdue to hold the council seat.
Written on a giant freeway sign in one campaign piece read a large message: “Time for Change.”
The flyer went on to read, “Let’s be honest…the problems we face in South Pasadena aren’t new ones. We’ve known we have a housing crisis, that we’re looking at a budget deficit if we don’t deal with the pension issue, and that if the UUT was repealed, there is no back-up plan to fund necessary city services.”
Looking to take a pragmatic and progressive view, the newcomer to the local political scene said in his literature that he would focus on making the city more attractive to businesses “while maintaining our quality of living” if elected.
“I’m supported by neighbors and business leaders who agree it’s time for a new approach to the issues facing South Pasadena,” he wrote in a flyer, pitching the concept of offering “new ideas, real-world business experience and a new community-driven energy to the South Pasadena City Council.”
In his campaign material, Brady also said he was “a passionate businessman and local entrepreneur, a proud UCLA alumnus and an active member of the community here in South Pasadena.”
Like others, he and his wife were captivated by the city’s school system and unique character of South Pasadena when arriving in town in 2004. “We knew right away this was where we wanted to raise our children,” he wrote in his Vote Eric Brady website.
“I’ve been a long time SPEF contributor, and have loved volunteering as much time as possible as a coach for boys and girls sports at all school levels,” added Brady on the site. “I’ve also volunteered for both the Girls and Boys Scouts of America, South Pasadena YMCA and coached for AYSO’s division 214 and 13. It’s been a profound and invaluable experience being able to teach and to learn from the youth of our city, the inheritors of our future.”
In the website, Brady told voters: “I believe I offer new ideas and novel intuitive representation as well as the real-world business experience and problem solving ability that we need. Stagnation is the enemy of progress and our honorable council has not had a change in representation in nearly two decades. Let’s make a shift together. The time for new is now.”
For Cacciotti his time has been for the past 17 years and counting, and that suits him just fine.
“I want to continue to serve the people of South Pasadena,” he said prior to the election, “and keep it a wonderful place for people to live.”