Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka breezed to a third term on Tuesday night - even though he didn't campaign for the office.
With all six precincts reporting and early absentee ballots counted, Tanaka captured 58.6 percent of the vote. Late absentee ballots will be tallied beginning this morning, city officials said.
Tanaka's primary challenger, Councilwoman Rachel Johnson, garnered 35.6 percent of the vote, even though she led an aggressive campaign, arguing that Tanaka is too busy in his job as undersheriff of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to run Gardena.
Councilman Dan Medina, who campaigned as a write-in candidate, was a distant third.
Tanaka, 54, decided not to run an active campaign after Johnson filed papers to challenge him.
After election results were announced, Johnson said she was sad about the outcome, but hopeful.
"I want to congratulate Mayor Tanaka and I want to thank my family and supporters for their hard work," Johnson said. "I am looking forward to serving ... Gardena for the remainder of my term."
Johnson will remain on the council for two more years.
Elected to the council Tuesday night were incumbent Tasha Cerda and former Mayor Terrance Terauchi.
Cerda, appointed to the council in 2009 and seeking her first full term Tuesday, was the top vote-getter with 29.9 percent.
Terauchi came in second with 26.7 percent of the vote. He will replace Councilman Ron Ikejiri, who was termed out.
Third-place candidate Rodney Tanaka (who is not related to Paul Tanaka) trailed Terauchi by just 72 votes. There is a possibility the election outcome could shift after late absentee ballots are counted.
Cerda, an insurance agent and longtime homeowners association president, has refused to answer questions about what she hopes to do in her next term.
Terauchi, 64, served as mayor from 2001 until 2005, when Tanaka beat him.
City Treasurer J. Ingrid Tsukiyama ran unopposed for the second time in a row since she first took office in 2005.
In the city clerk's race, Mina Semenza won Tuesday by just 53 votes over Shannon Tsukiyama. And third-place candidate Art Kaskanian had just nine votes less than Tsukiyama.
Late absentee ballots could play a role in the final outcome of the clerk's race.
Semenza, 59, said her professional connections and years of volunteer work would serve her well as the city clerk. She is a Realtor, a city commissioner, and an active community volunteer. She ran a failed bid for council in 2008.
This will be Tanaka's third term as mayor. His time in office has been marked by increasing financial prosperity and cohesive political leadership. He vowed to continue to improve the city's financial stability and expand services. Last week, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services upgraded Gardena's credit worthiness from an A-minus to an A - a notable achievement for a city that faced bankruptcy a decade ago.
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