NORWALK - City Council incumbents Mike Mendez and Cheri Kelley squeaked by their challengers to hold onto their seats Tuesday, though some ballots remained to be counted that could potentially change the outcome.
With all of Norwalk's precincts reporting and most vote-by-mail ballots counted, Mendez and Kelley were the unofficial winners of the two contested seats, with 1,689 votes and 1,680 votes, respectively, City Clerk Theresa Devoy said.
However, challenger Enrique Aranda, a marketing director with the Los Angeles Catholic archdiocese, closely followed the incumbents with 1,615 votes.
The City Clerk's Office still had provisional ballots - those cast by people whose voter registration needs to be determined - and some vote-by-mail ballots to be counted.
Devoy said she didn't know yet just how many ballots remain. They will be counted Thursday, and the final voting results will be certified at the March 19 council meeting, she said.
The election winners will be sworn in at that meeting, Devoy said.
Mendez, who was first elected to the council in 1988, is expected to serve his sixth term, while Kelley, who was first elected to the council in 1997, is expected to serve her fourth term.
Apart from Aranda, the other challengers were Darryl Rodney Adams, a Norwalk-La Mirada Unified school board member; and Candy Martinez, a small-business owner.
Adams received 1,354 votes and Martinez received 764 votes.
Voter turnout in Tuesday's election dropped to 11 percent, a 15 percent decline from the 2011 election, the city clerk said.
About 4,315 of the city's 47,542 registered voters turned out compared to 6,057 of the city's 44,470 voters in the 2011 council election, Devoy said.
During the campaign, the city's double-digit homicide rate and an antiquated sewer system were top issues for the candidates.
In 2012, 11 people were killed in the city, compared with five in 2011. Most of the homicides were gang-related, and suspects were arrested in nine shootings, officials have said.
Kelly and Mendez said during the campaign that the city's out-of-date sewer system, which is in desperate need of repair, must be addressed.
The lines in the 151-mile sewer system have not been updated or repaired since its pre-1957 installation. The cost of upgrading and repairing the system is estimated at $40 million.
Norwalk pays for its sewer system with general fund money, but that amount of capital isn't available, Kelley said.
One option to pay for the repairs is a ballot measure creating a tax on homeowners' water bills, Kelley and Mendez have said.