Four-term San Bernardino City Councilwoman Wendy McCammack was recalled Tuesday night by voters unhappy with her role in the city’s economic spiral that ended in a bankruptcy declaration last year. However, she was also the top vote-getter in the mayoral race and will vie with second-place finisher Carey Davis in a February runoff.
The city at-large was not as disenchanted with McCammack as her 7th Ward constituents, 57% of whom voted to recall her. She was viewed as an ally of entrenched political forces, although she insisted throughout the campaign that she opposed the policies that drove the city into bankruptcy. McCammack received 25.65% of the vote for mayor, followed by Davis at 23.42%.
Mayor Pat Morris did not run for a third term and City Attorney James F. Penman was also recalled. Penman was opposed by 60% of the voters and was replaced by real estate attorney Gary Saenz. Penman said the businessmen bankrolling the recall were the same businessmen who ran city government into bankruptcy.
McCammack and Penman faced recalls along with Councilman John Valdivia, who survived the campaign that at one time targeted every member of the city council and other top officials. The Southern California city of 209,000 declared bankruptcy in July 2012, facing a budget shortfall of $45.8 million.
The recall group had delayed their initial request to pursue signatures because it wasn’t able to serve McCammack with the required legal papers. The group claimed she ducked them 15 or 20 times over a two-week period. McCammack denied that.
Last month, two-term City Councilman Chas Kelley resigned after pleading guilty to felony perjury related to campaign finances. He also pulled out of the mayoral race, but too late to pull his name off Tuesday’s ballot. Kelley, who had once been regarded as a front-runner, ended up with 5% of the vote.
On the same day that Kelley appeared in court, Councilman Robert Jenkins also showed up to face 30 felony and misdemeanor charges over an unrelated case. He is suspected in an alleged revenge attack on an ex-boyfriend and a second man using Craigslist. Jenkins stayed in the council race but lost to Benito J. Barrios, 55-44.
Another incumbent councilman, Fred Shorett, was forced into a runoff when he topped out at 48%. Businessman Anthony Jones finished second at 31%. Councilwoman Virginia Marquez was re-elected with 56% of the vote in the 1st Ward.
The city has been in turmoil since the economic downturn in 2008 exposed the city’s precarious finances and ragged governance. Crime escalated, businesses fled, public services declined, corruption charges were leveled, the budget deficit soared and the city was left choosing which powerful political players were going to get gouged when bondholders and pension funds clashed over divvying up the shrinking resources.