Democrat Declared Loser After Two-Months Long Recount Effort


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

Anson Williams, who played Warren “Potsie” Weber on the beloved 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” thought he had successfully defeated an incumbent yoga instructor mayor in the small California community of Ojai following the November election.

In fact, after the initial count, Weber had about 100 votes more than incumbent Democrat Betsy Stix and, in a community where only 3,604 votes were cast a few months back, that was enough for Stix to release a statement a few days later congratulating her self-described moderate Democratic opponent.

But, as it turns out, Stix’s congratulatory note was premature.


According to The Wrap, “this is Ojai, where local politics are as volatile as the recent weather. And as Williams and his supporters were about to discover, there’s a lot more going on in this quirky little spa town than hot stone massages and hikes around the Topatopa Mountains.”

The outlet further explained:

Indeed, beneath its mellow surface, Ojai turns out to be a teeming cauldron of petty political intrigue, wacky electoral dysfunction, bitter ideological turf wars, shady self-dealing, and shadowy consultants manipulating the levers of power at the highest levels of City Hall. Think “Peyton Place,” as directed by Barry Levinson. Or maybe Mel Brooks.

“I went to where they were actually counting the votes and it was hysterical,” said Williams, chuckling to the reporter as he recounted what he did on election day.

“They have these machines that slice open the envelopes and drop the ballots into a plastic box. And while I’m watching, I’m seeing ballots popping out of the box onto the floor,” he continued. “I’m like, ‘There’s one popping out. There’s two popping out.’ Then some person comes in, scoops them up, and puts them all back into the box. I mean, we put people on the moon 50-some years ago, and we’ve got ballots popping all over the floor.”


It turns out, however, that was the least of the problems.

The Wrap adds: “For reasons that might appear self-evident from the above, it took county officials three weeks to finish tabulating the Ojai votes, during which Williams watched as his 100-vote lead slowly popped away to nothing. Once all the ballots were finally counted, officials noticed that there were more votes cast in the election than there were actual voters. It took another couple of weeks to figure out that they had double-counted some ballots. They also discovered that at least one vote may have been cast by a resident of Germany, which would obviously be illegal.”

Tony Otto, a local artist, supporter of Williams — and Stix’s estranged ex-boyfriend — pushed for and financed a recount at a cost of about $28,000, which he said was the “best money I ever spent.”

“It was kind of nuts,” Williams said, remarking about the excruciatingly long process. “And it was torture.”


In the end, it didn’t go Williams’ way: Right before Christmas and some two months after election day, Ojai officials announced the results; the Happy Days icon was 42 votes behind, with Stix declared the winner.


The Wrap goes on to report that Williams, who has owned a house in Ojai and has lived there full-time for around five years, was a “reluctant” candidate. He told the outlet that he understood that there needed to be some changes made in the small city so it could progress somewhat, but he could not find anyone else to run.

He told the outlet he could “sense increasing division in the community, fights on Facebook about water and housing and the invasion of rich people from L.A,” a lot of which he believed was due to Stix and her “straw man arguments to keep out any sort of building or progress in our city.”

“I thought, there’s got to be better people than me to run for mayor,” he said. “I actually went out and tried to get other people to run. But I couldn’t find anyone else who’d do it.”


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