SIGNAL HILL - With about 150 ballots yet to be counted in Signal Hill, voters will have to wait until Friday to see which City Council incumbent has been booted out.
As of Wednesday morning, three votes continued to separate incumbents Ed Wilson and Ellen Ward for the third of three council seats. Wilson had 475 votes, while Ward had 472.
The other two council seats appear likely to go to Councilman Mike Noll, who received 573 votes, and small-business owner Lori Woods, who had 546, according to unofficial tallies released late Tuesday by the City Clerk's Office.
City officials said 76 provisional ballots and 73 vote-by-mail ballots were turned in at the polls Tuesday, all of which must now be verified. A provisional voter is somebody whose registration could not be verified at the polling place, but who was allowed to vote.
"When we get these ballots back in the office we ensure that they did not vote twice. If that happens, the provisional ballot is not counted," said Becky Burleson, deputy city clerk. "Everything that is verified will be run through the ballot counter on Friday morning at about 9 a.m."
Once all counts have been certified by the city clerk and the council, the winner will be officially announced, she said.
"Anybody can win with 150 votes to count, so we have to wait for the votes and see what happens," Wilson said Wednesday. "Either way, I've been on council for 16 years, and I'm very, very proud to have served the city and to be able to make some real positive changes in the city. I'm honored that people would vote for me."
Among the other challengers, Elizabeth Wise received 393 votes, Robert Mendoza had 377, and Nancy Sciortino had 351.
Voter turnout was at almost 19 percent Tuesday, or 1,164 ballots cast, according to the City Clerk's Office, far greater than what many area cities saw during what was considered a lackluster election for the region.
The incumbents, Wilson, a certified public accountant; Noll, a retired businessman and real estate agent; and Ward, a retired government worker, were hoping to keep the seats they have each held for at least 10 years.
Those lengthy terms became an issue during the race, with the challengers saying Signal Hill needed new blood at City Hall - something Woods' victory brings.
"I'm hating to lose (Wilson or Ward), but of all the people that were running, I think Lori Woods was the most positive of all the other candidates," Noll said. "She started out saying, `I don't know much about this stuff, but I'm certainly willing to learn,' and I think that's good because we will have new blood on the council."
First thing on Woods' agenda - familiarize herself with city departments.
"The very first thing will be to just spend time with the different departments, get to know the staff and what they do in each department, and let people get to know me," she said.
Woods' campaign focused heavily on emergency preparedness and more resident-council involvement - things she plans to implement, one step at a time, she said.
One of the biggest challenges facing the tiny city of almost 12,000 people is creating sales tax revenue to replace redevelopment funds after redevelopment agencies were eliminated statewide. That was something every candidate said they would work toward if elected.
Another issue that divided incumbents and challengers is the Taxpayers' Right to Know and Vote tax initiative, which last month was officially set to be on the June 2014 ballot.
The ballot measure would require voters to approve all taxes, assessments and fees with a two-thirds majority vote. It would also require taxes and fees to expire within 10 years and assessments in 20 years, while bonds would have to be repaid within 20 years.
Incumbents said they oppose the initiative, while challengers, including Woods, said they generally support it.