It looked like Wednesday that restaurateur Terry Maxwell has prevailed in a three-man race to represent downtown on the City Council, though many Kern County ballots remained uncounted.
Maxwell was defeating Bakersfield Planning Commissioner Elliott Kirschenmann with 45.6 percent of the votes with all precincts reporting. Kirschenmann, who works for a local real estate developer, had 42.85 percent. David Mensch, who helps the disabled use assistive technology, netted 10.9 percent.
But some 50,000 votes in Kern County remained uncounted, according to elections chief Karen Rhea. How many are outstanding in the Ward 2 race was difficult to say.
The race for the Ward 2 seat, which also includes parts of southwest and east Bakersfield, was the most competitive of the city council races. The winner will replace Sue Benham, who has served three four-year terms on the council and didn't want to go for a fourth.
Benham endorsed Kirschenmann, who raised more money, had more endorsements and showed a more visible presence with campaign signs posted on downtown yards. Kirschenmann spent about $26,290 on his campaign this year, compared with the $10,167 Maxwell spent, according to campaign finance filings. He also raised $79,945 in donations, including a $34,900 loan to himself — more than five times as much as Maxwell.
The race marked Maxwell's second attempt to win the seat. He unsuccessfully challenged Benham in 2004.
In a far less competitive contest, Bob Smith easily won the race to replace David Couch as Ward 4 councilman.
With all precincts reporting, Smith received 69.83 percent of the vote. Oil industry lawyer Harley Pinson -- who had dropped out -- took 19.73 percent and resident Daniel Mbagwu 9.97 percent.
Smith founded Bike Bakersfield and owns a local civil engineering and land planning firm.
His chances of winning rose significantly when Pinson suspended his campaign in September because of disagreements with his campaign manager. Mbagwu made minimal campaign efforts.
Couch will step down at the end of the year to take up the 4th District Kern County supervisor seat he won in June against Pinson.
Reached by phone Tuesday night, Smith said his top priority would be fiscal responsibility because, as he put it, "we can't do anything if we're broke."
"As long as you have a dry dust river bed running through town it's hard to have a good image I think," Smith said.
Harold Hanson, the Ward 5 councilman, won with 96.34 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting.
Hanson had been running unopposed for a fourth term for most of the election season until a late arrival qualified as a write-in candidate.
Ryan Nance, a carpenter for Security Paving, began campaigning late in the game, shortly after Hanson and other council members passed a resolution to do away with the prevailing wage requirement for city-funded public works projects.
Two candidates ran unopposed in their contests, Ward 6 Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan and Mayor Harvey Hall, who won his race in June.
Sullivan scored a fifth full term with 96.68 percent of the vote, becoming the longest-serving member of the council. Hall secured his fourth term earlier this year, which will make him the longest-serving mayor in Bakersfield's history.