PALMDALE — Councilman Steve Hofbauer will take over as mayor of Palmdale next month, the first time the city will have a new mayor in more than a quarter century.
Hofbauer beat longtime Mayor Jim Ledford in Tuesday’s election by more than 2,000 votes, in semi-official results reported by Los Angeles County election officials, Wednesday.
An estimated 984,000 provisional and vote-by-mail ballots remain to be counted in Los Angeles County overall and the next update to the results will be on Friday, county election officials said.
As of Wednesday, Hofbauer had 10,631 votes, or 44.59% of the total, to Ledford’s 8,502 votes, or 35.66%.
Challenger, V. Jesse Smith, co-founder of The Community Action League, was in third place with 4,709 votes, or 19.75% of the total.
While cautioning that he would await the official results with the outstanding ballots before feeling secure in his victory, Hofbauer was preparing to move forward with the community.
“The community’s been through a lot in the last year-and-a-half,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “My goal is to move forward, put that behind us, heal what problems we have out there and move forward together.”
The race was shadowed by criminal corruption charges against Ledford, in a case that has been slow to move through the court system.
Ledford pleaded not guilty in August to five felony counts in the criminal corruption case in which he and two co-defendants are accused of conspiring to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in NASA funds from a Palmdale-based nonprofit educational organization the co-defendants ran. The plea came more than a year after the charges were initially filed June 21, 2017, as the arraignment was postponed six times. Additional charges were filed in January.
A preliminary hearing in the case, in which a judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial, is scheduled for Feb. 11, after being postponed from Oct. 3.
Prosecutors allege Ledford was paid $60,000 a year without performing any substantial work for the organization, the AERO Institute.
His co-defendants, former AERO Institute executive director Susan Miller and former AERO Institute president and city consultant Kimberly Shaw, also pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
“This whole debacle has been confusing for people in the community,” Hofbauer said, noting he heard from many residents that they thought the issue “had all gone away.”
Hofbauer was first elected to the City Council in 2003, after serving 13 years as a Planning commissioner.
Ledford served for 26 years, the city’s longest-serving elected mayor since its founding in 1962. The city did not begin directly electing mayors until 1988, when William J. “Pete” Knight was the first.
“I’ve been blessed by my supporters,” Ledford said Wednesday. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the city of Palmdale for 26 years.”
While conceding it was unlikely the outstanding ballots would shift the race, Ledford said he plans to continue his involvement in the community.
“Palmdale’s my home,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Both Ledford and Hofbauer mentioned they were disappointed there were no candidate debates during the race.
While voters appear to have elected for a change in the mayor’s office, those in the City Council’s 4th District chose to return incumbent Juan Carrillo to the Council.
He had 2,939 votes, or 63.75% of the total, while challenger Oscar Aleman, a former Planning commissioner and businessman, had 1,671 votes, or 36.25% of the total in the semi-official results.
Carrillo, a former Palmdale School District trustee, was first elected to the council two years ago, in the first election under the city’s new district format, in which voters only vote for the seat representing their portion of the city.
Palmdale voters also cast votes Tuesday for directors representing two divisions for the Palmdale Water District.
In the Division 2 race, challenger Don Wilson, a school personnel commissioner, extended his lead from the early results, with 1,818 votes, or 61.17% of the total vote, in Wednesday’s semi-official results.
Incumbent Joe Estes had 1,154 votes, or 38.83% of the total.
Estes’ tenure on the Board has been marked by periods of contention with other Board members, most recently in a dispute over his use of the district’s administrative office address in his campaign filing and absences from meetings in recent months, following surgery.
In the race to represent Division 5, current Board President Vincent Dino held on to his seat for another four-year term, with 2,107 votes, or 71.54% of the total.
Challenger Sheik Aslam, a teacher, had 838 votes, or 28.46% of the total in the semi-official results.
Palmdale voters also had their say in a Valley-wide race for two directors for the Antelope Valley Healthcare District Board of Directors, which oversees Antelope Valley Hospital.
The semi-official results changed very little from the early returns, with both incumbents appearing to have retained their seats.
Dr. Phil Tuso had 32,525 votes, or 40.07% of the total, while Dr. Don Parazo received 26,835 votes for 33.06% of the total.
Challenger Michael Rives collected 21,816 votes, for 26.87%.