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Luck of the draw: Allen pulls out the win in Manhattan Beach

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Incumbent Manhattan Beach Mayor Paul Allen selects a card from a deck after his challenger, Kevin Larson, during the special tiebreaker council meeting Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Manhattan Beach City Hall. Erin Bormett / Echo Journal 2 / 3
Incumbent Mayor Paul Allen won the high card draw tiebreaker in the Manhattan Beach mayoral race against opponent Kevin Larson Wednesday, Nov. 14, at a special council meeting at Manhattan Beach City Hall. Erin Bormett / Echo Journal 3 / 3

The nine of diamonds may not generally be considered a strong contender in a high card draw, but for incumbent Manhattan Beach Mayor Paul Allen, it was enough to secure the win.

Allen beat challenger Kevin Larson in a game of chance for the mayoral title at a special tiebreaker council meeting Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Manhattan Beach City Hall due to last week's election results revealing a perfect 23-23 vote split between candidates.

Between members of the press and the general public, more than a dozen people attended the meeting, which lasted only 10 minutes. Vehicles lined the street outside city hall, as there were not enough spaces in the parking lot to accommodate everyone.

Allen brought the special council meeting to order, saying city law mandates that the position of mayor now be determined by lot, in a manner agreed upon by the council. This could be any game of chance in which both parties are equally likely to succeed.

City Clerk Amy Wannebo presented the council with two options - a coin flip using a 2018 silver dollar donated by a community member, in which each candidate would be assigned head or tails, or a high card draw using an unopened deck of playing cards, which required no additional decisions.

After minimal discussion the council unanimously moved to select the mayor via a high card draw with aces low.

Wannebo shuffled the deck and presented a spread of cards to both candidates.

Before selecting their cards, Larson shook Allen's hand and wished him luck.

"If nothing else, at least we mobilized the people, right?" Larson asked.

Voter turnout was extremely high in Manhattan Beach, with 47 ballots cast in a town of just over 60 people.

"That and the media," Allen laughed, gesturing to the small crowd of cameras and microphones in front of him.

After both candidates drew from the deck, Allen placed the nine of diamonds on the desk in front of him.

"Neither of us drew too well, but you win," said Larson. He placed the three of hearts beside Allen's card and shook his hand again.

The meeting adjourned immediately following the tie-breaker.

"It's bittersweet in a way," said Allen.

He said he didn't think a tie-breaker by chance was necessarily the best way to handle a split vote.

"There would be ample time to hand out ballots and have a re-vote, or at least to flex that option with the public," he said.

"I think I would have picked the cards myself, if anyone's asking," said Larson. "That's the fairest way. I just didn't pick the right card. You have to settle this as quickly as possible so the community can move on. It's not right to drag it out."

The public seemed satisfied with the outcome. Many stayed to speak with both candidates after the meeting adjourned.

Council member Janice Allen - who also is Paul Allen's wife - found Larson after the draw.

"Kevin, let's get you around here a little more, too," she said.

Paul Allen said he was happy with the results, but knows that if he had lost, the city would still be in good shape.

Wannebo announced that Manhattan Beach had 49 registered voters at 7 a.m. on Election Day, with one additional registration during the day. As a mail-in precinct, 48 ballots were delivered with a single rejection, for a total of 47 ballots counted.

Only 46 voters selected a mayoral candidate, meaning one of the accepted ballots did not contain a vote for either candidate.

Both Allen and Larson joked about the unnecessary hubbub surrounding their tiebreaker. They each appear ready to step out of the spotlight now that the matter is settled.