Friedman and Nazarian On Track to Win Beverly Hills City Council Seats With Tight Race for Third

Councilmember Lester Friedman and Public Workers Commissioner Sharona Nazarian have established themselves as the clear front runners for the three open City Council seats in the June 7 election, with Friedman declaring victory to the Courier. As of press time, Councilmember John Mirisch maintains a thin lead for the third spot, with Planning Commission Chair Andy Licht and Councilmember Robert Wunderlich within striking distance.

Friedman currently claims first place with 1,914 votes, or about 19% of the vote. Nazarian appears likely to become the first Persian woman and second ever Iranian-American elected to the City Council, with 1,824 votes, or about 18% of the total.

“The campaign is finally over and the early returns have me in an a position to be elected for a second term. I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve our residents,” Friedman told the Courier.

Friedman reiterated his focus on “safety in our community,” highlighting the current Council’s launch of the Real Time Watch Center, the Beverly Hills Police Department’s drone program, and the expansion of the city’s CCTV network.

“I am proud of what our City Council has done and look forward to working for the betterment of our community in the future,” he said.

Despite her strong lead, Nazarian stopped short of declaring an outright victory.

“I want to thank my family, friends, volunteers and supporters for their trust in me. I ran a grassroots campaign with integrity and honesty on the issues important to the residents,” she told the Courier.

Nazarian attributed the results to a “clear message and vision for Beverly Hills, to bring stronger leadership towards safety and security.”

“I am proud that I ran an honest and positive campaign that focused on my platform to build a stronger, safer, and more unified Beverly Hills,” she said. “There are still votes to be counted and I will respect the process.”

Mirisch, Licht, and Wunderlich all fall within roughly one percent of each other as of press time. Mirisch, who is running for his fourth term, expressed some surprise about the results, given that he took the most votes in his last two election cycles.

Licht described himself as “humbled” by the support from friends, family, and the community, as evidenced by the sizable gathering at his home for an election celebration party on June 7.

“We ran a great campaign, it was a lot of fun, I met many great people and win or lose this was an amazing journey for me,” he told the Courier.

Wunderlich did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though he expressed disappointment to the Courier at his election night party.

The county will not certify the results of the election until after the 30-day Official Election Canvass. The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk still must count remaining Vote by Mail ballots received on Election Day, provisional ballots, write-in ballots and damaged ballots.

Nearly 22,000 residents were registered to vote in Beverly Hills in 2020, a year in which over 42% of registered voters cast a ballot, or about 9,160 voters–the highest turnout since 1982. Turnout seems unlikely to reach similar levels this year, despite the option of universal mail-in voting.

In order from highest to lowest number of votes, the candidates trailing the top five vote-getters include Vera Markowitz (1,009), Darian Bojeaux (445), Shiva Bagheri (292), Kevin Kugley (231), Akshat “AB” Bhatia (193), and Robin Rowe (180).

Markowitz did not respond to a request for comment.

Bojeaux said she would not concede “only because I wish to see the total vote counts,” but said that the results showed that candidates benefited from incumbency and “greater donations.”

“Brushing elbows with incumbents makes residents feel connected, and they seem to vote for those they like even when unaware of their positions and voting records,” she told the Courier.

Bagheri conceded her campaign saying that she felt “good about my first run for Beverly Hills City Council.”

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to canvas all of Beverly Hills and didn’t raise as much money as many of the other candidates, but feel good about the impact I made with the little I had to work with,” she told the Courier.

Kugley expressed hope that the winners, whoever they may be, “will fight for the wonderful people of Beverly Hills.”

He added: “They should work relentlessly on public safety, ease regulation on us, and continually listen to the residents.”

Beverly Hills voters appeared to deliver a clear victory to incumbent City Treasurer Howard Fisher, who is on track to serve another term with more than 63% of the vote as of press time. Challengers Jake Manaster and Gabrielle Pantera-Rowe trail behind with 27% and 9% of the vote, respectively.

Manaster conceded the race in a post on social media, acknowledging that the results “did not turn out as we had hoped despite doing everything a good solid campaign should do.”

“Incumbencies are unquestionably always a very difficult barrier to overcome,” he added. “No regrets and I remain committed to the volunteerism that has got me this far in life. Onward!”

Addressing the city, Fisher said, “Thank you for entrusting me with another term as the shepherd of the City’s finances as your Treasurer. And I thank everyone who supported me, and all who voted in this election.”