A city councilman was close to becoming the first Iranian-born mayor of Beverly Hills, a sign of the growing clout of Iranian immigrants in Southern California.
In elections Tuesday for the Los Angeles suburb's City Council, Jimmy Delshad was in second place behind planning commissioner Nancy Krasne, but only seven votes in front of current Mayor Steve Webb. The top two finishers will get seats on the City Council.
While 100 percent of precincts were reporting results early Wednesday, a total of 892 provisional and other outstanding ballots remained to be verified and counted.
Krasne was leading with 24 percent of the votes, or 2,486 votes, according to unofficial results posted on the city's Web site. Delshad garnered 22 percent of the votes, with 2,192 ballots cast in his favor, compared to 21 percent, or 2,185 votes, for Webb.
Delshad, 66, was one of three candidates of Iranian descent running for two open council seats. In all, six candidates are running for the two positions.
In Beverly Hills, re-election to the council would give Delshad the seniority to be named mayor. The mayor is the presiding officer of the council; a hired city manager is the city's executive officer.
The chance to become one of the highest ranking Iranian-American officials in the United States is not lost on Delshad.
"Iranians have always been successful in business and education," Delshad said. "But they don't think of themselves participating in politics even though local politics is what most impacts their lives."
An Iranian influx into Southern California began after the Shah was toppled in the Islamic revolution of 1979, prompting thousands of Iranians especially Jewish and educated classes to come to America. Today about 8,000 of Beverly Hill's approximately 35,000 residents are of Iranian descent.
Delshad moved to Beverly Hills 18 years ago after immigrating to America as a teenager. He started a successful computer hardware company, and sold it after being elected president in 1999 of the Sinai Temple, a conservative Jewish congregation a few blocks west of city limits.
He has campaigned on promises to improve traffic flow, provide free Internet service and install "smart" cameras that can alert police departments to criminal activity.
The Iranian-American presence in Beverly Hills became a campaign issue last month when sample ballots were sent out in Farsi and English. City Hall received hundreds of complaints by phone and e-mail, said Byron Pope, the city clerk.
Delshad said he opposed the bilingual ballots and tried to make clear he had nothing to do with them, reports AP.
"The Iranian community is one of the most educated minorities in America and reads English well," he said. "The ballots only caused confusion, and were an insult to many Iranians."