The People Have Spoken

The People Have Spoken: Local Election Plays Out as Anticipated

by Ethan Stewart

Ominously tagged with the devilish dateline 6/6/06, Tuesday was Election Day for Californians. With several significant local primaries, and a proposal to split Santa Barbara County in half on the docket, turnout at the polls was markedly light; about 46 percent of registered voters county wide cast ballots, and nearly 60 percent of these were absentee. While there were no jaw-dropping returns Wednesday morning, there was enough percentage-point jockeying on Tuesday evening to keep the camp fires burning late in many of the candidates’ post-election party sites.

Santa Barbara County officials counted 182,860 votes, and — though approximately 9,000 absentee ballots remained to be tallied as of press time — the results are clear. In the highly anticipated 2nd District county supervisor race, sole Republican candidate and former Santa Barbara City Councilmember, Dan Secord took home top honors with nearly 31 percent of the vote. Fewer than 400 votes behind him was affordable housing advocate and former Goleta School Boardmember Janet Wolf with 29 percent of the votes. The two will square off this November for the right to replace retiring Susan Rose. Rounding out the losers’ bracket was Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams with roughly 21 percent of the vote, and Joe Guzzardi just behind him with about 19 percent.

For Secord — who hosted the most jovial post-election bash of the evening at the Endless Summer Bar-Café in the Harbor — the results came as no surprise, as he remarked shortly before 9 p.m., “I never really thought of myself as an underdog … We’re going to run a nice campaign in November.” For Williams, the defeat had to sting as the young local Democratic star had bucked popular opinion within his party to make a run for the supervisorial seat, despite time remaining on his City Council term and an arguably more attainable 3rd District seat up for grabs in 2008. Williams dropped in at Wolf’s party at the Beachside Bar-Café in Goleta to give her a congratulatory hug, saying, “I’m going to work as hard for Janet as I would have worked for myself.” Guzzardi and his supporters rode out the disappointing evening at Harry’s Café on upper State Street; they found a silver lining in the final count by pointing out Guzzardi’s close rivalry with Williams, despite having spent about one-fifth as much money on his campaign.

If there was any surprise Tuesday night, it had to be the results of the countywide sheriff’s election. The contest for top cop was ostensibly the most bitter local race, and though incumbent Sheriff Jim Anderson weathered the storm to take home nearly 37 percent of the vote, he still stands to face “good guy” Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown this November. Brown — who most experts agreed had no chance at all — came in with nearly 25 percent of the vote, squeaking past former sheriff Jim Thomas’s 22 percent; Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi came in with 15 percent. Thomas and Arnoldi pledged to back Brown. “Hey, if you’re an incumbent sheriff, and only one-third of the voters say they want you to stay on the job, you’re in real trouble,” said Thomas. Brown — who celebrated at Penelope’s, a Lompoc tea and gift shop — summed up his victory by saying, “I’m going to have a glass of wine, kiss my wife, and then start all over.”

Despite its high profile, Measure H — the proposal to split Santa Barbara County and form a new northern Mission County — proved to be the resounding loser on Tuesday night. With 82 percent of county residents voting against it, the proposed split met a similar fate to its previous incarnation in 1978. Santa Maria businessman Jim Diani — who spearheaded the Measure H effort — said he was surprised by how lopsided the results were, but conceded, “I think the people have spoken.” He added that he had “no incentive to address this again in the near future.” Eighty-one percent of would-be Mission County residents also opposed the initiative.

Rounding out the remainder of local races, incumbent 5th District County Supervisor Joe Centeno raked in 72 percent of the vote, eliminating the need for a runoff against his challenger Yvette Andrade. Christie Stanley also won her bid to replace longtime District Attorney Tom Sneddon with nearly 69 percent of the vote, while Doug Hayes garnered 16 and Gary Dunlap brought in about 15 percent. Lastly, Judge Arthur Garcia beat out Kevin Ready for the superior court judge seat with more than 60 percent of the vote.

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