Close Calls and Dem Victories Tag Election
by Ethan Stewart
Mirroring a nationwide trend, Santa Barbara County voters turned out in force this past Tuesday and largely voted in favor of Democratic candidates. Faced with a laundry list of local and state propositions, a gubernatorial race, the 2nd District supervisorial contest, Goleta and Carpinteria City Council races, and two seats up for grabs on the Santa Barbara School Board, nearly 122,000 county residents cast ballots (roughly 65 percent of registered voters), including more than 22,000 in the City of Santa Barbara. When the smoke cleared early Wednesday morning, there was a new sheriff in town, a surprisingly powerful counterrevolutionary movement in Goleta, a Wolf on the Board of Supervisors, old and new faces on the Santa Barbara School Board, and a new mandate for Santa Barbara city cops to make marijuana their “lowest enforcement priority.” [Editor’s Note: As of Wednesday afternoon, 24,000 absentee ballots and 3,000 provisional ballots remained uncounted countywide.]
One of the closer races was between Democrat Janet Wolf and Republican Dan Secord for the nonpartisan 2nd District seat on the County Board of Supervisors. Beating Secord by a measly 905 votes, Wolf took home just under 13,000 votes, or slightly less than 52 percent. Addressing a small group of family and friends, Secord was hardly sullen in defeat. The former Santa Barbara city councilmember offered thanks and commented with a heartfelt smile, “Lord knows we did a good job in an uphill battle.” Wolf shied away from declaring herself victorious Tuesday night, despite her opponent’s de facto concession speech. Addressing a left-leaning, raucous crowd at SOhO, Wolf — joined onstage by her husband and three daughters — reflected on the “challenges” of her campaign before promising the 200-plus attendees, “We will see change.”
At press time, the biggest upset of the night appeared to be that of incumbent Sheriff Jim Anderson at the hands of Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown (pictured above right). Brown’s lead of more than 5,500 votes — or 53 percent — was insurmountable. Being an outsider to the department, Brown commented that his first action as sheriff would be to write all the deputies a personal letter asking for their input on key topics. Rounding out a bruising campaign pitting two men who clearly did not respect one another, the Brown victory marks the first time in the last 100 years an incumbent Santa Barbara county sheriff has ever lost.
Out in the Good Land of Goleta, an amazingly close City Council election seems to have doomed the city’s newfangled General Plan to the paper shredder. Shocking even themselves, campaign partners Michael Bennett and Eric Onnen took first and second place in the council race, turning what was once a 4-1 majority in favor of the General Plan — which champions urban agricultural preservation and growth control — into a 3-2 majority the other way. At press time, it appeared environmentalist Cynthia Brock would be the only survivor of the three incumbents, taking the third open seat by just a few dozen votes ahead of Roger Aceves, with current councilmembers Margaret Connell and Jack Hawxhurst coming in last. After victory speeches at Zodo’s bowling alley by Bennett and Onnen, the CEO of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, Kristen Amyx, took the stage, thanking the two victorious candidates “for the very hard work you are going to do for us.” Bennett and Onnen have said that the first thing the new majority will do is rewrite the General Plan to allow for more development, especially housing on agriculturally zoned lands. Nevertheless, they maintain that they are in still in favor of “slow, managed growth.”
The slow-growth slate that’s run Carpinteria City Hall for the past 16 years further solidified its hold as Brad Stein — now entering his fifth term — was reelected mayor, and two newcomers long associated with the slow-growth slate, Gregg Carty and Al Clark, won election. Losing out in the process was Councilmember Greg Gandrud, a Libertarian-minded Republican and an outspoken supporter of freeway widening. Clark noted he won despite a last-minute mailer holding him responsible for the closure of Main Elementary School, freeway congestion, and air pollution. “That sounds like a pretty good platform,” he joked. “I think I might switch over to the other side.”
In the Santa Barbara School Board race, incumbent Bob Noel defended his seat by winning nearly 32 percent of the vote, with Kate Parker taking the other available seat with nearly 29 percent.
As for measures, Santa Barbara City voters resoundingly approved a plan to make marijuana-related offenses the lowest priority of the SBPD. Measure P passed with nearly 65 percent approval. Measure D — a countywide initiative to fund various transportation projects — needed a two-thirds majority, but received only 54 percent of the vote, despite the fact that winners like Wolf and Congressmember Lois Capps had lobbied heavily for it.