Hotly contested, highly scrutinized, and unquestionably instrumental in pushing the United States in a new direction. All three describe the 2008 presidential election, which on November 4 ended with the election of first-term Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Whether citizens cast votes for the winner or his opponent, Senator John McCain, all will be able to say that they played a role in one of the most important races in the United States of America’s 232-year history: Not only did it result in the first-ever election of an African-American candidate to the nation’s highest office, but this election also came at a moment when the nation is shaken by economic failures and a lingering war abroad.
The soon-to-be 44th president of the United States garnered 349 electoral votes, including those of all states won by 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, plus states like Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and New Mexico, which in 2004 supported President George W. Bush. Current estimates say 66.3 percent of eligible Santa Barbara County voters cast a ballot, and just under 60 percent of Santa Barbara County residents voted for Obama. McCain got 38 percent locally.
Tim Allison was an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention last August and one of the many Obama supporters to attend the raging election party at Stateside Restaurant and Bar Tuesday night. He was more than ecstatic as he watched the results pour in over the television networks Tuesday night. “The convention was incredible, but tonight has topped it,” he said. With 1,200-1,300 volunteers locally, Allison said it was “humbling to think of the level of support in this community.”
Rep. Lois Capps, who endorsed Obama in the primary and saw it through to election Tuesday. “I called my daughter and was asking her, ‘Can it be? Can it be?’” Capps said. First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, pleased with the outcome, said, “What a historic, wonderful day for our country. : In electing Barack Obama, we’ve demonstrated how great our country is. By this election I feel we’ve finally matured to reflect the essence of our Constitution.” Meanwhile, at a well-attended but decidedly subdued party at El Paseo, hosted by Women for McCain-Palin, Marybelle Snow (and Palin impersonator Patty Engel, who said she would be running in 2012) urged attendees to join teamsarah.org.
While newspapers and Web sites were heralding Obama’s victory as early as 8 p.m., Santa Barbara’s polls were just closing on state and local matters. As numbers began rolling in, local measures quickly grabbed revelers’ attention.
With so many races so close, however, eyes were on the county elections office, where the Clerk-Recorder Joe Holland reports that there are 30,000 absentee ballots and 6,000 provisional ballots still to be counted, most of which were cast by people who lost their vote-by-mail ballots. Holland said his office will count vote-by-mail ballots by Friday and provisionals by next week.
Lois Capps will hang onto her Congressional seat in the 23rd District, defeating challenger Matt Kokkonen with 68 percent of the vote. Capps will now enter her sixth term as a U.S. Representative following the death of her husband, Walter. Kokkonen attacked Capps’s pledge at the outset to only serve three terms in the seat, saying she had breached her trust with constituents. “I learned one thing,” Capps said Tuesday night from Stateside. “Not to promise.”
Her election, plus that of several other local Democrats, was a sign from voters that change was needed, she said. “It looks like a strong mandate all the way around,” she said. “Now we need to produce.”
Meanwhile, in the 24th District, Elton Gallegly will hold onto his seat, defeating Marta Jorgensen with 58 percent of the vote while hardly running a campaign. Gallegly, a Republican, has served the 24th District since 1986, enjoying the same districting which allows Capps to hold onto her Democratic seat with relative ease.
3rd District Supervisor
Doreen Farr arrived at the Hollister Brewing Company looking nervous. She left the brewery around midnight a winner. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Farr secured a victory as 3rd District county supervisor with 51.38 percent of the vote to Steve Pappas’s 48.37 percent. “I’m positive this is going to be a new day and a new beginning for the 3rd District,” Farr told her supporters around 10 p.m., not declaring victory, but exuding confidence. “One journey is ending and another is beginning in January.”
Pappas had a less explosive party, convening with about 30 friends and relatives at his Los Olivos home. “I have no regrets about this campaign,” Pappas said. “I give credit to Doreen Farr as well for running a positive campaign. We set an example of what politics should be.” Farr had similar sentiments and called Pappas-now 0-2 in supervisor races-a “worthy opponent.”
Farr’s victory means the South Coast, with Wolf and Carbajal, now has a majority on the Board of Supervisors. Carbajal expressed optimism in finally being in the majority and was feeling good about the night’s events. Despite that majority, Farr said, she will be responsive to North County needs as well.
The half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Santa Barbara County passed. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Measure A has 78.63 percent of the vote. Said John Whitehurst, a San Francisco consultant brought on to run the campaign, “Measure A will break all records for Santa Barbara. We’ve made history with the wide support from the left and the right, the Democrats and Republicans, the business community.”
The measure is the first sales tax to be passed by the county by a two-thirds vote, and comes on the heels of a 2006 defeat of a similar measure. This Measure A will continue the one-half percent sales tax begun by Measure D, which pays for transportation projects around the county. If Measure A hadn’t passed, for example, the county would’ve missed out on $7 million to fix potholes and improve roads. The measure enjoyed support from a broad spectrum in the county, including Carbajal, COLAB’s Andy Caldwell, and 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, a group that rarely agrees on anything.
Superior Court Judge
In a close race, Jed Beebe just barely squeaked ahead of John MacKinnon in the county’s single judge’s race. Beebe garnered 51.53 percent of the vote, while MacKinnon fell just short at 48.05 percent.
Quite a few of this election’s statewide ballot measures were fairly close, though some not as close as the public may have expected. Prop. 8, which would amend the California Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages, with 99.5 percent of precincts reporting in, is passing with 52.5 percent of voters supporting it, much to the dismay of opponents gathered at Jill’s Place Tuesday night. Votes were still being counted, but the mood was anxious. “Today we are legally married. Will we still be legally married tomorrow?” said Jill Ellison, a lesbian who married her partner earlier this year. In Santa Barbara, 53 percent of voters opposed Prop. 8.
Those opposing Prop. 4 fared better. This measure, which would have required doctors to notify a parent of an underage girl before she could have an abortion, was voted down statewide by a narrow 52 percent majority. Similarly, 57 percent of Santa Barbarans voted against it. Prop. 7, which will require power companies to create more electricity via renewable resources, failed, with 65 percent of voters opposing it. A somewhat smaller Santa Barbara majority of 56 percent opposed it. And Prop. 11, which will grant the power to define Senate and Assembly districts to an independent commission, narrowly passed with 50.6 percent of the vote statewide and nearly 53 percent of the vote locally.
Other victorious measures included Prop. 1A, which will allot funds for a high-speed railway between Northern and Southern California; Prop. 2, which aims to improve conditions for farm animals by 2015; Prop. 3, which specifies $980 million for hospitals that have 160 licensed beds for infants and children; Prop. 9, which amends the State Constitution to include a victim’s bill of rights and limits parole hearings for imprisoned felons; and Prop. 12, which allots $900 million to assist military veterans in purchasing farms, homes, and mobile homes.
Other failed measures include Prop. 5, which would have drastically changed the method by which the state implements anti-drug abuse efforts; Prop. 6, which would have increased spending for law enforcement and toughened gang penalties and other felonies; and Prop. 10, which would have subsidized the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy research.
With three seats up for grabs on the five-member Santa Barbara School Board, lone incumbent candidate Annette Cordero was the top vote earner, with 25 percent. Second place went to Santa Barbara City College professor Susan Deacon. The final seat, as of press time, appears to belong to Santa Barbara real estate magnate Ed Heron, who snagged 16.75 percent of the vote. However, with fewer than 250 votes separating him and fourth-place finisher Charlotte Ware, there is a chance that once all provisional and late absentee ballots are accounted for, the two candidates may swap their finishing places. Speaking late Tuesday, Heron explained, “Given the field of great candidates, I guess it is only natural that we are so close. I guess we are just going to have to wait for a few more days.” Rounding out the field was Jacqueline Inda, who received just shy of 8 percent.
It should also be noted, especially given the closeness of the race, that School Board hopeful Kate Smith, who was disqualified from the race by the Santa Barbara County Elections Office for living outside of district boundaries, received 13,427 votes on Tuesday despite a campaign by election officials to inform voters that votes for her would not be counted. In other Santa Barbara School District election news, both Measures H and I-$27 and $21 annual parcel taxes, respectively, earmarked specifically for math, science, and music programs in both elementary and secondary districts-passed with more than 70 percent of the popular vote.
Like many of the other votes this week, the race for Carpinteria City Council remains too tight to call, save for the reelection of incumbent Joe Armendariz, who garnered 26.67 percent of the more than 7,300 votes already counted. Coming in second before counting provisional and late absentee ballots is candidate Kathleen Reddington, but she’s only 25 votes ahead of Steve McWhirter. “I’ve never been one to float on false hopes, and I hope I’m not,” said Reddington. “It seems pretty clean right now, and I look forward to serving the people of Carpinteria.” However, Armendariz claimed that his friend McWhirter would win. “Steve’s gonna win this race,” he said. As for his own victory, Armendariz enthused, “It’s confirmation by the voters. It’s sweet.”
In Buellton, Measure E, which limits the city’s urban limit line, passed with 68.3 percent. Its competitor, Measure F, failed, meaning Buellton will have to wait a long time if it wants to expand by 2,000 acres and potentially 30,000 people. In the Buellton City Council race, Holly Sierra and Dave King cruised to victory, with 31 percent and 21 percent of the vote respectively, beating out four other candidates.
Margaret Connell, who served on Goleta’s first City Council, and Planning Commissioner Ed Easton raised their glasses high amid cheers from an enthusiastic crowd. Chili’s Grill & Bar, located in the Camino Real Marketplace was packed with supporters, many coming and going from Doreen Farr’s election party two doors down at the Hollister Brewing Company. Despite charges by some campaign ads that Connell and Easton’s campaigns were funded by developers, a regular who’s-who of Santa Barbara’s environmental community were at the party. “I think the community has expressed a very strong preference for City Council people who will take a very cautious approach to growth here,” said Planning Commissioner Julie Kessler Solomon.
Connell continued that she hopes to enter into productive discussions with all sides concerning issues like revenue neutrality. She also thanked outgoing Councilmember Jean Blois for her many years of service to the city.
Blois and businessman Don Gilman made a valiant run for the open council seats, but statistics received from early votes held true to the end, with Connell getting 27 percent, Easton 26 percent, Gilman 23 percent, and Blois 21 percent.
In other matters, Harry DeWitt’s 30-year history with the Goleta Water District ended when he lost his seat on its board of directors. New to the district’s board of directors are Lauren Hanson and Bill Rosen, who go 27 and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. DeWitt received 15 percent of the vote.
Democratic Assemblymember Pedro Nava retained his 35th District seat with 66.7 percent of the vote-double that of Greg Gandrud, a Republican. Gandrud attempted to stir up controversy by suggesting Nava was disregarding the district’s constituency by skipping out on public forums. He also jumped on the “change” bandwagon, saying California was broke and needed a switch. It apparently didn’t resonate with voters in the district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 46 to 30 percent. Nava now enters his third and final term as an assemblymember.
It seems the more than $7 million spent on the State Senate race between Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson and Republican Tony Strickland-who are battling to win control of the 19th District, which spans from liberal Santa Barbara to conservative Simi Valley-has kept the two neck-and-neck. As of press time, Jackson was ahead of Strickland by a mere 108 votes-and that’s in a race with more than 300,000 people casting ballots. According to Jackson, who said she’s “cautiously optimistic,” there still are nearly 100,000 ballots to be counted in Ventura County and another 30,000 or so to be counted in Santa Barbara County. It could take as many as 10 more days to figure out the winner. But how did a Democrat do so well in a district that was gerrymandered to favor Republicans? “I think the demographics have shifted,” said Jackson. “I think there’s been a real rejection of the failed policies of the right wing and the Bush administration.”
Also known as Santa Barbara’s Telecommunication and Video Users’ Modernization and Tax Reduction Ordinance, this measure will update technical definitions in the city’s almost-40-year-old Utility Users Tax, thus preserving it from legal challenge. It also reduces the tax rate from 6 percent to 5.75 percent of monthly utility bills. (No, Internet use won’t be taxed.)
Isla Vista resident Bruce Murdock and two UCSB students, Liz Buda and Joshua Cataldo, ousted three sitting members of the I.V. Recreation and Parks District Board (IVRPD). Murdock took 20 percent of the vote, Buda took 19, and Cataldo 14. They’ll occupy the spots previously held by Marie Crusinberry, Kelly Ann Pritchard, and Arthur Kennedy. Meanwhile, Measure D-the land swap that would have traded IVRPD-owned land with plots owned by the I.V. Redevelopment Agency-failed, garnering support from only 27 percent of I.V. residents. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass. Ken Warfield, IVRPD chair, blamed the community’s reluctance toward change.