More Competition for Joni Gray

Former Lompoc Mayor Joyce Howerton Enters 4th District Supervisor Race

Former Lompoc mayor Joyce Howerton is running for 4th District Supervisor, she said Monday. Friday was the last day to file paperwork for the June primary. Howerton, currently the executive director of Santa Barbara County Action Network, joins rancher Peter Adam in taking on incumbent Joni Gray, who has held onto the 4th District seat since being appointed in 1998.

Gray is considered quite vulnerable this year given many problems she encountered this past term, most notably her ties to the embattled Lompoc Community Housing and Development Corporation. Adam — a self-described “fiscal libertarian” — is expected to give Gray a run for her money, and Howerton’s entry into the race spells even more trouble for Gray. While Adam will likely bring in a lot of votes from the most conservative parts of the district, the liberal Howerton — who has run for the 4th district twice before — will pull more moderate votes away from Gray.

The 4th District, which includes all of Lompoc and Orcutt and part of Santa Maria, is the only district in the county where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats. Republicans hold a 45.4-percent to 31.3-percent advantage over Dems, with 18.2 percent of registered voters giving no party preference. “There’s a lot that needs to be done with the county,” Howerton said, stating Gray has been an absent supervisor. “On a day-to-day basis in Lompoc, we’ve just not had representation,” she said. “People want someone to work for them.”

Gray didn’t return a phone call Monday, but she says on her campaign Web site she has been the “voice of reason for rational county government” and that she has fought for law enforcement, fire protection, property rights, fiscal responsibility, and a user-friendly government.

Howerton served three terms as mayor of Lompoc. She helped found the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center, as well as Domestic Violence Solutions. She served on the board of directors of the Santa Barbara Foundation and worked as a community outreach coordinator for The Fund of Santa Barbara. In 2002, the second time she ran for the 4th District, Howerton lost to Gray in a head-to-head match-up, with Gray taking nearly 64 percent of the vote.

Adam said he plans to reel in the county’s spending, is specifically eying the county pension-fund issues, and believes that reform is badly needed. “They’re not able to ignore it anymore,” he said. The government’s only job, he stated, is to provide public safety and maintain infrastructure. “That’s it.”

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in June, the top two vote-getters will square off in November.

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