As of the 12th day of this year’s Santa Barbara City Council election, 4,202 ballots have been turned in to be counted. Although the comparisons are far from perfect, this number contrasts with the 4,444 ballots turned in on Day 12 in 2009 and the 5,534 the same time two years ago.
The vast majority of these ballots were mailed in to City Hall, but a small percentage were dropped off in person. This year marks the third time Santa Barbarans have elected their representatives almost exclusively by mail. The city mailed out 46,000 ballots on October 8 and the votes will be tabulated the first Tuesday in November, the 8th. The last day for city voters to register to vote is Monday, October 21.
Up for grabs is the mayoral seat plus three council spots. Incumbent mayor Helene Schneider is seeking re-election against challenger Wayne Scoles. Two council incumbents — Bendy White and Frank Hotchkiss — are seeking re-election, leaving one spot open. Currently, the council’s more liberal wing holds a 4-to-3 advantage, but depending on the results this November, that could change. That open spot had been held by councilmember Grant House — now being termed out of office — who is regarded as one of the council’s more liberal voices.
Aside from the two incumbents seeking re-election, there are eight other candidates vying for a spot on the council dais. Of those, all but two have raised enough money to trigger campaign reporting requirements. To date, no clear issue has energized the race and the boundary lines between traditional rival factions are far blurrier than usual.