Democrats now have a 6.3 percent lead in registered voters over Republicans in the 24th Congressional District. Six months ago, the Dems had just a 3.4 percent lead.
The race to represent the 24th Congressional District — encompassing Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and a sliver of Ventura counties — is wide open for the first time in nearly 20 years after longtime Representative Lois Capps announced her retirement last year.
Since January, Santa Barbara County has seen a 10,435 — 5.5 percent — increase in registered voters. Of those, 9,639 were Democrats and 2,443 were Republicans. The number of registered voters in every other category — no party preference, American Independent, Libertarian, and Green Party — went down. A large chunk of the increase came from the Isla Vista area, which falls in the county’s 3rd supervisorial district.
Thirty percent of registered voters in Santa Barbara County are 35 years old or younger. Nearly a quarter are 66 years old or older.
On the eve of the June 7 primary election, nearly 56,000 Santa Barbara County residents had mailed in their ballot — 42 percent of all those who may cast a ballot by mail, which represent 27 percent of all registered voters. In San Luis Obispo, 50,000 residents — 46 percent of the vote-by-mail residents — had returned their mail-in ballots by the day before the election.
In the congressional race, big party money on both sides has been close to $1.5 million, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports. Of that, Democratic political action committees spent $823,000, and Republican PACs spent $663,000. The vast majority of the Dem money was spent to support County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, save for $7,106 spent by the House Majority PAC to oppose Achadjian. Of the GOP money, 57 percent of it was spent to oppose Carbajal or Democrat Helene Schneider, who serves as the mayor of the City of Santa Barbara. The rest (reported by Citizen Super PAC) was spent to support Republican Justin Fareed.
On June 4, the American Action Network, a conservative political action committee, reported $25,000 in independent expenditures. The money, according to federal finance reports, was spent on phone calls to oppose Schneider.
But Dian Pulverman — a registered Democrat, who received a call from a phone bank paid for by American Action Network — said the caller asked if she could count on her vote for Schneider. (Pulverman is supporting Carbajal.) Other registered Democrats received the same calls. The Republican intent appears to split the Dem vote.
“I just find it so disturbing that the opposite side is using this clever tactic,” Pulverman said. She also received mailers that portray Schneider and Bernie Sanders’s faces in a green pea, saying “Two liberal peas in a pod.” Another shows Schneider next to Sanders, both in formal dance attire with microphones. A statement across the top reads: “That Smooth 60s-style liberalism is back.”
Campaign consultant Bill Carrick, who now works on Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez’s campaign and who has worked on Capps’s campaigns, said he has never known such a tactic to work. Given California’s open primary system, he said, “I think it’s going to be a more common phenomenon.”
The polls close on June 7 at 8 p.m. A new California law allows all ballots postmarked on June 7 to be counted. According to Joe Holland, Santa Barbara County’s Clerk-Recorder, in the past, a couple hundred ballots were returned late. Now, his office goes to the post office for three days following the election. “It’s a good thing,” he said.