Absentee ballots-93,366 of them-were mailed out to Santa Barbara County voters today. The number is about half of the 186,000 total registered voters in the county. The last day to register to vote is May 19.
Voters will have their say in three local supervisorial races-in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Districts-as well as superior court judge races. Primary races in state and congressional races are also on the ballot, as are two statewide ballot measures and one local measure. In the 1st District, incumbent Salud Carbajal is running unopposed. In the 4th, 10-year incumbent Joni Gray is facing a challenge from former Santa Maria Police Chief John Sterling.
The 3rd District has a crowded field of five running-South Coast physician Dr. David Bearman, Buellton City Councilmember Victoria Pointer, former 2nd District Planning Commissioner Doreen Farr, former 3rd District Planning Commissioner David Smyser and Santa Ynez School Board member Steve Pappas.
The five faced off last Wednesday in a forum at the Goleta Valley Community Center sponsored by Citizens Planning Association and the League of Women Voters. The forum, in front of about 100 people, was the second-to-last one planned for the candidates, and the first in Bearman’s home turf of Goleta. All the other candidates are North County residents. They are running to replace the seat Brooks Firestone, deciding not to run for reelection, will be vacating this winter.
The candidates faced the usual questions about the budget, the Gaviota Coast, the state housing mandate and the budget. With regard to the budget, as a start, Bearman said, he would cut the amount the supervisors are paid, and make sure county facilities are energy efficient. Pappas, who touted his experience as a school board member in control of a $6 million annual budget, said he would “return the county to the board and eliminate the CEO position.” Pointer seemed to agree, saying the county needed to restructure its management and “trim from the top” and let the individuals producing results at the lower end do their thing. Smyser said a priority on public safety must be made.
Asked what the number one issue facing the county was, candidates offered a variety of responses. Pointer said fiscal responsibility and economic vitality, while Bearman said the middle class and Farr said keeping the rural character and agricultural in the county in tact. Smyser said a respectful dialogue must continue, and barbed on the others, saying “activism is great” but is “polarizing” on the board of supervisors. Pappas took issue with that reply. “It’s not divisive,” he said. “It’s democracy. We need people to be authentically engaged. The board empowered the CEO with way too much power. It got way too far away from the people.” Other than that, the forum was a relatively calm one, not including a few barbs Bearman tried to zing at Smyser.
As has occurred at other public forums, Smyser said Firestone did many things well, and he would “continue the good work Firestone started,” while the other four were hard pressed to find policy decisions the supervisor made with which they agreed. Bearman bashed Firestone’s “general pro-development stance” and said he didn’t see the supervisor as the “healer most people hoped he would be.” Farr agreed. “He was neither moderate nor a bridge builder.”
Bearman called widening the freeway a “waste of money” that is promoting reliance on fossil fuel. Pappas called widening the freeway a “short-term solution” and that the focus should be on a rail system. Pointer agreed. Smyser, however, said that while commuter rail was indeed a good idea, finding a way to fund it was another question.
The crowd applauded all but Smyser after their individual closing statements.