Sour Grapes in Wine Country?

Steve Pappas Still Not Done in His Pursuit of Santa Barbara County's 3rd District Supervisor Seat

Steve Pappas reviews election results.
Paul Wellman

Steve Pappas isn’t giving up.

The candidate for Santa Barbara County’s 3rd District Supervisor seat has filed a lawsuit in Santa Barbara Superior Court contesting the November 3 election, an action he hinted he might make when he issued a statement a few weeks ago while in the midst of a recount of several Isla Vista and UCSB precincts.

When all the votes were counted, Pappas lost to Doreen Farr by 2.27 percent, a difference of 806 votes out of 35,621. But according to a press release sent out New Year’s Eve, roughly 600 registration cards were reviewed and Pappas’s team “found conclusive evidence that many voter registration cards are illegal.” Missed deadlines and improper/invalid registering and filing techniques were some of the allegations Pappas has made to suggest hundreds of voter registration forms are illegal.

Steve Pappas and Doreen Farr
Paul Wellman (file)

Pappas also alleges the county made errors in accepting registration forms within the deadline, failing to properly verify the identification and eligibility of voters, and allowing first-time federal voters to vote without providing proper identification. In addition, the county allegedly mailed absentee ballots to voters who were not registered as permanent absentee voters.

Jeffrey Lake, an attorney with Southern California law firm Theodora Oringher Miller & Richman, said Doreen Farr is named on the lawsuit, and that she has yet to respond. No judge or hearing date has been assigned yet, Lake said, but explained that such proceedings usually are expedited given their time-sensitive nature. His office has also submitted a Public Records Act request to the County Elections Office. In the meantime, no injunction has been sought and Farr will be installed as supervisor on Tuesday, January 6. “I’m looking forward to serving the 3rd District,” she said Friday. If a trial reveals votes that would change the outcome of the election, Pappas would replace Farr.

Pappas, whose press release was filled with quotes from himself and his lawyers about the integrity of the public electoral process, contrasts his endorsement by the Daily Nexus and “tremendous support in the UCSB and Isla Vista areas” with a loss in the area’s 18 precincts by 3,057 votes. The press release alleges that if the contested votes in these precincts are indeed invalid, Pappas would win the election by roughly 2,250 votes.

Pappas hasn’t returned several calls to his cell phone since Election Day, and hasn’t conceded the race to Farr either. While the two sparred in several debates and forums in the months leading up to the election, the contest was cordial and the two showed a mutual respect for one another.

Farr, as she has said all along, believes everything was aboveboard on this election, and is moving toward her January 6 installation as supervisor. “It’s his prerogative [to challenge the election] and he’s exercised it,” Farr said.

County registrar Joe Holland and other election officials couldn’t be reached for comment, as the County Elections Office has been closed as part of a furlough of county employees. But Holland, like Farr, has maintained throughout the entire process that everything worked exactly as it was supposed to.

Nancy Crawford-Hall
Paul Wellman (file)

While campaign contribution statements aren’t yet available for the latest period, Pappas is working with rancher Nancy Crawford-Hall, who owns the Santa Ynez Valley Journal and contributed upward of $100,000 toward Pappas’s campaign. She also wrote the letter to the county making the initial request for a recount.

Pappas and others spent long hours over multiple days in mid-December poring over registration cards, and paid for a recount of votes in the 18 precincts, which changed only three votes, a one-vote advantage for Pappas. The process however, must have stirred up something else that caught Pappas’s eye, given the lawsuit.


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