It was a good night for progressive Democrats in Santa Barbara County. While some of Tuesday’s races were squeakers, others were convincing; regardless, it was a clean sweep in Tuesday’s primary elections.
Topping the list was Senior Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who in coming weeks will become the second woman ever to be District Attorney in Santa Barbara County. With all precincts reporting, Dudley held a 54.1-to-45.6-percent lead on her opponent, Chief Trial Deputy Joshua Lynn. She is expected to be sworn in as soon as election results are certified, which happens within a month of the June 8 election.
It’s been a long, strange route to electing a District Attorney, starting with Dudley announcing her opposition to then-DA Christie Stanley in early fall. The office was without a leader, Dudley and her supporters said, as Stanley was tragically crippled by lung cancer. Stanley (who passed away earlier this year) eventually dropped out of the race and endorsed her South Coast Chief Trial Deputy Joshua Lynn, who also gained the endorsement of former DA Tom Sneddon and several others in management positions. But by that time, Dudley had already gained endorsements from two county supervisors, Sheriff Bill Brown, and, shortly after, the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association.
The two strong personalities butted heads several times after that, in public forums, on local airwaves, and in print. As vote-by-mail ballots hit mailboxes, Lynn came out with advertising that many looked upon as negative, the end result not as beneficial as he probably had hoped. “If you … take the high road and work hard at something, you’ll be successful,” said Dudley, in a red coat at Pascucci’s, sporting the same color she wore when she announced her campaign last September. She plans to go on vacation to Utah for a few days to hike and “smell the roses” before returning to work on Monday. Priority number one, she said, is to heal an office that has been fractured by the highly contentious race. She plans to have a conversation with her opponent, but said she is not sure if she will keep him in the office. “I’ll have a conversation with him, and with others in the DA’s office, getting an idea of what is in the best interests of the office,” she explained.
Lynn, celebrating among friends, family, and colleagues at Harry’s Café, had no regrets about the campaign he had run. “This was never about me,” he said. “It was about what I thought the vision of the office should be. The office is way bigger than myself or Joyce.”
Though many in the progressive political world were worried about the race in the 2nd District, well aware of the implications, incumbent Janet Wolf beat Dr. Dan Secord, barely surpassing her margin of victory from four years ago, when the two squared off for the first time. She was leading 52.8 percent to 47.0 percent. “He ran a strong campaign with a lot of money behind him,” Wolf explained. “The people looked at what he was proposing and they looked at my record, and that’s how they voted.”
Secord attempted — and succeeded — in defining the discussion in the campaign, focusing on the county budget, and pinning much of the county’s financial problems on Wolf. He said she was beholden to unions — many of which gave her campaign contributions — and that she was being fiscally irresponsible. Given the anti-incumbment atmosphere pervading politics across the country, Wolf’s reelection was not a sure thing. But she held on. And now, this week, she continues with discussions on how to deal with the county budget shortfall.
Come January, Wolf will be joined on the board by Steve Lavagnino, who won the race to replace 5th District Supervisor Joseph Centeno, who is retiring. Sheriff Bill Brown, Auditor-Controller Bob Geis, and Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Joe Holland all won reelection, as none of the three faced opposition. Harry Hagen, currently the Assistant Treasurer-Tax Collector, cruised to a rather easy victory with 58.4 percent of the vote, despite three other names on the ballot.
Das Williams posted an overwhelming victory in the Democratic primary for the 35th Assembly District — which ranges from Buellton to Oxnard — against rival Susan Jordan. Williams — powered by an impressively muscular grassroots political effort coupled with a decisive advantage in campaign fundraising — won with 62 percent of the vote district-wide — 68 percent in Santa Barbara County in an at-times bitter contest with former colleague and political co-conspirator Susan Jordan. During his victory celebration at SOhO, Williams praised Jordan for “being right on many of the issues,” and pledged to throw a wrench in the gears of Democratic recalcitrance in Sacramento, as well as those of the Republicans’ just-say-no policy of obstructionism for its own sake.
By election night’s end, Williams was exuberant, relieved, exhausted, and somewhat dazed. Jordan — a behind-the-scenes coastal activist and organizer making her first bid for elected office — expressed pride in the work of her volunteers and campaign workers. At one point, she announced that she was going to enjoy a “flute of champagne,” making light of the champagne glass the Williams campaign had Photo-shopped into a hit-piece that sought to show Jordan took money, however indirectly, from oil companies.
Williams cried foul when the Jordan campaign bombarded voters with mailers showing oil-soaked birds next to Williams’s face, but Jordan held her ground. In the end, however, Williams’s depth of political experience — serving seven years on the Santa Barbara City Council and having been involved in countless political campaigns — prevailed. Williams will now face off against Mike Stoker — a seasoned political operator and former county supervisor — who won the Republican nomination against first-time candidate and Ventura blogger Daniel Goldberg. Stoker — who works for State Senator Tony Strickland and before that for Strickland’s mentor, the arch-conservative Tom McClintock — won with 75 percent of the votes. Democrats enjoy a substantial advantage in registered voters throughout the 35th, and Stoker will face an uphill fight.
The BP spill certainly doomed any remote hopes that Venoco might have entertained of persuading Carpinteria voters to pass Measure J, which would have approved the drilling of up to 35 new wells — and a 145-foot drilling tower to do it with — from the company’s Carpinteria facility into offshore reserves. Venoco outspent its opponents $600,000 to $80,000, but judging by the results, one would have thought the reverse was true. Measure J opponents racked up 68 percent of the votes. Some of the opposition was motivated by a knee-jerk reaction to any new oil development; others objected that the city council would have been eliminated from any real review or approval of the project.
For a while, it appeared that Venoco was gaining traction, predicting the project would generate $200 million for the City of Carpinteria and the County of Santa Barbara. But once the BP spill became a staple of the 24-hour news cycle, Venoco’s plans were toast. Opponents boasted of the breadth of their grassroots appeal. In a typical Carpinteria election, maybe 250 yard signs go up; Measure J opponents planted 950. Venoco officials charged the opposition with bullying, intimidation, and lying. Measure J foes have charged Venoco with the same. The multimillion-dollar question now is what happens to Venoco’s offshore oil lease and its plans to develop it? Company spokesperson Lisa Rivas said Venoco will be exploring its options. Rivas said Venoco pursued the initiative only after it became clear that a majority of three councilmembers were firmly opposed.
This November, three Carpinteria council seats are up for grabs. At least one of the incumbents — Brad Stein — has all but announced that he won’t seek reelection, and Mayor Gregg Carty has expressed ambivalence. Both Stein and Carty opposed Measure J.
Plenty of local politicians were squaring off in statewide races, as well. Outgoing Assemblymember Pedro Nava ended up sixth out of seven contestants to be the Democratic choice for Attorney General in November. Abel Maldonado, former Republican state senator representing Santa Maria and current lieutenant governor, will face off against Democratic candidate and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom in November. Republican State Senator Tony Strickland will face off against John Chiang to be State Controller come November, as well.
Santa Barbara County Elections
Joyce Dudley — 31,811 votes (54.11 percent)
Joshua Lynn — 26,791 votes (45.57 percent)
2nd District Supervisor, Santa Barbara County:
Janet Wolf — 9,593 votes (52.83 percent)
Dan Secord — 8,538 votes (47.02 percent)
Measure J, City of Carpinteria:
No — 2,209 votes (70.06 percent)
Yes — 944 votes (29.94 percent)
County Treasurer-Tax Collector:
Harry Hagen — 30,570 votes (58.35 percent)
Michael Cheng — 8,369 votes (15.98 percent)
Gregory Gandrud — 8,053 votes (15.37 percent)
Polly Holcombe — 5,207 votes (9.94 percent)
District and Statewide Contests
Governor, Democratic Party Nomination:
Jerry Brown — 1,478,752 votes (84.1 percent)
Richard Aguirre — 71,493 votes (4.1 percent)
Governor, Republican Party Nomination:
Meg Whitman — 1,101,528 votes (64.2 percent)
Steve Poizner — 461,823 votes (26.9 percent)
35th State Assembly District Democratic Party Nomination:
Das Williams — 18,502 votes (61.4 percent)
Susan Jordan — 11,635 votes (38.6 percent)
23rd Congressional District Republican Party Nomination:
Tom Watson — 11,554 votes (35.9 percent)
John Davidson — 7,342 votes (22.8 percent)
Dave Stockdale — 5,418 votes (16.8 percent)
Clark Vandeventer — 5,076 votes (15.7 percent)
Carol Lee Miller — 2,837 votes (8.8 percent)
24th Congressional District Democratic Party Nomination:
Timothy Allison — 15,530 votes (47.5 percent)
Marie Panec — 9,693 votes (29.7 percent)
Shawn Stern — 7,486 votes (22.8 percent)
Statewide Ballot Initiatives
Prop. 13 — Property Tax Exemption on Seismic Retrofits:
Yes — 3,200,194 votes (84.5 percent)
No — 588,582 votes (15.5 percent)
Prop. 14 — Top Two Vote-Getters ‘Open’ Primary:
Yes — 2,077,100 votes (54.2 percent)
No — 1,761,410 votes (45.8 percent)
Prop. 15 — Allows Public Financing for Candidates, Secretary of State:
Yes — 1,593,698 votes (42.5 percent)
No — 2,147,745 votes (57.5 percent)
Prop. 16 — Two-thirds Vote Requirement for Local Providers:
Yes — 1,830,278 votes (47.5 percent)
No — 2,015,297 votes (52.5 percent)
Prop. 17 — Auto Insurance Continuous Policy Driver Rate Change:
Yes — 1,848,768 votes (47.9 percent)
No — 2,004,410 votes (52.1 percent)
Measure K — Maintain Santa Barbara County Bed Tax:
Yes — 41,175 votes (71.23 percent)
No — 16,629 votes (28.77 percent)
Measure L — Hope School District Bond Extension:
Yes — 2,454 votes (67.45 percent)
No — 1,184 votes (32.55 percent)