Santa Barbara Votes 2011

Dale Francisco, Cathy Murillo, and Randy Rowse Take the City Council Election

Assistant City Administrator Marcelo Lopez explains the process of tallying votes to an overflow crowd at City Hall Nov. 8, 2011
Paul Wellman

It’s Election Day 2011 in Santa Barbara, and as has become a bi-annual tradition, we’ll be using this page to deliver results, reactions, and reports from the various Election Night parties happening throughout the city.

Three of our experienced staffers — reporters Nick Welsh and Chris Meagher and photographer Paul Wellman — will be out and about to get the scoop while news editor Tyler Hayden holds down the fort at Indy headquarters and writes these updates, which typically run into the wee hours.

If you’re wondering who’s winning, who’s losing, what they’re saying, and what they’re drinking, this is the page to stay on all night long. Feel free to send feedback and your own reactions to

Santa Barbara City Council

(Results Last Updated: 11:46 p.m.)

Dale Francisco: 8,246 votes (15.91 percent)

Cathy Murillo: 8,142 votes (15.71 percent )

Randy Rowse: 8,007 votes (15.45 percent)

Iya Falcone: 7,753 votes (14.96 percent)

Michael Self: 7,316 votes (14.12 percent)

Deborah Schwartz: 7,025 votes (13.56 percent)

Sharon Byrne: 2,882 votes (5.56 percent)

Sebastian Aldana: 1,058 votes (2.04 percent)

Cruzito Cruz: 954 votes (1.84 percent)

Jerry Matteo: 438 votes (0.85 percent)

Registered Voters: 44,562

Ballots Counted: 18,127

Voter Turnout: 40.68 percent

[UPDATE, 8:18 p.m.]: Assistant City Administrator Marcelo Lopez, acting as master of ceremonies over at City Hall, welcomed the standing-room-only crowd by promising that preliminary results were only a few minutes away. In attendance, among others, were Mayor Helene Schneider, 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, CEO of the Community Environmental Council Dave Davis, former city councilmember Dan Secord, attorney Mary Rose, current Councilmember Bendy White, Goleta Councilmember Roger Aceves, Casa Esperanza director Mike Foley, Assemblymember Das Williams, and activist Kate Smith.

Lopez explained that city staff is pleased with how smoothly the count has gone so far. “You can already hear the machines clicking,” he joked. The first round of numbers to be released, he explained, will include all ballots cast up until noon today. Those that came in after are still being processed. The final count should be finalized by midnight, and officials are reportedly on track to make that happen. There will likely be two to three updated number releases before then.

If the initial vote counts are close, Lopez went on, expect to see lead changes. If the first dump shows large gaps, however, it’s unlikely any of the candidates will move up or down in ranking. Most of the city’s 43 precincts have reported, though a couple are still trickling in.

Reporter Chris Meagher, nestled among the people crowding City Hall’s chambers, noted that many in attendance will be disappointed if the incumbents hold their seat, calling the crowd “very progressive.” (Follow Meagher on Twitter here.)

[UPDATE, 8:51 p.m.]: As the lights dimmed in City Hall, the first round of numbers were projected on-screen. They showed incumbents Dale Francisco and Randy Rowse holding the top two spots with challenger Cathy Murillo not far behind in third place. Meagher said there are around 3,000 ballots that need to be counted. He pointed out that none of the candidates endorsed by the public safety unions — Iya Falcone, Deborah Schwartz, and Sharon Byrne — are in the top four. Only 300 votes separate Murillo, in third place, and Falcone, in fifth.

If past elections are any barometer, the left-leaning candidates — Murillo, Falcone, and Schwartz — will likely see an uptick in their numbers as the night progresses since late-in-the-game ballots are typically cast by Democratic voters. Murillo launched an impressive final push today, hitting the streets and having her volunteers make calls up until the early evening hours.

Meagher just tweeted: “When was the last time a conservative was top vote-getter? Francisco looks cozy on top.”

The crowd at City Hall is starting to thin as people make their way to election parties around town.

Cathy Murillo being interviewed
Chris Meagher

[UPDATE, 9:35 p.m.]: Confident her numbers will hold and that she’ll soon take a seat on the City Council dais, Murillo was seen dancing with her husband — and former council hopeful — David Pritchett at TonyRay’s nightclub in De la Guerra Plaza.

Meagher reported that the next vote count update will come down in an hour or so. Officials are currently tallying the ballots submitted today at the post office and the other five drop-off locations.

[UPDATE, 9:59 p.m.]: Over at Paradise Cafe, owned and operated by incumbent Councilmember Randy Rowse, who finds himself comfortably in second place with 6,883 votes, the mood is guardedly positive. “I feel good,” Meagher reported Rowse saying. “I feel tentative, frankly, because there’s still votes to count. We knew it was going to be close.”

Joining Rowse at the Paradise is Mayor Schneider, News-Press editorial writer Lanny Ebenstein, and Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss, who greeted Rowse with a kiss on the cheek. When asked about the other top vote-getters thus far, Rowse responded, “Cathy ran a good campaign. Dale is Dale.

“I’ll be glad to be done,” he went on. “Tomorrow is a good day no matter what — the work I enjoy. The campaigning is not something I like.”

[UPDATE, 10:19 p.m.]: Sharon Byrne’s camp, which made Dargan’s its home base, appears to have all but dissipated. The Milpas Community Association cofounder and political outsider is way out of the running, garnering only 2,346 votes so far. She was last seen sitting at the bar chatting with a few remaining supporters.

[UPDATE, 10:42 p.m.]: Incumbent Michael Self — in fourth place with 6,344 votes — was nowhere to be found in Blush where her colleague Dale Francisco was holding court. Mingling with a pack of around 10 supporters, Francisco cautiously relayed, “I’m feeling good.” He sits in first place with 7,097 votes.

Dale Francisco answers questions from student reporters
Chris Meagher

When asked what he thought about being the first conservative in years to earn the most votes in a City Council election, Francisco responded, “A lot of really important issues are not conservative or democratic issues. This is a nonpartisan office for a reason,” he went on. “The City Council is about making local government work — streets, sewers, those kinds of things. Those aren’t political issues.”

Francisco said he doesn’t think it was his campaign that propelled him to the top, but his productive track record in office. “People have the evidence of four years of what I did,” he stated. “People know what I did.” He said, while he’s glad the campaign is over, it did provide him the chance to make contact with new people. “You’re always learning things,” he said.

[UPDATE, 12:06 a.m.]: With Murillo’s second-place position firmly cemented, the Santa Barbara City Council’s first Latina member delivered an acceptance speech to a jubilant crowd at TonyRay’s. “When I started, I was very scared,” Murillo admitted. “I will look out for our environment and for our children,” she went on. “As Selma Rubin says, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about we.’ … This is a new era for Eastside and Westside and the Latino community.”

Local Democratic Party chief Daraka Larimore-Hall addressed Murillo directly about her campaign efforts: “The work you did was worthwhile,” he said. “We couldn’t be prouder of the candidates we endorsed.”

Iya Falcone — who couldn’t break the top three and wound up in fourth place — articulated her support for Murillo. “Cathy leads with her heart, and she’s smart enough to get it all,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder.”


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