It’s Santa Barbara’s 2017 General Municipal Election, and in the regular independent.com tradition, we’ll be using this page to deliver results, reactions, and reports from the various election night parties happening throughout the city.
Our team of reporters — Nick Welsh, Kelsey Brugger, and Keith Hamm — will be out and about to get the scoop while senior editor Tyler Hayden holds down the fort at Indy headquarters and writes these updates, which typically run late into the evening.
If you’re wondering who’s winning, who’s losing, what they’re saying, and what they’re drinking, this is the place to be. Send feedback and your own reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first round of results will be announced sometime between 8 and 8:30 p.m. and include a count of all 16,800 ballots received by the City Clerk’s office by the end of the day Monday. The second round of results will come between 9:30 and 11 p.m. and include ballots dropped off on Tuesday. A third announcement will be made late Friday afternoon with a count of any mailed ballots postmarked November 7. The final results will be certified next Wednesday, November 15.
According to the most recent registration figures of eligible voters, Santa Barbara is home to 25,667 Democrats, 8,677 Republicans, and 14,311 decline-to-state independents or those registered with third parties. Turnout is expected to reach 40 to 45 percent.
As of 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, the results are as follows:
Cathy Murillo: 6,059 (28.1%)
Frank Hotchkiss: 4,669 (21.6%)
Angel Martinez: 4,213 (19.5%)
Hal Conklin: 4,196 (19.4%)
Bendy White: 2,447 (11.3%)
Kristen Sneddon: 2,921 (51.0%)
Jay Higgins: 2,084 (36.4%)
Jim Scafide: 726 (12.7%)
Eric Friedman: 2,395 (55.4%)
Warner McGrew: 1,930 (44.6%)
Gregg Hart: 1,578 (56.3%)
Jack Ucciferri: 804 (28.7%)
Aaron Solis: 421 (15.0%)
Yes: 11,947 (55.7%)
No: 9,492 (44.3%)
Overall Voter Turnout: 45%
[Update, 8:19 p.m.]: Moments away from hearing the first round of results, mayoral candidate Cathy Murillo has made her way to the council chambers ― now doubling as City Hall’s election headquarters ― alongside District 6 candidate Gregg Hart, sitting councilmember Jason Dominguez, and County Supervisor Janet Wolf. A gaggle of City College journalism students has packed one side of the room while former city administrator Jim Armstrong and current administrator Paul Casey hover in the back. Election staff hustle to complete their first tally.
[Update, 8:28 p.m.]: Candidates continue to file in. District 4 contenders Jim Scafide and Jay Higgins found seats in the increasingly crowded room. District 5 candidate Eric Friedman also made his entrance. Chamber of Commerce president Ken Oplinger parked himself upfront. The City College students were overheard complaining the proceedings feel “too casual.” KEYT reporter John Palminteri is starting a live broadcast while Noozhawk reporter Josh Molina and Independent editor Nick Welsh take notes and chat in an aisle.
[Update, 8:40 p.m.]: As 8:30 comes and goes, the audience grows antsy. Ballot counters continue toiling away.
[Update, 9:04 p.m.]: “Oh my god!” exclaimed Cathy Murillo as the first results were broadcast. She leads the mayoral race with a cushion of 600-plus votes ahead of current second place candidate Frank Hotchkiss. Martinez, Conklin, and White trail in third, fourth, and fifth place, respectively. Kristen Sneddon is so far edging out Jay Higgins and Jim Scafide in District 4, and Eric Friedman holds a thin advantage over his District 5 rival Warner McGrew. In District 6, Gregg Hart sits comfortably atop a large cushion between himself and candidates Jack Ucciferri and Aaron Solis. “We’re going to do such good work,” Murillo told reporters as she headed out the door with the other Democratic Party-endorsed candidates to Casa Blanca.
[Update, 9:14 p.m.]: Indy reporter Keith Hamm is with the Sneddon camp at Benchmark Eatery. In the company of her husband, two young children, and a crowd of cheering and hugging supporters ― including former Rep. Lois Capps and daughter Laura Capps ― Sneddon said: “I felt really good at 8 p.m. when there was nothing more I could do. Now, I can feel relief [with these initial numbers.] We had no idea how this was going to go.” Former councilmember David Landecker agreed the early results bode well for Sneddon. “I think those first numbers are strong enough to hold her through,” he said. “It’s almost no question in my mind.”
[Update, 9:23 p.m.]: Frank Hotchkiss, reportedly “extremely disappointed” by the early results that show him behind Murillo, split early from Ca’ Dario restaurant where he had gathered with supporters.
[Update, 9:28 p.m.]: Laura Capps, a resident of District 4, said of her first encounter with Sneddon: “I spent 15 minutes with her, and how could I not support her? Kristen told me the war on science is real, the war on women is real.”
[Update, 9:56 p.m.]: Warner McGrew, trailing Eric Friedman by 250 votes in the District 5 race, said he’s “been better” but remains optimistic. “I’m always hopeful,” he said. “You don’t go fishing unless you think you’re going to catch a fish.” Hunkered down in the Uptown Lounge with more than 100 friends and family, McGrew vowed ― no matter how the final results shake out ― to keep plugging away at the city’s problems. “I feel Santa Barbara needs a lot of help,” he said, most critically in providing its “wonderful” staff with “vision and direction” to better serve the public. McGrew said he discovered during his campaign that many city residents are simply unaware of the “turmoil” in City Hall. Should he fail to catch Friedman, McGrew ― a former city fire chief who remains well-liked and well-connected among city workers and politicians ― said he’ll stay in the game. “I’ve been in that place for 47 years,” he said. “That’s not going to change. It’s a habit. I just hope the comments that I’ve made the and the issues I’ve raised are taken to heart by the people who get in office.”
[Update, 10:13 p.m.]: Hotchkiss conceded defeat with an email to supporters: “Thanks very much for all your support and help,” it reads. “I regret to report that we were decisively beaten by the progressive candidate in the race, Cathy Murillo, who will be the next mayor of Santa Barbara. Please do not give up the fight for good values and honest leadership. Eventually, we will win.”
[Update, 10:28 p.m.]: Admitting defeat but promising to not go gently into Santa Barbara’s political night, Angel Martinez said he may well become “a real pain in the butt” for City Hall by continuing to call for greater transparency and accountability of its leaders. “The reality is we have work to do,” he said. Martinez ― currently stuck in third place in the five-way mayoral race ― believes his candidacy “forced the conversation” and galvanized Santa Barbara’s business community. A supporter among friends and family stationed at Paradise Cafe joked without him in the race, the candidates wouldn’t have had anything to talk about. Martinez called his campaign an “eye-opening experience” and said his main takeaway was that “there are an incredible number of people who care about this community and want the best for it.”