In a narrow, nail-biter first round of election results, District 1 incumbent Councilmember Jason Dominguez came out just 31 votes ahead of Alejandra Gutierrez, his political newbie challenger. In District 2, Mike Jordan, a city planning commissioner, holds a 144-vote lead for Santa Barbara’s Mesa over his nearest rival, Realtor Brian Campbell.
In the District 1 race, Dominguez received 563 votes, Gutierrez received 532 votes, and Cruzito Herrera Cruz, who ran for the sixth time unsuccessfully, received 68 votes. This is the first ballot count, and more accurate results won’t be released until as late as Friday because the ballots are being counted in Los Angeles County this year, more than 120 miles away.
“I’m very happy to start in the lead,” Dominguez said after the results were announced at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. “We are confident that we will be victorious in this race. I’m very, very grateful for my amazing team of volunteers and supporters.”
Many don’t share Dominguez’s confidence, though. Mayor Cathy Murillo, who has feuded on the dais with Dominguez since his election in 2015, endorsed Gutierrez over her fellow incumbent councilmember and was celebrating in the council chambers immediately after the first count was announced. Murillo cheered the closeness of the count, calling it a win.
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the city had received a total of 1,172 ballots (668 from the post office and 504 from drop-off centers) that were not included in the initial count. These include ballots from both District 1 and District 2, the only other district in the election. Santa Barbara’s political pundits believe there is a high chance the remaining votes may sway in Gutierrez’s favor — voters in her demographic are more likely to vote later, and Dominguez’s to vote earlier.
“I’m feeling very positive. This is a direct reflection of the change District 1 wants and what happens when they see someone they relate to,” Gutierrez said. “Women of color need to be in politics more and be a part of making changes.”
Gutierrez grew up on the Eastside, the neighborhood District 1 represents. Her community roots and campaign on local, Eastside-specific issues appear to have helped propel her forward, potentially ousting Dominguez. Her endorsements from the Democratic Party, the mayor, and the Independent probably helped, too.
Gutierrez and her supporters partied their almost-probably victory at Casa Blanca, while Dominguez and his crew kept positive at Uncorked.
“So, I guess this shows that you don’t have to have degrees from prestigious schools,” Gutierrez said as an apparent slight at Dominguez, a Stanford and Berkeley graduate. “All you need is a passion.”
Results weren’t as close in District 2, which were difficult to gauge as Councilmember Randy Rowse has termed out and five non-incumbents are running for his seat. Planning Commissioner Michael Jordan came in first with 935 votes, lone Republican Brian Campbell came in with 791 votes, community advocate Teri Jory came in at 449 votes, lifeguard Tavis Boise with 232, and attorney Luis Esparza with 189.
So far, of the 16,881 ballots that went out in this election, 3,792 have come back, or about 25 percent, and comprise the current vote total. In the previous council election — which included the seats for mayor and three districts in 2017 — the city had a 51 percent voter turnout. The ballots headed for Norwalk tonight and the rest of this week will be counted on Friday, November 8, with the final votes tallied on November 13.