Ten days after all the ballots were mailed in for this year’s Santa Barbara City Council elections, it’s now official: challenger Alejandra Gutierrez squeaked ahead of incumbent Jason Dominguez to win by only eight votes in one of the closest elections in city history. That means District 1 — the city’s Eastside — will be represented by Gutierrez, who runs the Franklin Service Center, as of this January.
Dominguez conceded defeat, saying Gutierrez ran a solid campaign. He would not be seeking a recount, he said. The costs are high — $10,000 to $20,000 — and he expressed doubt the outcome would change. Dominguez confirmed, however, that he still intends to run for the state Assembly seat that opened up when Monique Limón announced she’d be running for the State Senate. Conventional wisdom and historical records suggest it’s highly unusual for a challenger to beat an established incumbent. The last time that happened in a council was in 2006, when incumbent Brian Barnwell was defeated by then challenger Dale Francisco.
As of election night, Gutierrez trailed by 31 votes. But still outstanding were all the ballots that had been mailed or turned in on Election Day, a large pulse of about 2,500 votes that were largely the product of an energetic get-out-the-vote effort waged by Democratic Party activists who supported Gutierrez. As the outstanding votes were counted, Dominguez’s lead evaporated.
Also running was Cruzito Cruz, a seven-time contender who won 100 votes.
In District 2, which encompasses the Mesa, the results were never in doubt. With no incumbent, it was an open race. Out of a field of five, it was statistically clear as of election night that Michael Jordan — a consummate City Hall insider with 10 years on the Planning Commission, four on the Water Commission, and a stint on the Creeks Advisory Committee, not to mention the Downtown Organization and Chamber of Commerce — had a big enough lead that none of the other candidates could hope to catch up.
Jordan won with 1,509 votes. His closest rival, Brain Campbell — a first-time candidate who made homelessness the rhetorical center piece of his campaign — won 1,128 votes. Teri Jory, head of the Mesa’s neighborhood association and another first-time candidate, won 759. Tavis Boise, also a first-timer, took 375, seeking to be the voice of millennials on issues like climate change and income inequality. Second-time candidate Luis Esparza — a declined-to-state, pro-cannabis fiscal conservative — came in fifth with 305 ballots.