Candidates React to Election-Night Results

Winners, Losers, and Runoffs for Santa Barbara County’s 1st and 3rd District, 37th Assembly District, State Senate, Congress, and Presidential Primary

In the seven-candidate, no-incumbent State Assembly race, 22-year-old Republican Charles Cole and five-term Ventura County Supervisor Democrat Steve Bennett made it into the November runoff. Cole at his Persona Pizzeria party said he was shocked to come in first place. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

What has been an emotionally charged election season crescendoed Tuesday night as politicos and supporters gathered at political party venues across Santa Barbara County in anticipation of the final results in the five county and state races. 

Over at Casa Blanca, 1st District supervisor incumbent Das Williams was surrounded by cheering members of the local Democratic Party as he kept his slim lead over challenger Laura Capps with 51.63 percent. Defeating Laura Capps is a particularly steep slope for Williams to scale because of her established, prominent family name in the community and her nearly identical political values to Williams.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Williams said. “Most of the people behind us walked on this campaign, and we talked to 15,000 people door-to-door. It’s enormously gratifying to have the support from folks who are willing to do that, and it’s an honor to have the voters remember what I’ve done and want me to continue that work on the environment and public safety.”

There are still 50,000 ballots out countywide, so Capps estimates there are at least 10,000 still out in the 1st District race.

Capps initially entered the race because she believed Williams’s acceptance of $62,000 in donations from cannabis groups while writing and passing the cannabis ordinance was unethical, and just last week she implied he was in the pocket of big oil, an allegation Williams denied. The race put those who are loyal to Williams at odds with those who are loyal to Capps — and her parents, who served in Congress.

Photo: Daniel Dreifuss
Incumbent 1st District Supervisor Das Williams at Casa Blanca celebrating his consistent, narrow lead over his challenger Laura Capps.

The 1st District race has been divisive for the local community, splitting apart friends and neighbors in the midst of the back-and-forth political attacks between Capps and Williams throughout the campaign season. Williams, who has held political offices for 17 years, said this has been the most “vicious” race he’s ever experienced. 

“The people remembered my track record and work, and that’s why the attacks against me didn’t work,” he said. “What we saw from door-to-door and polling is that [Capps’s] negative attacks had no effect whatsoever and nobody believed them.”

Over at Jill’s Place, Capps remained optimistic throughout the evening despite her trailing behind Williams in the close race. Even with the last of the semifinal results in, Capps and her team are hopeful they can still beat Williams’s narrow lead.

“Votes are still being counted, and I am committed to ensuring every voter’s voice is heard,” Capps said. “We are working with officials to determine how many ballots remain to be tallied — some places in California are reporting that they have not yet counted as many as half of the ballots submitted — and we appreciate your patience while we learn more about the ultimate result in our race.”

Photo: Daniel Dreifuss
1st District candidate Laura Capps at Jill’s Place remaining upbeat throughout the evening despite Williams tight lead. There are still 50,000 ballots out countywide, so Capps estimates there are at least 10,000 still out in the 1st District race.

Capps added that she is “proud of the campaign that we ran that consistently offered up new and innovative ideas on poverty, housing, climate safety, and a bold government accountability plan to curb the influence of special interests” and that she is “eternally grateful for everyone who participated in this election.”

In the 3rd District supervisorial race, incumbent Joan Hartmann beat conservative No Party Preference candidate Bruce Porter 52.26 percent to 35.71 percent. It was widely anticipated that Hartmann might enter into a runoff with Porter, so the outright victory was consequential. 

“We hit all our targets. We didn’t win the Santa Ynez Valley, but we hit our targets,” said Mary Rose, Hartmann’s campaign manager. “And then Isla Vista came in, and whoosh. We got 10,000 votes there the last day. That’s more than we got last time. Whatever Bruce Porter was selling out there, Isla Vista wasn’t buying.”

The 37th District Assembly race was the greatest crapshoot of the five races, with seven candidates and no incumbent. Charles Cole, the 22-year-old and only Republican, and Steve Bennett, the five-term Ventura County supervisor, made the November runoff with 32.1 percent and 23.9 percent, respectively. Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo just missed the runoff with 17.9 percent. 

“I did not think I’d be in first place,” Cole said at Persona Pizzeria, where he chose to hold his party because it was also his first job. “Maybe second, but first place by this margin is nothing I expected. This is beyond what I imagined I’d be doing.”

Bennett, who held his party in his Ventura home, has served as a locally elected official for nearly three decades. If he beats Cole in November, he will serve on the state level for the first time. Cole has no prior experience in politics.

Photo: CourtesyFive-term Ventura County Supervisor Democrat Steve Bennett celebrating his spot the November Assembly race runoff with a bottle of champagne and his wife Leslie and friend Steven Mayorga.

“I really appreciate the supporters that came together for this big campaign step, and I look forward to learning more about the issues in Santa Barbara County,” Bennett said.

For Murillo, who joined the other party Dems at Casa Blanca, her third-place spot was dismaying, but she felt her campaign was still worthwhile. 

“My team ran a good race and made a respectable showing,” Murillo said. “As they say in baseball, I tip my cap to the two candidates that finished ahead of me. There were so many good people in the race, all of us wanting to serve our community and the great state of California.” She added that she is proud to continue serving as the mayor of Santa Barbara.

In the 24th District House of Representatives race, incumbent Democrat Salud Carbajal entered into a runoff with Republican Andy Caldwell, getting 52.2 percent and 44.1 percent, respectively. In the 19th District State Senate race, Monique Limón won 56.4 percent of the vote and will face off in the November election against Republican Gary Michaels. In the presidential primary, Santa Barbara County voted in line with the rest of the state, with Bernie Sanders getting 34.66 percent of the county vote. 

To see the the full election result breakdown, click here.

Correction: Monique Limón did not win the 19th District State Senate race outright as originally reported but has entered into a runoff with Republican candidate Gary Michaels.

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