Mayoral candidate Randy Rowse holds the lead in early returns in Santa Barbara. | Credit: Erick Madrid (file)

The first results from the election for Santa Barbara mayor have Randy Rowse in the lead, and in the council races, incumbents Kristen Sneddon and Meagan Harmon are ahead.

Rowse received 40.5 percent, or 7,895 votes, in the first tally announced on Tuesday night after the polls closed. Trailing behind Rowse is James Joyce with 26.0 percent, 5,072 votes; and incumbent Mayor Cathy Murillo with 24.5 percent, or 4,769 votes. The rest of the field has single digit percentages: Deborah Schwartz at 6.75 percent of votes (1,319 votes); Mark Whitehurst taking 1.6 percent (311 votes); and Boat Rat Matt Kllrain at 0.67 percent (131 votes).

As city watchers had predicted, Joyce and Murillo have split the Democratic vote in what is nominally a nonpartisan contest, leaving the field open to decline-to-state Rowse. He was appointed to the council in 2010, when he was the owner of the popular Paradise Café watering hole, and stayed for nine years, winning two elections.

“I’m gonna keep a positive attitude,” Murillo said. “Turnout is still going to be a factor.” Murillo was at the Democratic Party election night watch at the Cruisery, where the atmosphere was tentatively optimistic as everyone waited on the second wave of votes to be counted.

Over at El Paseo, where a line of supporters were congratulating him, Rowse said of his early lead Tuesday night, “I think we need to take a breath as a city and ask ourselves what we’ve worked on and what we need to work on.” Though many votes remain uncounted, Rowse holds almost 3,000 more votes than runner-up James Joyce.

“This is a community that can still make change,” Joyce said. “I’ll just have a different role in that.” Joining the candidate at Embermill were supporters who stayed confident in Joyce but had an air of acceptance, seemingly at peace with the early results. Joyce made it clear that his career and role in Santa Barbara were not over. 

So far, 19,587 votes have been counted in the citywide mayor’s race, out of the potential 55,308 voters in the city. This represents a 35.41 percent turnout, and the remaining ballots postmarked after 10 a.m. today remain to be counted.

Initial results on a big screen outside City Hall. | Photo by Ryan P. Cruz

In the council races, incumbent Councilmember Kristen Sneddon holds an early but decisive lead over challenger Barrett Reed, 61 percent to 39 percent for District 4, with a 45 percent of voters in the district casting ballots. Sneddon spent her evening at Sama Sama and credited her win to the voters in her district. “They’re very engaged voters,” she said. “They vote early and they pay attention to the issues throughout all four years.”

In District 6, incumbent Councilmember Meagan Harmon is in the lead of a field of four at 53 percent of the vote. Challenger Nina Johnson holds 34 percent, Jason Carlton 10 percent, and Zachary Pike 3 percent. About 29 percent of the district turned out. Harmon said she felt optimistic but didn’t want to count her chickens just yet. “There’s still a lot of votes to be counted,” Harmon said. “It’s not over ’til it’s over.”

Nina Johnson, Harmon’s challenger from within city government, did not want to comment on the results, stating she wanted more time to process them.

In District 5, it turns out that the sole named candidate, incumbent Councilmember Eric Friedman, faced 113 write-in votes against him but landed with 96 percent of the vote.

On Tuesday night, 4,612 ballots were known to be uncounted, said Sarah Gorman, the city clerk. Of those, 460 had come by mail, 3,912 were in drop boxes, 42 were provisional, and 198 had no signature or had signature mismatches that voters can cure during a canvass to contact them, she indicated.

The next tally will be announced on Thursday, Gorman said.

Correction: The correct turnout percentage for District 6 was 29 percent, not 41 percent, in the Tuesday night count.


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