With the last of Election Day’s 6,500 ballots now finally counted in the Santa Barbara City Council race, Randy Rowse — former councilmember and restaurant owner — came in first out of a field of six mayoral contenders and is set to be sworn in as the city’s 51st mayor in January. While Rowse’s total number of votes jumped from 7,895 to 10,037, his percentage of the total votes dropped from 40.4 percent to 38.6. Even with the infusion of new ballots, incumbent Mayor Cathy Murillo still came in third, moving from 24.4 percent of the votes counted as of election night to 25.2 percent.
Murillo was swift in issuing a statement. “I contacted incoming mayor Randy Rowse on election night, expressing congratulations and offering my assistance in transitioning to a new City Council,” she stated. Murillo, an outspoken progressive and advocate for tenants’ rights, added, “It has been an honor and a joy to serve Santa Barbara as its mayor and I[m proud of the ten years of public service, making budget and policy decisions for our beautiful full-service City.” In her statement, Murillo highlighted her support for library funding, at-risk youth, working families, homelessness and affordable housing. While on council, Rowse steered a far more moderate course than Murillo, a Democratic Party stalwart, who he accused throughout the campaign of injecting too much party-based politics into what is nominally a nonpartisan office.
Finishing an even stronger second was James Joyce III, former staff person for former State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and founder of Coffee with a Black Guy. Joyce, short of policy details throughout the campaign, has pledged to expand the parameters of the city’s civic conversation with an emphasis on engaging a broader spectrum of the community. With the additional ballots counted, Joyce narrowed the gap separating himself and Rowse while expanding his lead over Murillo. His percentage of the vote increased from 25.96 percent on election night to 27.41.
Deborah Schwartz, a 12-year member of the city’s Planning Commission who served as chair three times, went from 6.75 percent to 6.36 percent. Schwartz, a registered Democrat, sought to position herself as a champion of the business community, and until Rowse entered the race, the business community reciprocated. Coming in fifth and sixth respectively were Mark Whitehurst and Matt “Boat Rat” Kilrain, who garnered 401 and 177 votes each, respectively. Fifty-two voters submitted names for write-in candidates.
Voter turnout in the mayor’s race — the only citywide contest on the ballot — was 47.14 percent. Four years ago, it was 51 percent.
In District 4, incumbent Councilmember Kristen Sneddon widened her lead over challenger Barrett Reed, who like Schwartz spoke of the need for stronger leadership and reform of the city’s regulatory process. With the additional ballots counted, Sneddon’s lead increased slightly, going from 60.77 to 61.55 percent. Reed went from 38.96 to 38.23. Turnout in District 4, which encompasses much of the Riviera and parts of Mission Canyon and San Roque, was 58.16 percent.
With the additional ballots tabulated, incumbent Councilmember Meagan Harmon also extended her lead in downtown’s District 6, moving from 52.94 percent of the vote to 53.59. Her nearest challenger, Assistant City Administrator Nina Johnson, dropped ever-so-slightly from 33.96 to 33.69 percent. Jason Carlton, who ran a credible common-sense everyman campaign, went from 9.71 percent on election night to 9.64 percent when the final tally was computed. Zachary Pike, a professional disc jockey finished with 2.6 percent. Turnout in District 6 was 41.82 percent.
City Clerk Sarah Gorman stated only a handful of votes remained to be counted, 217, as well as any that might arrive in the mail before November 9 but are postmarked Election Day, November 2.
Correction: This story was corrected to state the number of ballots counted since Tuesday was 6,500.