This is the second of the Independent’s endorsements for the June 7 primary elections. This week, we are endorsing Joe Holland for County Clerk-Assessor-Recorder and Steve Lavagnino for 5th District Supervisor. Previously, we endorsed Salud Carbajal for Congress, Gregg Hart for State Assembly, Laura Capps for the county Board of Supervisors’ 2nd District, and Susan Salcido for Superintendent of County Schools — and those can be read here. As always, the Independent does not endorse in every race but only in those that we have researched and can confidently suggest a candidate. You can read all of our endorsements here.

Thank you for considering our endorsements. 

County Clerk, Recorder, Assessor, and Registrar of Voters: Joe Holland

Joe Holland | Credit: Paul Wellman

For the past 20 years, Joe Holland has made the county’s elections train run on time, an amazing feat most voters have never particularly noticed. But that’s the way Holland likes it, since when elections officials are making headlines, it typically means something has gone badly wrong. With his very able staff, Holland has quietly toiled in the shadows, expanding the ways residents can vote without sacrificing the integrity of the results. And the results have been exemplary. During the COVID shutdown of 2020, in an effort to limit health risks to voters, Holland joined other state election officers in forcing Governor Gavin Newsom to authorize an all-mail ballot for the first time in California history. Even Republican Party apparatchiks — who for decades have been raising fears of voting abuse in Isla Vista — conceded the election results were squeaky clean. Not a small achievement. 

Holland has worked for the County of Santa Barbara in various capacities since 1984, but he was first elected county elections czar in 2002, the same year Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor in a recall election. In that race, Holland was forced to improvise when it turned out he failed to order enough ballots, but since then, it’s been relatively smooth sailing.

In fact, the only significant challenge Holland’s election results have ever encountered took place in 2008 when a sore loser running for the 3rd Supervisorial District alleged widespread voter fraud in Isla Vista. When the case went to trial, the judge ruled not a single case of fraud had been demonstrated and dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous and tantamount to misleading the court.”

Holland also holds down the fort as county assessor and clerk recorder. In most years, those posts are too administratively boring to fight over. This year, however, the Trump-inspired wing of the Republican Party has run candidates for elections offices throughout the nation. In Santa Barbara, Elrawd MacLearn, a county environmental services inspector and politically alienated change agent, is challenging Holland. We learned a long time ago that change for its own sake is rarely entertaining and almost never advisable. Holland and his team have done a solid and commendable job ensuring that our votes are counted professionally, competently, and thoroughly over the years without fear or favor toward any party. We can ask for no more.

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5th District Supervisor: Steve Lavagnino

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Given that Steve Lavagnino is running unopposed yet again — for the third time — this endorsement might seem superfluous. But we’re endorsing Lavagnino anyway to make a larger point: Intelligence, heart, and humor matter.

The entire county has benefitted considerably from the levity, candor, and consideration he unfailingly brings to supervisorial deliberations. Until Trump was elected to the White House, Lavagnino was that rare Republican who believed that government could do good. He has since re-registered as a Declined-to-State. Either way, he has consistently represented a remarkably pragmatic brand of pro-business conservativism without getting doctrinaire, aggrieved, or personal about it.

Yes, Lavagnino — along with Supervisor Das Williams — has worked to create a thriving cannabis industry, a little too quickly and with too broad a stroke. It resulted in numerous problems and controversies, but Lavagnino has been blunt about why he pushed it forward: If oil revenues are out in Santa Barbara, other sources of revenue are necessary if the county can expand programs for mental health and those facing homelessness.

Lavagnino, a former stand-up comedian, has used his wit to make his case, elevating the tone and tenor of board discourse. At a time when many elected bodies find themselves rendered dysfunctional by personality conflict, the Board of Supervisors has achieved a remarkable degree of functionality and collegiality. It has been refreshing.

California’s primary election is Tuesday, June 7. Click here for a list of current ballot drop box locations in Santa Barbara County, or look up your polling place here. To track your ballot status, use the Secretary of State’s My Voter Status tool online. Same Day Registration is available until Election Day on June 7, and voters can “conditionally” register and vote a provisional ballot during this time. Check your voter registration here. For more info on this year’s primary election, visit the County Elections website.

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