As results poured in on a rainy Election Night in Santa Barbara County, it became clear that the balance of power — at least locally — would remain with the Democratic Party, with nearly all of the candidates endorsed by the party winning their races.
Timbers Restaurant, on the western outer reaches of Goleta, was packed with the Democratic faithful on Election Night, and the back room was flowing with celebratory drinks as the first round of projected numbers were released showing a near sweep for the party.
On Wednesday morning, semi-official results showed much of the same.
Two of the biggest winners were Salud Carbajal — who took the 24th Congressional District race with 60.3 percent of the vote against challenger Brad Allen with 39.7 percent — and County Supervisor Gregg Hart, who made a successful bid for State Assembly with 58.8 percent of the vote against perennial Republican candidate Mike Stoker’s 41.2 percent.
Carbajal, who will now serve his fourth term in Congress, was even more jovial than usual as the countywide results came in. “The results are extremely positive,” he stated. “I’m optimistic and grateful the Central Coast voters have shown up.”
But while the Democratic Party was in a great position on the Central Coast, Carbajal and others at Timbers were watching the televisions closely as nationwide totals were being counted, showing a neck-and-neck run for the Senate and House majorities.
Carbajal expressed relief that the national election results do not appear to be bearing out the Red Tide prognostications many had predicted. “Preliminaries show the Democrats seem to have defied the overwhelming change pundits predicted. We are not headed in the direction they all said it was going to go.”
In the race for State Assembly, Hart took on a local Republican warhorse in Stoker, most famous recently for having led the “Lock ’er Up” chant about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Republican convention at which Donald Trump was nominated his party’s standard-bearer, then later for being dropped from his Trump-appointed position as West Coast administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Hart, a longtime figure in local politics, said he was eager to make the next step up from the county to the state level.
“I’m really proud of the opportunity to represent our community in the State Assembly,” Hart said. “I’ve been involved in local government a long time, so I think I understand the values, the issues, that people care about in our community.”
Democrats also had a strong showing in school board races, with incumbent Santa Barbara Unified School District president Rose Muñoz taking 81.4 percent of the vote over Phebe Mansur in Area 4, and several newcomers overcoming conservative challengers across the county.
Planning Commissioner Gabe Escobedo had a successful run in the district’s other contested race, taking 56 percent of the vote in a crowded race that included Efigenia Banales (25.7 percent) and Dan La Berge (17.8 percent).
Escobedo has become a force recently, helping shape the city’s new police review board, and will look to build on that experience on the school board.
In the race for Goleta Union school board, political newbie Emily Zacarias and 40-year incumbent Richard Mayer both took on conservative challengers in Christy Lozano and Caroline Abate, in what many considered to be a battle between the forces of cultural conservatism and liberal progressivism in local schools.
Mayer took Area 1 with 59.1 percent against Abate’s 40.5 percent, and Zacarias finished with 61.5 percent against Lozano’s 25.4 percent.
“I didn’t see a pathway for her ideals,” Zacarias said of her challenger, Lozano.
Abate expressed optimism, and gratitude to her volunteers and donors, saying the expected turnout was 65 percent and that a little more than half that amount has been counted so far. She congratulated Mayer on his lead, nonetheless.
In the Goleta City Council races, Democrats James Kyriaco and rising star Luz Reyes-Martín are both ahead of challengers Sam Ramirez and Roger Aceves. Kyriaco has 58 percent of the vote in District 2, while Reyes-Martín is ahead in District 1 with 56 percent.
“It’s gonna be a clean sweep,” Kyriaco said, “with me and Luz and both measures passing.”
The two measures to which he alludes are the sales-tax bump — Measure B — on the Goleta ballot and Measure C, which would impose an even stricter ban on the sale of flavored tobacco in Goleta than state voters appear to be approving statewide with Proposition 31. Both C and 31 are in a solid position to pass.
In races for the city college board, longtime incumbent Marsha Croninger — who has not always seen eye-to-eye with the Democratic Party establishment — is way out ahead of her challenger, Sharon Salvador-Jegottka, by 80.1 percent to 19.4 percent. Likewise, newcomer Charlotte Gullap-Moore is ahead over fellow first-timer Debi Stoker, wife of Mike Stoker, 61.4 percent to 38.4.
Gullap-Moore thanked her predecessor Peter Haslund, who’s served for several generations, for endorsing her candidacy the day she announced.
Marybeth Carty, who has served on the County Board of Education since 2013, is way out in front of challenger Rosanne Crawford with 70.8 percent of the vote compared to Crawford’s 28.9 percent.
Carpinteria turned out to be home to the most contested races, with two incumbent councilmembers facing off in the city’s first-ever district election. As of Wednesday morning, Al Clark is almost certain to win with 56.3 percent against 32.5 for Gregg Carty.
But the closest race in the local election is the fight for Measure T, the ballot initiative that would effectively snuff out the proposed Surfliner Inn in Carpinteria. With 2,903 votes counted, 50.14 percent have voted “no,” while 49.86 have voted “yes” — a margin of only eight votes.
With a decision of “no,” the proposed hotel would continue through city review as with other projects.
Statewide propositions were much clearer, according to Santa Barbara County voters. Prop. 1, which would codify abortion rights explicitly in the state’s constitution, was approved by 67.9 percent of county voters. Props 26 and 27, which both aimed to legalize gambling in the state, failed dramatically. Prop. 26 received 71.05 percent “no” votes, while 27 received 84.31 percent “no” votes.
When it came to more money for school arts and music programs, Santa Barbara voters were slightly more supportive, endorsing Prop. 28 by 65.9 percent. Props 29 and 30, regarding kidney dialysis and a tax on the wealthy toward electric vehicles, both failed.
In total, 75,799 voters cast ballots by Tuesday evening, accounting for 32 percent of the county’s 237,759 registered voters. Of those ballots cast, just over 10,000 were at the polls while 65,735 were mailed in. According to county elections czar Joe Holland, about 55,000 more ballots still need to be counted, which brings total turnout to 55 percent. All 297 precincts have reported, and the semi-official results are expected to be finalized by Tuesday, November 15.
For the latest General Election results for Santa Barbara County and the state, click here and scroll down.