The historic Presidential election of 2008 produced a mixed bag of results on economic issues up and down the Tri-Counties.
Measure A, which extends Santa Barbara County’s transportation tax and puts a widening of Highway 101 at the top of the transportation agenda, passed handily, reflecting broad political support.
Also, Measure V, the Oxnard traffic initiative, was shot down for a second time, paving the way for the region’s largest city to continue on a pro-business path under the leadership of re-elected Mayor Tom Holden and newly elected 5th District Supervisor John Zaragoza.
In San Luis Obispo, popular pro-business Mayor Dave Romero was easily re-elected, but small-business owner Paul Brown lost his bid for another city council seat.
But in contests across the region, strong coattails swept into office Democrat-backed candidates who have promised to shake up current majorities in favor of slower growth.
Slow-growth advocates Margaret Connell and Ed Easton won election to the Goleta city council, and as expected, Doreen Farr was elected to Santa Barbara’s 3rd District County Supervisor post, filling Brooks Firestone’s seat with a slow-growth advocate. All were backed by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.
Capps also backed fellow Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson against Tony Strickland for the 19th State Senate District. The race for a once safe Republican seat remained too close to call at press time, with Republican veto power over the state budget process hanging in the balance.
Capps handily won a seventh term and now has to balance her support for infrastructure funding with support for Farr and the Goleta winners.
Capps said she would go to bat for more funding for small businesses hurt by the credit freeze and research for local universities. She’s especially interested in developing alternative energy as well as health care training, particularly the nursing programs at California State University Channel Islands. “There’s a clear need for help at CSUCI,” she said.
“Investment in energy and infrastructure is the way to get the economy going and get jobs created,” said Bill Buratto, head of Ventura County Economic Development association. “Overall for business in the region, [the general election] was about as good as could be expected.”
19th Senate District Race
Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson led Republican Tony Strickland by about 100 votes in the race for the 19th State Senate District at press time. Jackson had 153,106 votes to Strickland’s 152,998 with all precincts reporting.
But with potentially thousands ballots still uncounted, it could take weeks for the final outcome to emerge. At press time it was still unclear how many late absentee and provisional ballots had been cast.
The contest – the most expensive state-level matchup in California this year and perhaps ever – has drawn intense interest because it could give the Democrats 26 of 40 seats in the state Senate. That’s one vote shy of the two-thirds majority the party would need to overrule Republicans in budget and other legislative disputes.
The campaign added up to $8 million. Statewide, business groups supported Strickland and unions and public workers supported Jackson.
The 19th Senate District contorts through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and a sliver of Los Angles County.
In Santa Barbara County, Jackson beat Strickland 55.2 percent to 44.4 percent. In Ventura County it was Strickland over Jackson, 52 percent to 47.6 percent. Although Los Angeles County residents make up only a small portion of the district’s votes, Strickland won there 56.6 percent to 43.3 percent.
But no matter the district’s outcome, the strong turnout for Jackson signals a deep change for a seat now held by Republican Tom McClintock, known in the state Senate as uncompromising in his conservative fiscal and social principles.
“The message is that those politics don’t work,” Jackson said in an interview with the Business Times. “There’s been a big shift in people’s attitudes about government.”
But if Strickland wins the seat, “It’s a ray of hope for the Republicans,” said Herbert Gooch, an assistant professor of political science at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. “It would give them a feeling that they can win in a year when things don’t look altogether that great for them.”
Santa Barbara County
After gathering the most voted in the June primary but falling short of a majority, former Santa Barbara County planning commissioner Doreen Farr outpaced her opponent Steve Pappas in the Nov. 4 run-off with 51.4 percent, or 14,032 votes. Pappas garnered 48.4 percent, or 13,211 votes.
“It was a solid win,” Farr said in an interview with the Business Times the day after her victory. She said she owed the results on a large voter turnout and a hard-fought campaign.
Farr said the key items of interest for her when she takes office in January will be dealing with the county’s multimillion-dollar budget deficit and taking a closer look at the board’s earlier approval of the so-called Naples coastal development project, which may be the target of litigation by environmental groups.
In Ventura County, former Oxnard Mayor John Zaragoza, 67, defeated incumbent Supervisor John Flynn, 75, for the 5th District position 51.4 percent to 45.3 percent. Flynn had served in office for 32 years.
It was the second time Zaragoza has sought the county post. He ran four years ago, but failed to make it out of the primary. He said the first thing he wants to do on the board is “build a consensus with my fellow supervisors.” He said one key issue in the 5th District is the harbor.
Oxnard mayor’s race
Flynn’s son, Oxnard Councilman Tim Flynn, lost his bid to unseat current Oxnard Mayor Tom Holden in the Nov. 4 election. Holden won 57 percent of the vote while the younger Flynn took 37 percent of the vote in his bid to be mayor.
Goleta City Council
In Goleta, Margaret Connell and Ed Easton won the two open seats on the city council, winning a respective 28.3 percent and 26.7 percent of votes cast. The two have promised to take a slower approach to development than the current council.
The race divided into two camps, with Connell and Easton squaring off against Don Gilman and incumbent Jean Blois, who has often sided with Councilman Eric Onnen and Mayor Michael Bennett in development disputes.
Connell and Easton received endorsements from Capps, while Gilman and Blois got the backing of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.
While all four candidates agreed on issues such as renegotiating a revenue-sharing arrangement that sends much of the city’s money to the county, Connell and Easton took a harder line on slow growth.
“The only question [in the election] was control of growth in Goleta,” Easton said in an interview. “We beat that horse all the way through and we took it all the way.”
“We need to make sure any new development that happens will be done very carefully,” Connell said. “Not that we’re for no growth. We’re for slow and very managed growth. We didn’t see that happening on the current council majority.”
Citing her role in approving the Cabrillo Business Park while previously serving on the council, Connell said she’s ready to work with the other council members to strengthen ties with UCSB.
“If the concern is, is there going to be space for entrepreneurial spinoffs to go into, I think the answer is clearly there will be,” Connell said. “One of the things we need to foster is the connection with UCSB and the entrepreneurial businesses that will come out of it.”
Gilman chalked his loss up to the coattails of Capps and President-elect U.S Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
“The Democratic machine kicked into high gear, and when you’ve got a full-page picture of Lois Capps hugging two candidates – even though this is supposed to be a non-partisan race, it turns into a partisan contest,” Gilman said. “We lost with integrity.”
Blois, who was ousted from her seat, noted that she and Gilman were outspent in advertising and other areas. “Money talks, I guess,” Blois said.
A slew of other races in the Tri-Counties produced noteworthy results.
In Santa Barbara County, Court Research attorney Jed Beebe beat out Senior Deputy District Attorney John MacKinnon for a seat on the bench in the North County Division in Santa Maria. Beebe’s 52-48 percent victory came despite an early fundraising lead by MacKinnon.
In Thousand Oaks, voters returned business-friendly Mayor Jacqui Irwin and Councilman Tom Glancy to the city council.
Irwin won about 30 percent of the vote and Glancy about 20 percent. Five other candidates entered the race for two open seats.
In Santa Maria, voters kept Mayor Larry Lavagnino, who 77 percent of votes cast, and Bob Orach, who took about 30 percent of the vote in three-way race.
Garnering about 77 percent of votes cast, Ventura County’s Measure T passed overwhelmingly. The measure limits the county supervisors to 12 consecutive years in office. It takes effect in January, meaning current supervisors could term out in 2020.