It turns out that even a deep recession, severe county budget woes, gridlock in Sacramento and a housing meltdown have not changed the core character of voters on the Central Coast.
We’re pragmatists who are relatively happy keeping things the way they are.
That means supervisory races in the Conejo Valley and Santa Barbara’s 2nd District were won by Linda Parks and Janet Wolf — both incumbents, both women who favor slow-growth policies on land use.
In northern Santa Barbara County, Steve Lavagnino, a decidedly pro-business candidate, won the race to replace Supervisor Joe Centeno, also a strong advocate for business and one of the leading voices for cost control in the county budget.
In several respects, voters did voice their frustration with the broken system in Sacramento.
They handed the Republican nomination for governor to a political novice, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Another businesswoman new to politics, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, won the Republican nomination to challenge Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate.
Californians also approved the open primary system, handing a victory to its chief architects, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Maldonado also won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, and if he wins, he will become that rarest of commodities, a Central Coast resident who wins a statewide office.
The open primary sets the stage for what will be a decades-long debate over the Schwarzenegger legacy. Given the state of the economy and the likelihood of another bruising budget battle this summer, Schwarzenegger can hardly be said to be leaving on a high note.
But he has succeeded in pushing through two large reform measures: the open primary, which takes effect in 2012, and redistricting by commission.
Both measures are designed to curb the extremes of party politics, by making Assembly and Senate districts more competitive and by opening up the primaries to all voters, regardless of party.
If reforms create a political environment that more resembles the Central Coast than the extreme districts of either party, California will be the winner in the long term. And the recall election that brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sacramento will have meant something after all.[Editor’s Note: An earlier posting of this editorial incorrectly named Larry Lavagnino as the winner of a county supervisor race in nothern Santa Barbara County.]