The political earthquake that upended national politics triggered few aftershocks on the Central Coast.
That’s the easiest way to summarize the results of races up and down the ballot in the tri-county region, where outsiders dreaming of an upset funneled millions of Democratic and Republican dollars into races for Congress and the Assembly.
A number of pro-business candidates were elected in municipal and county races. That’s a positive sign that the private sector will have a voice in local government, but there was no change to region’s slow-growth approach to politics and the economy. The mix of environmentalism, low taxes and slow development that’s been the hallmark of Central Coast politics for two decades guarantees largely unaffordable housing and stagnant wage growth.
In a Congressional race for an open seat that got the attention of Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama and GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Salud Carbajal handily defeated Justin Fareed, who was hoping to ride an anti-establishment wave.
Carbajal kept together the environmental and union coalition that elected Democrat Lois Capps to the 24th Congressional District among core Santa Barbara County voters and a sliver of west Ventura County. Fareed, whose family has a successful medical device business, made inroads in San Luis Obispo County, carrying it by a narrow 1,400 vote margin in preliminary results.
In SLO County, GOP candidate Jordan Cunningham won a hard-fought 35th Assembly District race that Democrats poured money into, hoping to gain a supermajority in the Assembly. Dawn Ortiz-Legg’s 46 percent vote in a losing effort was better than expected but it is Cunningham who will succeed the retiring Katcho Achadjian, a moderate Republican.
In SLO County supervisor races, John Peschong succeeds Frank Mecham, continuing the tradition of electing a conservative from North SLO County. Incumbent Adam Hill retains his 3rd District Supervisor seat.
Among potential up-and-comers in SLO County, former Amgen executive Barbara Bronson Gray won a seat on the Cambria Health Care District and Caren Ray, who lost a supervisor race last time, regained a seat on the Arroyo Grande City Council.
In Ventura County, Kelly Long won the 3rd District Supervisor race, putting another pro-business voice on the Board of Supervisors. She beat Carla Castilla, who stumbled amid revelations she had voted in Oxnard while claiming residence in Camarillo.
Up-and-comers in Ventura County races include Will Berg, a longtime public affairs executive for the Oxnard Harbor District, who won a city council seat in Port Hueneme, where he will join business consultant Sylvia Munoz Schnopp. Newcomer Matt LaVere, a pro-business candidate, was the top vote-getter in Ventura’s City Council race.
He’ll join incumbents Christy Weir and Cheryl Heitmann.
In Santa Barbara County races, the status quo remains on the Board of Supervisors as slow-growth candidate Joan Hartmann bested Bruce Porter. In a very close vote, Tim Bennett retained an Allan Hancock College District trustee post beating back a challenge by unionized workers.
My instant analysis of the so-called “glass ceiling” effect in tri-county voting suggests there isn’t one. Ventura County voters easily returned Julia Brownley to Congress in the 26th District, re-elected Hannah Beth-Jackson to the 19th State Senate District, and sent Jacqui Irwin back to the Assembly in the 44th District. I’d put Monique Limon, a relative newcomer who easily won the 37th Assembly District seat, on my up-and-comers list.
Finally, a note about competence in public office. Mayors Bob Huber in Simi Valley and Alice Patino in Santa Maria easily won re-election. They’re good people who foster a positive business climate. Congratulations to both of you.
• Contact Henry Dubroff at [email protected]