At first glance, Doreen Farr’s re-election victory in the race for the Third District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors appeared to follow the long-standing script — a clear political split between the northern and southern parts of the district.
But some traditional assumptions — most notably the potent effects of the student bloc in the south and conservative voters in the north — were relatively muted, in part by low turnout, according to a Noozhawk analysis of the June 5 balloting.
Farr did very well on the South Coast, pulling in 73 percent of the votes from precincts in Goleta, Isla Vista and UCSB.
Her challenger, Buellton businessman Steve Pappas, won the North County portion of the district, but by a much smaller margin: 52.9 percent to 47.2 percent.
Overall, Farr had a comfortable margin of victory, 54.8 percent to 45.3 percent, in the rematch of her 2008 race against Pappas.
North County voters dominate the district, with more than 70 percent residing north of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Conservative politicians and activists for years have decried the impact of Isla Vista/UCSB voters, and complained bitterly that the Third District has been gerrymandered to give the strongly left-leaning voter bloc the ability to sway elections.
True to form, UCSB and Isla Vista voters went overwhelmingly for Farr, whose politics lie left of center. She reaped 81.5 percent of their ballots, to 18.5 percent for Pappas.
But if the UCSB/Isla Vista voters favored Farr, they appeared anything but passionate. In those 11 precincts, turnout was dismal, ranging from a high of about 32 percent to a low of just over 6 percent.
“Something that really didn’t happen is the vote in UCSB and Isla Vista,” Farr said after the election. “It was not very strong at all.”
District-wide, turnout was about 38 percent.
In the northern portion of the district, Pappas bested Farr in all areas except the city of Guadalupe, which was newly added to the Third District during last year’s remapping.
In the Santa Ynez Valley, Pappas achieved a healthy margin, taking 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent for Farr.
It was much closer further west, in the unincorporated areas of the Lompoc Valley, where Pappas edged Farr by 3-4 percentage points.
Guadalupe, with a total of less than 500 votes out of more than 12,500 cast, strongly favored Farr, 68.8 percent to 31.4 percent for Pappas.
As the dust settled late last week, Farr attributed her victory to her track record in office the last four years, and an aggressive campaign that focused on every part of the district.
“I do think it was our record,” she said. “Overall, what people cared about was somebody who could get things done.”
The June 5 election was a rerun of a race four years ago in which Farr won by the narrowest of margins. Pappas subsequently mounted a long-running legal challenge, alleging that voter fraud, especially in Isla Vista precincts, denied him the victory.
Farr ultimately prevailed in court, and Pappas has been ordered to pay her hefty legal bills.
Farr said she believes Pappas’ legal action hurt him at the polls.
“I think that weighed against him for some people,” Farr said.
Looking forward, she said, “Clearly we have to stay focused on the budget, on economic development and job creation. We are seeing some positive signs, but it’s not that good yet.”
Pappas did not respond to Noozhawk’s request for an interview for this story.