If results from the June primary election are any indication, the battle for the Fourth District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors should prove to be a close one.
Incumbent Joni Gray and challenger Peter Adam say the anticipation is mounting in the final days before next Tuesday’s election, where the political veteran will try to regain votes lost to the local farmer and relative newcomer during a tight primary race in June.
Primary results showed that Gray garnered 39.7 percent of the June vote, compared to 37.7 percent for Adam. Former Lompoc Mayor Joyce Howerton was a distant third.
After redistricting last year, the Fourth District includes Lompoc, the unincorporated community of Orcutt and a small part of Santa Maria.
Because neither candidate had more than 50 percent of the vote for an outright election, Gray and Adam, both Republicans and the top two vote getters, were pushed into a runoff.
Gray said last week that’s she disappointed the campaign included just one debate.
She said voters could have gotten another look at the candidates and seen that her 14 years of experience in the post would be helpful if elected to another term.
“I do wish folks had more of a chance to compare our styles,” Gray said. “Mr. Adam has chosen not to do that.”
Gray said four debates would have been ideal, so she could better discuss the challenges she would tackle. They include attracting jobs, focusing on the County Jail and making certain that funding is available before deciding how it should be spent, she said.
“Our styles are very different,” Gray said. “He considers himself confrontational. I’m collaborative.”
Gray said she’s only seen Adam a handful of times since the primary.
The closeness of those results surprised both Gray and Adam, who both seem confident of picking up more votes this time around.
Adam said last week that he’s received increasing support from county residents, and made a special effort to reach more Lompoc voters.
“I think people are hungry for people who are willing to tell the truth,” Adam said. “She’s had 14 years, and she hasn’t been able to make much of an impact. What the voters have to do is figure out who they think is actually going to do it. You can take a chance on me.”
Adam said the campaign has played out how he imagined, adding that debates aren’t “defining” in an election because the same people always show up.
If elected, he said, his priorities would include public safety, maintenance, rebuilding the county’s budget reserve and getting long-term debt under control.
Adam said he plans to tackle issues and would “stop digging” a bigger financial hole.
“We can’t just ignore this stuff,” he said. “I don’t think anything’s changed. We don’t have any money. There’s no excuse for this stuff. I’m willing to force the discussions.”
Gray said she will continue precinct walks in the final week before the Nov. 6 election.
She is inviting supporters to her house on election night, while Adam will wait for results with family and friends on the second floor of the Far Western Tavern in Old Town Orcutt.
Both candidates say that while they personally like their opponent, they believe they are the better person for the job.