Republican Tony Strickland surged to an 840-vote lead over Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson in the race for the 19th state Senate District on Thursday. The reversal came after Ventura County elections officials tallied 11,294 mail-in ballots that had not been received in time to count before Election Day.

The counting is far from over, however. Elections officials in Santa Barbara County are expected to release their batch of uncounted ballots Friday. Presumably, those ballots will help Jackson, a Santa Barbara resident who coasted past Strickland, 55.23 percent to 44.42 percent, in Santa Barbara County voting Tuesday.

Late Tuesday, Jackson had a comfortable lead but saw it evaporate overnight as Strickland, of Moorpark, battled back in Ventura County. By early Wednesday, Jackson led by the thinnest of margins: 108 votes out of 306,104 cast, or 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. All of the district’s 744 precincts had been counted but not late absentee and provisional ballots. Those are being tallied now.

In the 35th Assembly District, meanwhile, Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, beat Republican challenger Greg Gandrud, 67.7 percent to 33.3 percent.

Both Jackson and Strickland are former Assembly members forced from office by term limits. The 19th Senate District, currently represented by Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, covers much of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, as well as Santa Clarita in a sliver of Los Angeles County. The district is split nearly equally between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats holding an edge in Santa Barbara County and Republicans with an edge in Ventura County.

Because of the voter registration parity and McClintock’s departure, which also is a result of term limits, both parties made the race the center of their attention. Democrats in Sacramento badly want Jackson to win so they can move the chamber closer to a veto-proof two-thirds supermajority. Senate Democrats currently hold a 25-15 advantage.

Spending in the race set records. Strickland reportedly raised in excess of $5 million, while Jackson raised more than $4 million. Special-interest groups kicked in another $1 million in independent spending.

Jackson, 58, is married to Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge George Eskin. Strickland, 38, is married to Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, who was elected to Strickland’s seat after he was termed out.

Click here for the latest district results.

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Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.