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It’s Semi-Official: Murillo Joining Francisco, Rowse on Santa Barbara City Council

With 41 percent of ballots counted, one challenger and two incumbents maintain their lead in tight race

Challenger Cathy Murillo seized one of three Santa Barbara City Council seats up for grabs in Tuesday’s election, joining Councilmen Dale Francisco and Randy Rowse, who were returned to office.

                              |  2011 Election Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

Among the 10 candidates on the ballot, Councilwoman Michael Self was the only incumbent to be voted out.

Soon after voting ended Tuesday night, preliminary results showed Murillo in third place behind Francisco and Rowse. But by late Tuesday, she had powered past Rowse to finish second overall with 8,142 votes, or 15.71 percent of the ballots received in the mail-only election.

Francisco led the pack with 8,246 votes, or 15.91 percent, and Rowse was in third place with 8,007 votes, or 15.45 percent.

The 18,127 ballots counted by city staff Tuesday night represent 40.68 percent of the vote and the results are being called “semi-official final.” Noozhawk will update this story as soon as the latest results are available Wednesday.

Former two-term Councilwoman Iya Falcone was trailing Rowse by just 254 votes early Wednesday. Her 7,753 votes were good for 14.96 percent of the total.

Murillo lives on Santa Barbara’s Westside, often takes the bus and, like more than half the residents in the city, rents her home, which she thinks makes her a good representative of the community.

“People wanted somebody from the working class on the council, someone they know cares about children and teens,” said Murillo, who works as a news and public affairs director at KCSB radio on the UCSB campus.

Her enthusiastic volunteers peppered the city with lawn signs and had a strong physical presence in every neighborhood. Many people pledged their votes while Murillo walked precincts and she said she is grateful for the community’s support.

But she’s most proud of inspiring members of the Latino population to get out to vote, and she vowed that one of her priorities in City Hall will be to encourage more young and minority voters to get involved in city government.

“They should be aware that city government does impact their lives,” she told Noozhawk.

After all, it is council members who control the purse strings for parks, libraries, public safety and other departments, Murillo said. She added that her journalism background will help her make informed decisions after listening to all sides of the issues, even though she has personal beliefs and values like anyone else.

Francisco said the community’s support was gratifying, especially given his late start in the campaign. For the first time, he used a professional campaign consultant and partnered with Rowse and Self, which he thinks helped the trio reach more people with their resources.

Rowse, who was appointed to his seat a year ago, thought his first elected win was “groovy.” Naturally, his victory party took place at his restaurant, the Paradise Café, a half-block from City Hall.

He brought to the council business experience and leadership from his time with the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, and he said he thinks that perspective resonated with voters.

Rowse had said previously that he would have stepped aside if he thought someone else running could do a better job.

“I just want it done right,” he said.

Falcone, who took a two-year break after her term expired and she failed to qualify in the 2009 mayoral race, ran in strong support of public safety. She had said her experience and existing relationships with other jurisdictions would have been a valuable asset to the council.

Self, who helped create a conservative majority on the council with her victory in 2009, was serving out the remainder of first-term Mayor Helene Schneider’s former council position. She failed to earn a four-year term Tuesday night, finishing fifth, with 7,316 votes and 14.12 percent.

Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz out-raised all the candidates with more than $101,000 in campaign contributions, but she came in sixth with 7,025 votes, or 13.56 percent.

Milpas Community Association co-founders Sharon Byrne and Sebastian Aldana Jr. came in seventh and eighth, respectively. Byrne, an active force in neighborhood safety and opposing medical marijuana dispensaries, garnered 2,882 votes to Aldana’s 1,058.

District-based elections advocate Cruzito Cruz got 954 votes in his third consecutive attempt at public office, and self-awareness facilitator Jerry Matteo got 438. Matteo was one of 40 candidates who applied for a council position when now-Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, vacated the seat to which Rowse was appointed.

                              |  2011 Election Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

Noozhawk staff writers Giana Magnoli and Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), respectively. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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