Friday, February 23 , 2018, 5:03 am | Fair 46º

 
 
 

Schneider Wins Santa Barbara Mayoral Race

The mayor-elect says she'll strive to find common ground among a new lineup on the City Council

Despite a complete tally that didn’t come in until after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Santa Barbara Mayor-elect Helene Schneider celebrated her victory Tuesday night surrounded by family and supporters.

The final count gave Schneider 10,254 votes, with Councilman Dale Francisco trailing with 7,602 votes.

“I’m thrilled to have won,” she said, conceding that the City Council in January will be very different than the one she sits with on the dais.

Schneider said council newcomers Michael Self and Frank Hotchkiss — who, with Bendy White, also won election Tuesday night — face a steep learning curve.

She also said that Measure B — which lost by 1,666 votes — will have to be looked at, and that proponents of the issue raised genuine concerns.

“There are major other issues, like setbacks, that we need to deal with,” she said.

Schneider also said she was pleased that the money pouring in from campaign financier and Texas developer Randall Von Wolfswinkel didn’t have the desired effect.

Von Wolfswinkel contributed about $700,000 to the Preserve Our Santa Barbara Political Action Committee and candidates Self, Hotchkiss and Cathie McCammon — only two of whom were elected.  Mayoral candidate Dale Francisco contends he did not accept any money from the Preserve Our Santa Barbara PAC, but financed his campaign with individual contributions and personal money.

“It just won’t work in Santa Barbara. Voters are smart,” Schneider said, adding that the support Von Wolfswinkel gave to her opponents galvanized her campaign team.

Schneider said that with the different makeup of the council, she will strive to find common ground. “It’s OK to debate on the issues, just as long as we keep it to the issues,” she said.

Schneider was re-elected in 2007 and will surrender her council seat for the position held by Mayor Marty Blum, who terms out in January.

Just down the street from Schneider’s celebration party, Francisco was on his way out of the Council Chambers and stopped to share some reflections on the race.

“I didn’t quite make it my race,” he said, but added that a majority of voters, by totaling his votes with third-place candidate Steve Cushman’s, wanted to go “in a new direction.”

A Santa Barbara elections worker stays late to count ballots. Vote-counting for the city's first mail-only election continued into the early hours Wednesday
A Santa Barbara elections worker stays late to count ballots. Vote-counting for the city’s first mail-only election continued into the early hours Wednesday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Francisco’s close race with Schneider is notable considering he entered the race three months ago and Schneider had been campaigning since April.

“We’ll have a very different council,” Francisco said. He called Self and Hotchkiss “moderate voices” and said he expected that he and White would be able to agree on fiscal issues.

Francisco said he was grateful for all the feedback and suggestions he garnered from walking the districts, and said he thinks he’ll be a better councilman because of it.

“I should probably always walk the districts,” he said. “It’s energizing.”

Cushman, president of the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, came in with 3,644 votes, while real estate broker Isaac Garrett finished with 481 votes and homeless advocate Bob Hansen garnered 412 votes.

This year’s election was full of firsts for Santa Barbara. It was its first mail-only election, and it drew the most campaign spending.

As the first mail-only election, a debriefing process will help improve efficiency and effectiveness for the future, said Marcelo Lopez, the city’s administrative services director. Lopez and a few dozen staffers looked a bit tired about midnight, but they decided to push through and finish.

Ballots were being run through the counting machines by 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, and final election results were available shortly after 1:30 a.m.

“It’s not rare for us to work late,” Lopez said. Though the results were about two hours later than expected, he stressed that the important issue was accuracy, not speed.

There was a larger turnout than expected, especially on Tuesday, when 2,960 ballots came in. The Council Chambers were empty of everyone but staff and Noozhawk reporters at 11 p.m., when results were expected, and Lopez predicted that the staff would stay late if necessary.

The tallies are final, as there were only 16 provisional ballots as of Friday and they’re “not likely to make much of a difference,” Lopez said.

Money was not a trump card for candidates or measures, though more of it was thrown around than ever before.

The biggest spenders — Cushman, Wolfswinkel and council candidate John Thyne — didn’t taste victory Tuesday night. 

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli contributed to this report.

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