Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 5:53 pm | Fog/Mist 58º


Outcome Unchanged with Final Ballots Tallied in Santa Barbara Council Election

With incumbents Francisco and Rowse and newcomer Murillo winning seats, community leaders weigh in on what the results mean for the future of the city

Campaign contributions and public safety union endorsements didn’t have much sway with Santa Barbara residents who voted in Tuesday’s City Council election, with incumbents Dale Francisco and Randy Rowse and newcomer Cathy Murillo taking the three open spots.

Overall voter turnout for the election was 41.3 percent, representing 18,387 out of 44,562 registered voters.

                              |  2011 Election Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

Election night results didn’t change with the remaining provisional ballots counted Wednesday.

Assistant City Administrator Marcelo Lopez said those ballots were damaged to the point that they couldn’t be put through counting machines Tuesday night. Now, results will be technically semi-official until approved by the current City Council, which is scheduled to certify the results on Nov. 22.

Francisco finished first with 8,334 votes, or 15.86 percent, Murillo placed second with 8,289 votes, or 15.77 percent, and Rowse placed third with 8,092 votes, or 15.4 percent.

Iya Falcone, a former city councilwoman, placed fourth with 7,874 votes, 218 fewer than Rowse, and Councilwoman Michael Self placed fifth, with 7,381 votes, making her the only incumbent voted out.

“What impressed me was how competitive it was,” Mayor Helene Schneider said.

The first count, ballots through Monday, reflected only 33.91 percent voter turnout, but it was a late surge that really helped Murillo pull ahead, Schneider said.

“Cathy ran a great campaign,” she said. “You knew where she was coming from on all the issues and expressed herself well.”

Though it’s a nonpartisan office, the replacement of conservative Self with Murillo, a Democrat, most definitely will have an impact on council votes, according to Schneider.

“I have to admit I’ve been on the losing end of a 4-3 vote, and hopefully that will change in the next few years,” she said.

However, she said, implementing the General Plan and other big issues requires five votes, so the entire City Council needs to stay open to dialogue.

“It’s important to me as mayor to focus on where the common ground is, instead of where we disagree,” Schneider said.

Former Mayor Marty Blum said she was most surprised by Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz’s low performance Tuesday. Schwartz, who led the 10-candidate field in fundraising, finished sixth with 7,142 votes.

“In elections, normally you can count on those candidates who raised the most funds to be in the top tier of winners,” Blum said.

It’s not the first time that trend has broken, though. In 2009, top fundraiser John Thyne placed eighth of 13 candidates.

The disclosure of Schwartz’s personal financial debt may have had an impact, or the fact that she was trying to reach Francisco’s voter base, according to Jim Youngson of Terrain Consulting.

“It was difficult for her as a challenger to move in on Francisco’s already strong fiscal reform base,” he said. “The results underscore that he owns that spot.”

Youngson and others noted that Tuesday marked the first time in decades that a registered Republican has taken the top spot in a Santa Barbara City Council race.

Former Mayor Sheila Lodge, who spoke to Noozhawk on Wednesday from her vacation in Pennsylvania, surprised some with her support of the incumbents in September. Lodge, a lifelong Democrat, agrees with the conservative bloc on some big issues, including the city’s General Plan, and said she was pleased with Tuesday’s results.

“I know Cathy really cares about the city, too, so I look forward to it being a productive council that gets things done,” Lodge said.

In her endorsement choices, she said she was “concerned about the council becoming so politicized, and I hope they forget about the party politics.” Though Murillo had the support of the Democratic Party and some public employee unions, Lodge hopes she’ll focus on the city’s needs and concerns.

“It’s way more politically polarized now than when I was in office, that’s for sure,” Lodge said.

She added that the relationship between public employee unions and elected officials was one of the concerns that determined the endorsements, since the City Council ultimately votes on staff salaries.

None of the candidates endorsed and financially supported by public safety unions — Sharon Byrne, Falcone and Schwartz — were elected, but Murillo had the support of SEIU Local 620, which represents the majority of non-safety city employees.

Blum said she thinks Murillo’s enthusiasm for neighborhood issues will change the conversation of the council.

“The former majority of the council just said no, but this new majority will have ideas and will figure out how to get things done,” Blum said.

Youngson added: “I think the clear message from Santa Barbarans to the council is: We like your disparate views as they reflect the diversity of our city ... but we expect you to work together because there’s some serious issues facing our community right now.”

                              |  2011 Election Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

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

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >