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Local News

Third District County Supervisor Race Likely to Hinge on Isla Vista/UCSB Bloc Vote

Precinct analysis gives Joan Hartmann an apparent edge over Bruce Porter heading into Nov. 8 runoff in Santa Barbara County

The UCSB/Isla Vista voting bloc may prove key in the November runoff between Joan Hartmann and Bruce Porter for the Third District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
The UCSB/Isla Vista voting bloc may prove key in the November runoff between Joan Hartmann and Bruce Porter for the Third District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. (Contributed photos)

As it has in many previous elections, the Isla Vista/UC Santa Barbara voting bloc is likely to play a key role in who is elected to the Third District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in November.

The sprawling district, which straddles the Santa Ynez Mountains and includes slightly more voters in the conservative-leaning North County than on the more-liberal South Coast, has historically provided the swing vote on the Board of Supervisors.

Joan Hartmann was the top voter-getter overall in June, with 43.0 percent of the vote. Bruce Porter, her closest competitor, pulled in 34.9 percent, with the remaining votes spread among three other candidates.

Based on Noozhawk’s precinct-by-precinct analysis of the June primary results, Hartmann would appear to have a significant advantage over Porter as the two head toward a Nov. 8 runoff to represent a district that also includes the Santa Ynez Valley, parts of Goleta and the Lompoc Valley, and the city of Guadalupe.

Hartmann, a Santa Ynez Valley resident who has represented the Third District on the county Planning Commission and draws support mainly from liberal and Democratic quarters, received almost 60 percent of the vote in the Isla Vista/UCSB precincts.

Porter, a Buellton businessman who is backed primarily by conservative and Republican constituencies, managed only a meager 9.6 percent in the university community.

To be successful, “we’re going to have to work a whole lot harder in Isla Vista, UCSB and Goleta,” Porter told Noozhawk in a recent interview. “We have to create a totally new structure and approach to talking to students down there.”

Potentially making matters worse for Porter, Jay Freeman — an Internet entrepreneur who lives in Isla Vista — pulled down 26.5 percent of the UCSB/Isla Vista vote in the five-candidate race.

Porter would need to pick up a significant number of those voters to dilute Hartmann’s advantage in Isla Vista and UCSB, and that may be a tall order.

Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Primary Results
PRECINCTS HARTMANN  PORTER      FREEMAN   JONES FIELD
Isla Vista/UCSB 59.6% 9.2% 26.3% 3.3% 1.7%
Goleta 56.9% 19.6% 12.6% 5.3% 5.6%
South Coast 54.8% 18.6% 19.2% 4.1% 3.3%
Santa Ynez Valley 30.9% 54.8% 3.3% 6.0% 5.0%
Lompoc Valley 32.7% 47.2% 7.8% 6.4% 6.0%
Santa Maria Valley 54.4% 21.4% 10.8% 8.7% 4.7%
North County 32.7% 49.7% 5.6% 5.4% 6.6%
Totals 43.0% 34.9% 12.1% 5.4% 4.4%

Freeman told Noozhawk that he does not intend to endorse either candidate in November, but believes Hartmann will prevail.

“There tends to be greater voter turnout of Democrats in the November elections,” he said. “Joan did very well in the (June) election, and I would expect most of my votes to go liberal.”

Porter said part of his path to success depends on support from voters who reject “entrenched politicians,” a label he readily tags Hartmann with.

“I think all of those votes (Freeman’s) are still in play right now,” he said. “A lot of voters did it for maybe being a little disenchanted with the entrenched political establishment. Jay was definitely an alternative to that.”

Hartmann’s campaign made a strong push for voter registration in Isla Vista for the June election, a successful strategy she intends to repeat in the fall.

“I think it’s going to be easier to register voters throughout the district because of the presidential election and the many ballot issues,” she told Noozhawk.

Porter also continues to tout his proposals for Isla Vista self-governance — a plan he calls Isla Vista 2.0 that would shift county resources to the campus community to create a city-like structure for providing services and meeting community needs, in conjunction with a community services district.

“It would be accessible and accountable to what’s going on in I.V.,” he said.

If Porter is facing a daunting challenge on the South Coast — overall, he received 18.6 percent of the vote to Hartmann’s 54.8 percent — he ran strongly in the North County, beating Hartmann throughout the Santa Ynez and Lompoc valleys.

He garnered nearly 50 percent of the North County votes, while Hartmann received 32.7 percent. The remaining votes were fairly evenly divided between Freeman and Santa Ynez Valley residents Bob Field and Karen Jones.

“The good news is, even with the other three candidates, the spread between Joan and myself (in the North County) is significant,” Porter said. “Even if we just split the rest of the votes 50-50, we will continue to do well in the North County.”

The only place in the North County where Hartmann ran strongly was in and around Guadalupe, where she received 46.8 percent of the vote to 25.5 percent for Porter.

Hartmann said she is undeterred by the primary results in the northern half of the district, expressing confidence that she can improve her showing in the fall.

“I think in the North County, we would expect in the general election to have more Democratic voters,” she said. “Republicans tend to get more of their voters out in the primary.”

Hartmann also noted that her votes in the North County tended to track with Democratic registration. (The supervisorial office is nonpartisan, but it seldom plays out that way.)

Three wild cards in the local election may be U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Sanders definitely brought out voters in the youthful UCSB/Isla Vista precincts — several thousand, by Porter’s reckoning — and it’s anyone’s guess whether those newly energized voters will return in similar numbers in November.

“Whether Hillary can generate that kind of excitement is open to debate,” Porter said.

Hartmann said she believes she won’t be alone in supporting the first woman presidential candidate from one of the two major political parties.

“I will be very happy to cast my ballot for Hillary,” she said, calling the vote “historic.”

Likewise, it’s unclear what the local effect will be of Trump’s candidacy, which has split apart the Republican Party on a national level.

Statewide, the GOP’s prospects are considered rather dim, and some political observers wonder whether a significant number of Republican voters will sit out the election rather than cast a vote for the controversial New York businessman.

Despite the numbers and the prognostications, both Porter and Hartmann sounded upbeat about their chances in November.

“To be honest with you, I feel really confident about this,” Porter said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I think this is going to be a good ball game.”

Noting that elections are “volatile and dynamic,” Hartmann said her campaign has goals, strategies and messaging for every area of the district.

“We just need to follow through on the plan,” she said. “I certainly don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I think we’re poised to do well.”

[Noozhawk’s note: Some of the vote breakdowns may be off slightly due to two sets of mail-only precincts that were not broken out by geographical area.]

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

Santa Barbara County’s Third District straddles the Santa Ynez Mountains, and includes UC Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, part of Goleta, the Santa Ynez Valley, part of the Lompoc Valley and the city of Guadalupe. The UCSB/Isla Vista voting bloc may be key in the runoff between Joan Hartmann and Bruce Porter. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County’s Third District straddles the Santa Ynez Mountains, and includes UC Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, part of Goleta, the Santa Ynez Valley, part of the Lompoc Valley and the city of Guadalupe. The UCSB/Isla Vista voting bloc may be key in the runoff between Joan Hartmann and Bruce Porter. (Santa Barbara County map)

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