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Election Battles in 3 Santa Barbara Council Districts Winding Up

A day ahead of the historic Santa Barbara district elections, 72 percent of registered voters in the three City Council districts had not voted, according to the latest ballot statistics released by the city.

Santa Barbara had received ballots from 5,252 voters as of 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

Santa Barbara typically sees percentage voter turnout in the high 30s during off-year elections.

For the first time in 40 years, voters in Santa Barbara are choosing candidates from districts, rather than the city as a whole.

Although each contest presents its own nuanced policy issues — everything from potholes and lighting on the streets to whether the city should raise its minimum wage and provide more affordable housing — the entire direction and immediate future of the city is at stake.

In two of the districts, conservative and liberal interests are battling over control of the council, and the ability to set the tone and direction of the city.

The council currently hold a 4-3 liberal majority, with councilman and moderate Harwood "Bendy" White sometimes serving as a swing vote. 

In one night, the liberal majority could strengthen its hold — or lose it entirely, if incumbent Cathy Murillo were to lose her seat.

Three districts on the ballot are :1, the Eastside; 2, the Mesa; and 3, the Westside.

Santa Barbara conducts an all vote-by-mail ballot. Ballots postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3, will count as part of the final vote.

The highest voter turnout so far is in District 2, where 2,518 people have cast ballots. In that district, 9,047 people are eligible to vote. 

Incumbent Randy Rowse, owner of the Paradise Cafe, is the front-runner in that race. He faces a challenge from Luis Esparza and Missy McSweeney Zeitsoff. 

District 1 has the second-highest voter turnout, with 1,593 people who have mailed in their ballots. Only 5,328 people are registered to vote in that district.

The Eastside race features several new faces to city politics.

The candidates are Jason Dominguez, Andria Martinez Cohen, Jacqueline Inda and Cruzito Herrera Cruz. Dominguez is widely embraced and financially supported by Eastside businesses and conservative political interests.

Cohen is supported by the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, labor groups and Murillo. 

Inda was one of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit that forced the city to enact district elections. She grew up on Santa Barbara's Eastside, and has attempted to portray herself as the candidate of the working class in that neighborhood.

Herrera Cruz is a perennial candidate who also grew up on Santa Barbara's Eastside. Michael Merenda is also on the ballot. 

In District 3, Murillo faces a challenge from Milpas Community Association Executive Director Sharon Byrne. Cristina Cardoso is also on the ballot.

As of Monday, the city had received 1,141 ballots from Westside residents. In that district, 4,189 people are registered to vote. 

If the contest is within 100 votes or so, residents may not know the final results of the election until the following Monday, Nov. 9. The city must count all ballots mailed by Election Day.

Ballots that are dropped off before 8 p.m. on election day will be counted that night.

The hours and locations of the City’s four designated drop-off centers are:

Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m:

All voters: City Hall Lobby at 735 Anacapa St.

District 1: Franklin Neighborhood Center, Multipurpose Room at 1136 E. Montecito St.

District 2: Holy Cross Catholic Church, Fellowship Hall at 1740 Cliff Dr.

District 3: Calvary Baptist Church, Sizer Hall at 736 W. Islay St.

City Clerk’s Office personnel are available to assist voters with disabilities to mark their ballots during regular business hours.

The candidates will also hold election night parties where they will gather after some of them kick off the night at City Hall.

Cohen's election night part will take place at Jill's Place in downtown Santa Barbara. Dominguez will be at Taqueria El Bajio on Milpas Street. Inda plans to be at her election office on Milpas Street.

Rowse will celebrate at the Paradise Cafe in downtown Santa Barbara.

Murillo will hold an election party at Super Cucas on Micheltorena on the Westside.

Byrne plans to celebrate at Bo Henry’s and Paesano’s Pizza, which are next to each other, on San Andres Street. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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.

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