Although Tuesday night brought clear winners in the Santa Barbara mayoral and City Council races, mystery still looms over the future of the seven-member board.
Cathy Murillo’s ascension to the mayor’s spot leaves open her seat, since she had two years left in her council term.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne told Noozhawk on Wednesday that he is preparing a report for the council at its next meeting, Nov. 14.
“The process will be by council appointment after the newly electeds take office to fill the remainder of her District 3 term,” Calonne said. “Her successor must be a qualified elector from District 3.”
The council is likely to request that interested applicants who live in District 3 apply to serve, and then go through a pubic interview process in the council chamber.
The council last took this action in 2009, when Das Williams left his seat to run for state Assembly.
There were 37 people who applied for the position, which eventually went to Randy Rowse.
Rowse served the remainder of Williams’ term, and has since been elected twice to the City Council, most recently in 2015.
Before the city adopted district elections two years ago, the next highest voter getter in the at-large election would win the seat. This scenario typically happens during mayoral elections.
When Helene Schneider was elected mayor in 2009, she still had two years left in her term. The fourth highest vote getter in that election was Michael Self, who took over the final two years of Schneider’s term.
In 2001, when Marty Blum was elected mayor with two years left on the council, the fourth highest vote getter in that election, Babatunde Folayemi, filled her spot.
Interestingly, neither one of them was actually elected by voters when they ran for office after the term was up.
In the last District 3 election, which Murillo represents, the second-place finisher was Sharon Byrne.
Murillo more than doubled Byrne’s vote total in that election.
Byrne also has sought a City Council seat three times unsuccessfully, twice during an election and once during the appointment process when the chose Rowse.
District 3 is a largely Latino, working-class district. Whatever happens with that seat is unlikely to affect the overall makeup of the council.
Once Frank Hotchkiss and Bendy White leave at the end of the year, the council will consist of Murillo, Gregg Hart, Jason Dominguez, Eric Friedman, Kristen Sneddon and Randy Rowse.
All but Rowse are liberal Democrats, giving a council majority of five.
None of the mayoral candidates would be eligible for the seat.
Hal Conklin lives on the Mesa, while White and Hotchkiss are term-limited out and don’t live in the district anyway.
Angel Martinez, who lives on the Eastside, and is building a house in Ojai, doesn’t live in the district.
In looking at the vote totals, businessman Martinez saw the lowest return on his investment in his mayoral campaign.
Martinez raised $343,910 and chalked up 4,213 votes as of Wednesday. That means Martinez spent about $81 for every vote he received, and came in third (although he could fall to fourth by the time the final ballots are counted).
Martinez spent heavily on political strategists out of San Francisco, and on TV advertising, social media, storefront signs and door hangars, but was reluctant to knock on doors of voters during the campaign until the 11th hour.
By contrast, Murillo raised $191,942 and earned 6,059 votes. She spent about $31 for each of her votes.
The second place-finisher, Hotchkiss, raised $85,419 and earned 4,669 votes. He spent about $18 per vote earned.
Conklin raised $109,290 (including $65,000 in self-loans) and earned 4,196. He spent about $26 per vote.
White raised $118,384 (including $40,000 in self-loans) and earned about 2,447 votes. He spent about $48 per vote.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, who must step down because of term limits, noted that big money from outside players doesn’t work in Santa Barbara.
She recalled how Texas billionaire Randall van Wolfswinkel spent $750,000 in political advertising backing conservative candidates, including Dale Francisco, in 2009.
“The level of funds raised for this election was simply astonishing,” Schneider said. “However, as was also shown in 2009 when there was an unsuccessful $750,000 Independent expenditure campaign promoting a slate of candidates and a ballot measure, money alone does not equal votes. Santa Barbarans expect to be engaged on a more personal level during election season.”