“If we can keep (Fourth District Supervisor) Bob (Nelson) in office and get the Third District supervisor’s seat, we will have painted the county red again,” said Bobbi McGinnis, chairwoman of the county Republican Party.
“I think (Fifth District Supervisor) Steve Lavagnino will become more conservative with two conservatives on the board.”
After referring to the two right-leaning North County supervisors, she turned her attention to the opposite end.
“Even (First District Supervisor) Das Williams might become more conservative if there’s three other conservatives on that board,” she added.`
McGinnis spoke with Noozhawk to offer the party’s view of the upcoming March primary and November general election.
It’s an uphill battle for Republicans on the South Coast, but redistricting has improved the party’s chances.
In the Third District — which includes a large swath of Goleta, north through the Santa Ynez Valley and west to Lompoc — Democrats make up 22,184 voters, or 43.4%, according to voter registration data.
The district is currently represented by Supervisor Joan Hartmann, who is seeking re-election to a third term.
Republicans are 14,277, 27.9% of the vote in the district, while independent voters are right behind with 13,395, or 26.2%.
Countywide, Democrats total 112,584, or 47.3% of registered voters. Independents are at 61,972, or 26%, and Republicans account for 58,358, or 24.5%.
McGinnis said the GOP is targeting no party preference voters and independents. The party is texting, emailing, phone-banking and knocking on doors targeting undecided voters, and voters who choose the candidate over just the party.
She said the party conducted a poll through a San Luis Obispo-based consulting firm that showed overall unhappiness with Santa Barbara County’s government.
This election cycle, she said, the party is working to “ballot harvest,” meaning helping seniors and others fill out and send in their vote-by-mail ballots.
“I am hoping to touch the independent voters at least three to five times before March,” McGinnis said.
The GOP, she said, is focused on public safety, housing affordability and education.
“We don’t want UCSB students who are here maybe four, five or six years to be controlling the whole nature of our county and our towns,” McGinnis said. “They are gone in four or five years.
“I really think UCSB has been wagging the county for the past two decades. Now, going into 2024, we have a chance for the people who live here.”
Some of the local GOP optimism is based on the fact that Isla Vista precincts were taken out of the Third District and placed in the Second District, represented by Supervisor Laura Capps.
Without Isla Vista voters, the Third District is decidedly older in age, and shines a light on Lompoc as an area of swing votes. Both parties are targeting the community with volunteers and events.
Goleta, much of which is in the Third District, leans Democrat, but the Santa Ynez Valley leans Republican.
“With UCSB being in the Second District where it really belongs, all of a sudden the citizens who work and live here and raise their children here, are going to have a voice on county government,” McGinnis said.
She said the GOP has not made any endorsements in the Third District contest yet, although Frank Troise has announced his intent to run.
McGinnis called Troise, a Republican financial services executive, “an interesting candidate,” but emphasized that the party won’t make an endorsement until Dec. 8.
Darcél Elliott, chairwoman of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, noted that “the Third District is much more of a toss up” than it has been in recent years.
“There are still more registered Democrats than Republicans,” she said. “However, Republicans turn out at a higher percentage in the district than Democrats do.”
Elliott said the Democratic Party started doing direct voter contact with Third District Democrats back in February “to build a deeper connection with them about the importance of voting in this race.”
She said the party has been canvassing for nine months and “we’re going to greatly increase our efforts over the next four months.”
According to voter registration figures provided by Elliott, there are 21,561 Democrats and 14,501 Republicans in the Third District. Another 10,952 identify as “No Party Preference.”
“Our records show that Dem turnout in the March 2020 primary was about 62% while Republican turnout was about 65%,” Elliott said.
As of now, she said, the GOP does not have a candidate to challenge state Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, in the 19th Senate District.
McGinnis said the GOP has had difficulty registering Republicans because of the current political climate.
“It’s really sad when people are losing their jobs and livelihood because they have an ‘R’ next to their name,” she said. “It makes it really hard for us to register conservatives as Republicans.”
She said she made the switch when she started having children, and had a mortgage.
This time, she’s targeting supporters of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democrat who is running for president as an independent.
“I am looking for the JFK Democrat because they are more with us than against us,” McGinnis said.
Justin Shores, a conservative activist, said the candidate for the Third Supervisorial District should take advantage of successes in 2022 to be competitive in 2024.
“If I were the candidate, I would ask all the school board members who ran to campaign with me,” he said.
“They have mailing lists and donors already, and have walked the districts recently.”
Going forward, Shores said, Republicans as a party might benefit from a shakeup on the Central Committee.
“I think the bigger election for the local GOP will be their Central Committee,” he said. “I know they would attract more voters with new, strong leadership.”
McGinnis said she’s optimistic about the GOP’s chances next year.
“I think we are going to do very well,” she said. “Our biggest job is to get out the vote and also have more Republicans voting.”