In a race plagued by low turnout, incumbent Meagan Harmon appeared on her way to retaining her seat on the Santa Barbara City Council Tuesday night, leading challenger Nina Johnson by a substantial margin.
Early results in the District 6 race showed her ahead with 52.9% of the vote to Johnson’s 34.0%.
Harmon campaigned on a platform of tenant rights, creating more affordable housing, and revitalizing the downtown area.
Harmon, who is eight months pregnant, celebrated at The Cruisery restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara.
“I’m thrilled, I’m very excited with how things are looking,” she said.
Harmon said campaigning is more exhausting than she anticipated, but rewarding.
“I have to say, every time I was having a bad day, thinking I was too tired and can’t keep going, I would have a conversation at a door that left me inspired or excited or really just reenergized for the work to come. That was what kept me going and was a highlight,” she said.
“It really is like this family that we’re building. It was an honor to share this part of my life with residents of the sixth, and I’m really looking forward to lying down for a couple of days,” she laughed.
Later Harmon gave a passionate speech on the patio of the Cruisery, where she thanked Mayor Cathy Murillo.
“It has been an honor to learn from you, an honor to serve under you. I am so grateful for your mentorship and your leadership and we’re going to continue to do great things,” Harmon said.
Johnson had support from downtown businesses and architects, and campaigned on a platform of collaboration, community first, and avoiding the political fights that have plagued the City Council in the past few years.
Jason Carlton received 9.7% of the vote and Zachary Pike had 3%, according to the Santa Barbara County Elections Office.
Harmon was appointed to the District 6 seat on the City Council in 2019 to fill a vacancy after Gregg Hart was elected to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
Although she is the incumbent, Harmon has never appeared on a ballot, so it was unclear how popular she would be among voters.
Harmon raised $123,000 for her re-election campaign. She is a Harvard graduate, an attorney, and a member of the California Coastal Commission.
It looked like Harmon would skate to a full first-term, but then longtime city employee Johnson jumped into the contest for the seat.
Johnson, who is on a leave of absence from her job as senior assistant to the city administrator, raised about $104,000 in her election bid. Johnson has worked for nearly 25 years for the city.
Johnson and her supporters plastered her signs all over town, and she took to social media to frequently post selfies and photos of herself meeting with business owners and people at the Farmers Market.
“I’m really proud of our team and our volunteers who had a great message that a lot of people are behind,” she said Tuesday night at her election night gathering at Pascucci.
“We’ll see what comes next.”
Carlton raised $7,500, and Pike did not raised any money, according to public filings.
Other seats on Tuesday’s ballot include Santa Barbara mayor, District 4 City Council member and District 5 City Council member.
In early results, Randy Rowse was leading in the mayoral race, while incumbent Kristen Sneddon appeared to be holding her District 4 seat.
District 5 incumbent Eric Friedman was unopposed and will be re-election to the seat.
The Santa Barbara City Clerk’s Office released information late Tuesday night saying there are another 4,600 ballots that need to be processed and counted citywide, including ballots cast at Voter Services Centers and ballot drop-boxes.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.