Planning Commissioner Mike Jordan and incumbent Jason Dominguez were ahead in early election results Tuesday night in the races for two seats on the Santa Barbara City Council.
In District 2, which primarily covers the city’s Mesa area, Jordan received 35.9%, or 935 votes, followed by Realtor Brian Campbell with 30.4%. or 791 votes.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Jordan told Noozhawk. “I am happy to be ahead. I am happy that the message we were bringing on the Mesa resonated with the most people. I am looking forward to getting in and working with council and bringing my skillset.
“I hope the numbers hold. I expect that they will, and I am looking forward to stepping into that role.”
Jordan celebrated at the downtown State Street restaurant Casablanca, where the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party held its party. Jordan gave a speech to about 100 supporters.
Teri Jory, a neighborhood activist, was in third place with 17.2%, or 449 votes, law school student Tavis Boise had 8.9%, or 232 votes, and Luis Esparza received 7.3%, or 189 votes.
In District 1, which is on the city’s Eastside, Dominguez was neck and neck with challenger Alejandra Gutierrez.
Dominguez had received 48.1%, or 563 votes, compared to 45.5%, or 532 votes, for Gutierrez.
Cruzito Cruz was a distant third with 5.8%, 68 votes.
“I am very excited to be in the lead,” Dominguez said. “I have an amazing team of volunteers and supporters. I am looking forward to continuing the agenda for the next four years, particularly in the area of homelessness and public safety.”
Dominguez held his election night party at Uncorked, a restaurant on Haley Street. He and his team erupted into enthusiastic cheers when the results were released, shortly before 8:30 p.m.
Of the close race, Dominguez said: “We had a very strong team of grassroot supporters working hard the past seven days, and I think we’ll have a majority of the votes.”
Gutierrez said was equally optimistic about the vote totals.
“I feel very confident,” Gutierrez said. “I can’t believe it, but I knew in my heart that my constituents in District 1 really like when it is somebody, one of theirs coming up. They are a very close-knit community.”
Gutierrez said she’s comfortable no matter what Friday’s results entail.
“Win or lose I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish,” Gutierrez said. “I wanted to tell the city of Santa Barbara that locals, we’re going to start stepping up and take leadership roles to create change.”
Gutierrez celebrated at Casablanca with Jordan and other members of the Democratic Party.
The election was being conducted entirely through mail-in ballots, with the vote tabulation being done by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office.
Dozens of people gathered at Santa Barbara City Hall for the election results, which were revealed on a large screen projector.
Mayor Cathy Murillo, who campaigned for both Gutierrez and Jordan, started a clap with supporters in the room.
“I do believe that Alejandra has a real good chance of making up those 30 votes and surpassing the incumbent,” Murillo said. “Michael really stood out as the most experienced candidate.”
Tuesday night’s tally included only ballots received — both by mail and at City Hall — through Monday.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the city had received an additional 1,580 ballots. Those will not be counted until Friday. Day of votes tend to benefit the candidates with the stronger field campaigns. The Democratic Party unleashed dozens of volunteers at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning to encourage voters to turn in their ballots.
Including those ballots, the turnout is expected to be about 30 percent.
The city has received 5,002 ballots in total.
Updated vote totals will be released Friday afternoon, and will include all ballots received by Tuesday, and those picked up from the Post Office on Wednesday.
District 1 saw a battle between the incumbent Dominguez and Gutierrez, who grew up in the community and worked as the executive director the Franklin Service Center.
Although they are both Democrats, Gutierrez earned the endorsement of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, and had legions of volunteers working on her behalf.
Dominguez, who also announced that he is running for a seat in the California Assembly, is an attorney who frequently spars with Mayor Cathy Murillo on political issues.
The sixth time was not the charm for Cruz, who has run for office five times before. He runs frequently, but has never attempted to raise money to win the seat or promote his candidacy.
The district is somewhat of a microcosm of Santa Barbara. Milpas Street, much like State Street downtown, struggles with homelessness, crime and public-safety issues.
Several controversial high-density housing projects are also in the works on the Eastside, over the opposition of neighborhood residents.
Even the Eastside’s parks have received unwelcome attention, from a hypodermic needle found discarded at Vera Cruz Park to a recent middle-of-the-night stabbing at Ortega Park, which has been the scene of ongoing loitering, drinking and drug use
In District 2, five candidates were looking to replace Randy Rowse, who has served on the City Council since 2009.
Jordan, a centrist Democrat, won the endorsement of the local Democratic Party, a historically influential group during at-large elections. He is an insurance agent who also serves on the city’s Planning Commission.
Jory promoted herself as a 4th-degree black belt, small business owner, community advocate, professional dancer, choreographer, figure skater and award-winning news anchor.
She is the owner of Poise Productions, and her website is filled with striking photos of her fitness DVDs, with titles such as “Strong and Sexy,” and “Fit and Fierce.”
Campbell, a Realtor at Village Properties, is the sole Republican in the contest. He focused largely on homelessness problems, and increasing public safety on the Mesa.
Esparza ran before in 2017, while Boise was a first-time candidate who was balancing attending law school with running for office. He frequently talked about the importance of addressing climate change if he were elected to the City Council.
Vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian safety on Cliff Drive, housing, the impact of Santa Barbara City College on neighborhoods, homelessness, park safety, and sea level rise are among the major issues currently facing the Mesa.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.