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How the Montecito Journal‘s Endorsements Fared with Voters on Nov. 3
by Nicholas Schou
Although the nail-biting U.S. presidential election came down to a virtual photo finish, with Democrat Joe Biden narrowly beating out Republican Donald Trump after several days of vote-counting, the same can’t be said about our local elections. Although Santa Barbara, like California as a whole, has long been a virtual safe house for Democrats, this local election season saw a strong and highly visible push by conservative candidates at both the county level and in local school board races.
Hyper-local issues such as a $7.8 million bond measure to provide new classrooms for Montecito’s Cold Spring Elementary School led to some rather incendiary and highly personal campaigning that rivaled the rhetoric on the national level, as witnessed by a series of full-throated letters covering all angles of the debate that ran in the letters section of this very paper.
At the top of our local ballot, incumbent Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal soundly defeated his Republican party challenger Andy Caldwell. Carbajal, who won the Journal‘s official endorsement, took just over 61 percent of the vote while Caldwell garnered just over 38 percent of the more than $273,000 votes cast.
Democrat Monique Limon, in her bid to win California’s 19th State Senate seat, and another Journalendorsement winner, even more handily defeated Republican Gary Michaels, who like Caldwell, unsuccessfully sought to depict his popular opponent as a far-left liberal. Finally, the Journal-endorsed Steve Bennett won in a landslide against Republican challenger Charles Cole for control of California’s 37th Assembly District, with roughly 72 percent versus 27 percent of respective votes.
The same trend of Journal-endorsed candidates doing well continued down the ballot, with Santa Barbara Unified School District hopefuls Laura Capps (who won 27 percent of the vote), Wendy Sims-Moten (just under 21 percent), and Virginia Alvarez (just over 18 percent) taking the 3 top spots.
Here in Montecito, most local races provided few surprises when the final votes were tallied. High-profile volunteer Abe Powell of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade won the largest share of the vote with just over 36 percent, while Sylvia Easton and Michael Lee also won their races, taking in just under 27 percent and just over 26 percent of the total vote respectively. All three candidates won Journal endorsements.
The Journal‘s endorsements didn’t exactly match the outcome of the voting results for the Montecito Sanitary District’s trustee race this year. The Journal endorsed a trio of candidates: Don Eversoll, Dorinne Lee Johnson and Edward Martin. However, Gary Fuller proved most popular with voters, securing 26.57 percent of the tally, with Eversoll (26.02) and Johnson (24.18) also winning their seats. Edward Martin, came in fourth place with 22.27 percent of the votes.
Switching our focus from candidates to ballot measures, let’s see how the Journal‘s endorsements matched up with both countywide and statewide results.
Prop 14 aimed to issue $5.5 billion in bonds for a state stem cell research institute. Arguing that “Stem cell research has already shown remarkable promise,” and deserved “continued funding,” the Journal endorsed the measure. Prop 14 wasn’t popular with Santa Barbara voters, however, 52.37 percent of whom voted no. However, at press time, California voters as a whole seemed to have backed the measure, with 51 percent of voters backing it so far, with 84 percent of the votes counted so far.
Prop 15 would require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on market value and dedicates revenue. On this one, the Journal couldn’t reach a consensus and left it up to y’all to decide. A narrow majority (50.98 percent) of Santa Barbara voters rejected this measure, which many voters likely viewed as an attack on California’s 1978 property tax reform measure Prop. 13. Statewide, the same basic pattern has held so far, with 51.9 percent of California voters rejecting it.
Prop 16 would repeal 1996’s Prop 209, which reversed affirmative action policy by saying that the state cannot discriminate or grant preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education, or contracting. The Journal supported this measure, arguing that, given “the continuing racial and economic disparities in this state, affirmative action is a crucial tool to balance the odds in gaining access to higher education and the promise of prosperity.” Countywide, a clear majority (55.34 percent) of voters rejected Prop 16, a verdict almost exactly mirrored in the statewide results, where 56.5 percent of voters so far rejected it.
Prop 17 would restore the right to vote to people convicted of felonies who are on parole. “America is long overdue for a national debate about voting rights, which have for too long been subjected to every kind of nefarious constraint from district gerrymandering to impossibly long lines on election day in poorer neighborhoods to the fact that we have no national election day holiday for voting,” the Journal wrote in its endorsement for the initiative. Most Santa Barbara voters (60.59 percent) agreed, as did California voters (58.8 percent) as a whole.
Prop 18 would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primaries and special elections. The Journal said no thanks to this one, given the lack of any coherent argument as to why such an amendment to our voting laws would make any sense whatsoever. Both county and state voters agreed, voting 53.68 and 55.5 percent against the measure.
Prop 19 would change tax assessment transfers and inheritance rules, granting Californians over age 55 a financial break when buying new a home. The Journal supported this measure, unlike county voters (53.57), although so far 51.2 percent of California voters also said yes.
Prop 20, among other things, would increase certain criminal penalties for property crimes and other offenses. The Journal said no to this, as did a whopping 65 percent of county voters and 62 percent of state voters.
Prop 21 would aim to expand rent control in California. The Journal, citing previous legislation that has already done this, said no, as did 62 percent of Santa Barbara voters and 59 percent of California voters.
Prop 22, perhaps the most high-profile ballot proposal this year, seeks to designate ride-sharing and food-delivery app drivers as independent contractors rather than full-time employees deserving of health benefits. The Journal voted no, whereas 53 percent of county voters and 58 percent of statewide voters said yes.
Prop 23 would require dialysis centers to have a physician onsite and to seek state permission before shutting down. The Journal supported this measure. 61 percent of Santa Barbara and 64 percent of California voters opposed it.
Prop 24 expands the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act and create the California Privacy Protection Agency to implement and enforce the act. The Journal voted no, whereas 57 percent of county voters and nearly 56 percent of state voters voted yes.
Prop 25 would replace cash bail with an algorithm to determine the likelihood of a person to appear in court. Noting the socio-economic inequity of the bail system, the Journal endorsed it, but both 51 percent of Santa Barbara voters and nearly 56 percent of California voters opposed it.
Perhaps the most heated local race we’ve covered this election season involves Measure L, the $7.8 million bond proposal to pay for campus improvements at Cold Spring Elementary School. The Journal offered Measure L a qualified endorsement based largely on the merits of the proposal, to wit; building new classrooms for students. On election day, voters within the school district’s geographic boundaries had their say, and a clear majority, 52.18 percent of voters, backed Measure L, but was just shy of the 55 percent required for it to have passed.
As editor-in-chief Gwyn Lurie said in our endorsement package, elections have consequences. We’ll keep reporting on the aftermath of Nov. 3, especially on what’s relevant to Montecito, where, no less than anywhere else, every vote counts.