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And the winner is ...
The Sun reports on June 3 ballot results from the floor of local election night parties

Date: 06/05/2008

On June 3, Santa Barbara County voters went to the polls to make their voices heard in several local and state political races, as well as to help decide the outcome of California's eminent domain propositions.

This year, there were four local races on the primary election ballot, including races for 1st, 3rd, and 4th District Santa Barbara County Supervisors, and a seat on the Santa Barbara County Superior Court bench.

The race for 1st District Supervisor was all but decided going into Election Day, with incumbent Salud Carbajal running unopposed. There was, however, some heated competition in the 3rd and 4th District supervisor races.

Five candidates squared off for the coveted swing seat, soon to be vacated by 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone. They were former Mayor of Solvang David Smyser, former Santa Barbara County Planning Commissioner Doreen Farr, Los Olivos School District Board trustee Steve Pappas, former Mayor of Buellton Victoria Pointer, and Dr. David Bearman.

The most recent tallies put Farr in the lead, followed by Pappas.

The race in the 4th District was considerably smaller, but just as fierce, pitting incumbent Joni Gray against former Santa Maria Police Chief John Sterling.

To capture the political drama as it unfolded, the Sun journeyed to Lompoc to attend election night parties held for both Sterling and Gray.

The following is a play-by-play account of what went down as the polls flooded with voters and ultimately closed.


John Sterling

Three hours after the first results started coming in, John Sterling's election night party showed no signs of stopping. His 40-plus supporters kept eating, they kept drinking, they kept socializing, and they kept hoping--even as the numbers showed that opponent Joni Gray was firmly in the lead.

Over, but not out:
John Sterling stayed at his election-night party long after opponent Joni Gray closed hers down after declaring victory. Sterling said that, since he's not a career politician, he can now look for another way to serve his community.
She had been in that position since about 9 p.m., when Sterling sat in front of the TV and looked at the numbers from the first 8,000 votes. Gray was ahead with 60 percent.

"Do you know how many votes to expect, John?" somebody asked.

"Nine-thousand," he replied.

That's when John Sterling went looking for an orange soda. He walked into the other room of his Lompoc campaign headquarters and searched the cooler, muttering under his breath.

"I just don't want to let people down," he said.

There wasn't much chance of that. The men and women--and one little girl--in the room all loved John. His mom was there, and his sister Patricia had driven up from Pasadena. His mom socialized, and Patricia taught some people how to knit while they waited for more results.

While word trickled in that the Gray party across town had already broken up for the night, with Gray claiming victory, Sterling's party went on.

At around 10 p.m., people were still waiting for the votes cast that night to be counted in Santa Barbara, and Sterling was starting to become a bit more hopeful.

"I know nothing about this process," he said, "but I do know you have to wait till the end. That's just life. You play to the end."

Sterling's fans--including union members, League of Women Voters president Joan Leon, and Joyce Howerton with the Fund for Santa Barbara--did wait till the end, but that end brought disappointment.

At midnight, 12,269 total votes had been counted. Gray ended up with 57.43 percent of the vote and Sterling received 42.3.

Luckily, Sterling said, he's not a career politician and his self-worth wasn't riding on this race. This was just the next step in his own journey to serve his community. Now he'll just have to find another way.

But if it counts for anything in this county, Sterling does throw a fun party. His friends are funny, and his supporters are earnest. Like Connie Barlow, who spent the night before the election putting flyers on people's porches. And Susan Klucker, who entertained partygoers at the bar with this story: She was standing on the corner of Broadway and Foster the day before the election, holding a sign showing support for John Sterling, when a man pulled up to the corner and spat out of the window of his car.

"I was so mad," she said, "so I walked over and confronted him and he said, 'That wasn't meant for you, I just spit at the same place every morning.'"

There's always a silver lining to any situation. And if Sterling runs again, Klucker will know not to stand on that corner.

--Sarah E. Thien


Joni Gray

Fourth District Santa Barbara County Supervisor incumbent Joni Gray spent an intimate night with family, friends, and colleagues at the Embassy Suites in Lompoc on June 3 celebrating her re-election to office.

Local support:
Fourth District Santa Barbara County supervisor incumbent Joni Gray enjoyed a celebration with campaign staff members and supporters, like Guadalupe Mayor Lupe Alvarez (center). Gray went on to win her seat with 57 percent of the vote.
Dressed in a periwinkle pantsuit, Gray welcomed her party guests with smiles, handshakes, and invitations to "make yourself at home."

The evening started with subdued anticipation as supporters milled around the center table filling their plates with bruschetta, Santa Maria Valley strawberries, and other snacks.

Gray's political colleagues--Guadalupe Mayor Lupe Alvarez and 5th District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joe Centeno--were there to show their support for the incumbent and longtime Orcutt resident.

When asked why he chose to support Gray during the election, Alvarez said, "We've worked together over the years because Joni represents Guadalupe. When I asked for help to clear the willow branches out of the Santa Maria River levee, she was very supportive. She was instrumental in that project, which was very important for Guadalupe and Santa Maria."

Gray said that she was very grateful for the support she received.

"When you're an incumbent, talking about what you've done in office and what you're going to do if re-elected kind of loses its punch if you do it yourself," she explained. "That's why it's so important to have support."

A little before 8 p.m., Gray, her campaign staff, and party guests eagerly awaited results to be posted on the Santa Barbara County Clerk's website.

When the first numbers appeared on the screen barely five minutes later, showing Gray with a nearly 30 percent lead, she and her staff let out whoops of joy and embraced in a makeshift group hug.

At the end of the night, Gray went on to win the race with 57 percent of the vote.

"I'm so proud I have such wonderful friends. It's just so wonderful," Gray later told the Sun. "This community has supported me through all of my schooling, my first job--everything I've wanted to do, this community has supported me and I want to continue giving back."

Supervisor Centeno was equally pleased with the results, stating, "I'm really overjoyed. She's been a great, great supervisor for many years. We share views on a lot of issues across the board. It'll be good to have her back, and to have her on the board with me for the remainder of my term."

Centeno's term is scheduled to end in 2010.

Now that Gray has been re-elected to the Board of Supervisors, she said she plans to "continue working like we have been for the past 10 years."

Some major projects she plans to take on include staffing the supervisors' Orcutt office, repairing sections of her district's highways, and creating a committee for the Lompoc Veterans Memorial.

She also plans to get the message out to voters about the renewal of Measure A, the California transportation measure that would help improve roads and transportation in Santa Barbara County.

The measure, which was originally titled Measure D, failed in 2006.

"We're really going to work to push the measure over to a two-thirds majority," she said.

--Amy Asman


The bigger picture

Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) did double duty by running for the 15th District as a candidate for Republicans (on the ballot) and Democrats (write-in). There were no other candidates on the ballot, although Dennis Morris had announced his candidacy as a write-in for the Democrats. The primary will see Maldonado running with no opposition on the November ballot.

Around midnight:
Around midnight: A room empty except for balloons marked a lull near the end of the night at John Sterling's party. The former Santa Maria police chief received 42.3 percent of the votes.
In the race to replace 19th District State Senator Tom McClintock, Hannah-Beth Jackson won the Democratic ticket and Tony Strickland won the Republican ticket.

The State Assembly 33rd District Democratic vote went to Robert Cuthbert, and the Republican vote went to incumbent Sam Blakeslee. The State Assembly 35th District Democratic ticket went to incumbent Pedro Nava and the Republican ticket went to Gregory Gandrud.

As for national positions, U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) received the Democratic nomination, and Matt Kokkonen received the Republican nomination in the 23rd District. Marta Ann Jorgensen got the Republican nod for U.S. Representative of the 24th District, and Elton Gallegly won the Democratic ticket.

Lastly, California voters knocked down Proposition 98, an eminent domain measure that aimed at, among other things, eliminating rent control. Proposition 99 will be enacted, thus limiting government acquisition of private property in the state.

For more information about the June 3 primary election results in California, visit the California Secretary of State website at

INFO BOX: Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge

Candidate for Superior Court Judge Office No. 5 John MacKinnon enjoyed nearly a 40 percent lead but didn't garner enough votes to win the election as of press time. The winning candidate needs a majority vote or 50 percent plus one. MacKinnon will likely face a runoff with second-top-vote-getter Jed Beebe, according to Santa Barbara elections officials.

As of the morning of June 4, Beebe had 21.6 percent of the vote, followed by Lynn S. Cutler with 19.16 percent and Kevin Ready closely behind with 18.98 percent. The candidates in the November runoff could change, however, as votes are counted in the coming days--especially in determining who receives the second most votes.

MacKinnon, who was born and raised on the Central Coast, has been a senior deputy district attorney for almost 12 years. Beebe has spent the last 18 years as the court's research attorney. He has 34 years of legal experience with a background in civil and criminal law.

MacKinnon said on June 4 that he had expected a runoff: "We were estimating we'd get between 38 percent and 40 percent, and that's about where we were at."

He said that the results are a reflection of the support he's received up until this point.

"One of the things I've prided myself throughout the campaign is the broad support from the community as well as countywide," he said.

Beebe also said that he had expected to be part of a runoff.

"I'm very excited at the prospect and grateful to continue the campaign," he explained.

Beebe said that although he was appreciative of the support he received from the community and especially local judges, he didn't think he was able to reach as many people as he wanted to personally, a change he would make in preparation for November.

"I'm going to try to be making a lot more contact with people than I accomplished in the primary, because I think that really shows in the polls," he said.

--Shelly Cone


INFOBOX: Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor

In Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors' 3rd District race, Doreen Farr had the lead as the morning of June 4, but it wasn't enough to win the seat outright. With almost 9,000 votes remaining to be counted, and the lack of a majority-vote-getter, the two top contenders may have to face off in November. In order to win the seat, a candidate must get 50 percent plus one of the overall votes.

Farr, a Santa Barbara County resident for the past 25 years, received 45 percent of the vote. A business owner, she cites her past participation as a member of the County Planning Commission and her involvement as a planning consultant to the City of Goleta as some of her many accomplishments.

As of press time, the second top vote getter was Steven Pappas with nearly 32 percent of the vote. Pappas is a Santa Ynez Valley business owner and a longtime resident of the third district. He's been active in the community, and currently acts as president of the Los Olivos School District Board of Trustees.

David Smyser trailed behind Pappas, but not by much. He garnered 27 percent of the vote. David Bearman came in with 12 percent, followed by Victoria Pointer with 10 percent.

According to Santa Barbara County Elections officials, 8,892 ballots will be counted in the coming days. Those votes will determine the top two candidates, who will run against each other again in November.

-Shelly Cone

Contact Sun staffers at

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