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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

The 7 Biggest Surprises of Election Night

Santa Barbara voters performed their civic duty in spades on Tuesday, casting ballots in record numbers for a mid-term election, as they racked up a history-shattering 71 percent turnout.

As we turn our attention to holiday planning, the exploits of Lebron and renewed obsession over the depth-defying scandalous spectacle that is Trump. here's one more look at the most surprising events of SB's 2018 campaign, in honor of SB's conscientious electorate.

1-Kate Ford finished first.

The race for two school board seats was a wide-open but low visibility affair, as voters got little media help sorting through the assets and liabilities of eight, very different candidates amid a dearth of mainstream coverage in Santa Barbara’s fractured news industry landscape.

So it’s a tribute to the diligence and attentiveness of the voters that they ferreted out passionate career educator Kate Ford as the best-qualified contender in the field by far (a judgment to which any of the few ink-stained wretches who actually covered the campaign would attest) awarding her a first-place victory by an impressive margin, an electoral decision that instantly will boost the board’s policy smarts and sophistication to the benefit of public school parents and students.

2-Rose beat Ish.

Ismael Ulloa’s standing as a SBUSD incumbent, albeit an appointed one, provided built-in advantages that installed him as a favorite to win at least one of the two seats, while Rose Munoz, his Democratic Party running-mate, faced greater political obstacles, given her low-key manner and lack of direct experience in school board affairs.

But when the deal went down, it was Rose who claimed the key second place spot, while Ish finished a disappointing fourth, testimony to her quiet tenaciousness on the campaign trail, the grassroots connections she’d forged in years of paying dues with volunteer service in community and Dem activities and affairs, not to mention the coaching and political exertions on her behalf by personal friend Mayor Cathy Murillo.

3-Marsha kicked ass.

Defying the forecasts of Santa Barbara’s pundit class (we name no names), City College Trustee and retired attorney Marsha Croninger won a 24-point landslide re-election over Das Williams aide and Democratic Party favorite Darcel Elliott.

Darcel bested Marsha on two of the three fundamentals of any political campaign – money and on-the-ground organization – but Croninger won the messaging battle, as her “keep the community in community college” slogan was pitched perfectly to Riviera, San Roque and Mission Canyon precincts, where many homeowners looked askance at expansive policy prescriptions for SBCC embraced by Elliott and other political progressives.

4-Darcel’s big bucks didn't buy victory.

Calling in political chits earned in a decade of service to Das and indefatigable efforts on behalf of local Democratic campaigns, Darcel raised money at an astonishing clip in a race for a seat that represents only one-seventh of the SBCC district boundaries -- $39,596.91 as of her last campaign finance report, a number likely to grow in final filings..

In retrospect the district was always a tough fit for her and in the end, her prodigious fundraising yielded only 37.4 percent of the votes cast in Trustee Area 5, a per unit cost of $14.71 a vote.

5-Kristen Sneddon won big, even though she wasn't on the ballot.

Mayor Cathy’s guidance of protégé Munoz was an impressive political feat, but council member Kristen was a crucial factor behind the twin triumphs of both Kate and Marsha, on whose behalf she fearlessly diverged from the local Democratic organization, which loyal readers will recall snubbed and sniped at her when she ran for council last year, burying party-backed Jim Scafide.

This time, Sneddon recruited Ford, a friend and ally from Peabody Charter School days, to run for the SBUSD board, and Kate never got the chance to seek the Dem’s early-bird endorsement; with Hannah Beth Jackson, Kristen also stood alone among Democratic electeds on behalf of Marsha, who was blindsided when she learned that after backing her previous election bids, the party had passed her over for Darcel.

6-Mary and Mollie exceeded expectations.

Veteran political consultant Mary Rose not only served as campaign manager for the successful Munoz effort, but also achieved the tricky feat of winning passage of Measure G -- a Das-blessed plan to create a long-overdue independent commission to take over from the politicians the job of redrawing district lines for the Board of Supervisors after the 2020 census -- while simultaneously demolishing the rival Measure H reapportionment plan devised by big bucks Republicans, an exploit she accomplished with a big assist from IV voters, who feared that H would disenfranchise them by splitting the UCSB hamlet in two.

Consultant colleague Mollie Culver also deserves kudos for a big night, as she engineered Salud’s 12-point landslide over perennial Republican hopeful Justin Fareed, as well as a surprisingly easy victory for Paula Perotte in the Goleta mayor’s race; with shout-outs to Sharon Byrne, who quarterbacked the Montecito moneybags takeover of the water and sanitary districts, and new kid Wade Cowper, who ushered Kate into the school board winner’s circle, despite a disappointing finish for slate mate Mark Alvarado, who nonetheless edged out Ulloa for third place.

7-Despite the national political mess, good people still put themselves on the line in SB.

Politics, alas, is a zero-sum game, but as we focus on the winners, Newsmakers also salutes those who ran hard but fell short.

Running for public office is a brave, exhausting, sometimes painful and frequently thankless task, and anyone whose commitment to the community leads them to embrace it deserves gratitude, honor and praise.

So here’s a hat tip to the guts and grit of Darcel and Ish; the candor and courage of Mark; the compassion for kids of Ricardo Cota; the innovative ideas of Jim Gribble; the amazing energy of Bonnie Raisin and the principled spirit of Jill Rivera.

You did us proud.


Images: Credit:; Kate Ford; Rose Munoz; Marsha Croninger; Darcel Elliott; Kristen Sneddon; Mollie Culver; Ishmael Ulloa.

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