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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Unlikely Scenarios to Ponder While Awaiting 1st District Count

Long-suffering residents of certain First District precincts appear condemned to endure four more years of smug smarminess (or is it smarmy smugness?) from Supervisor Das Williams.

After a fierce campaign against challenger Laura Capps, in which he enjoyed all the financial and organizational advantages of incumbency, Santa Barbara’s most self-regarding local official won a smashing mandate that at the moment stands at, um, 735 votes.

With nearly 40,000 votes from Tuesday’s election yet to be counted in the county, perhaps 8,000 in the First District, Capps on Wednesday held off conceding (“I am committed to ensuring every voter’s voice is heard”) while Das managed to toot his triumphalist horn, without exactly declaring victory.

“My staff and I are in a long-term relationship based on hard work and trust with the people of Santa Barbara County,” he said. “It is strong enough that it cannot be broken by the negative attacks of this campaign.”

Putting aside the eww factor of declaring himself in a “long term relationship” with people who may already, you know, be in a relationship, Williams appeared to view the outcome a ringing affirmation of his leadership – rather than a narrow escape one step ahead of the posse.

The many thousands who cast ballots against him might wish that such a close call would lead him to reflect upon its lessons with modesty, if not humility. And here we recall the assurances of his sponsors at the Santa Barbara Independent that he “will learn to admit his mistakes quickly and with compassion, and that he will strive to repair relationships with those who have been his past allies”.

Oh, never mind.

Rather, the almost-re-elected supervisor snarled to reporters, with sparseness of introspection or insight, of his indifference for criticisms that came his way during the campaign:

“It’s pretty amazing,” he told one, speaking of his not-quite landslide win.

"The reason why (Laura) did so well is that people have a lot of respect for the Capps name. Her messages against me didn't work," he told another.

“The people remembered my track record and work, and that’s why the attacks against me didn’t work,” he added. “What we saw from door-to-door and polling is that [Capps’s] negative attacks had no effect whatsoever and nobody believed them.”

Nobody, indeed.

To the numbers. Early Wednesday, a faction within the Capps camp was desperately attempting to spin the thousands of outstanding votes into nontrivial probabilities of a turnaround in the result.

"This is a long way from over," one true believer told us.


There appear to be three basic scenarios for where the election goes from here, as more votes are counted and released, beginning Monday. In order of likelihood:

1-Das cements his win. At post time, the vote count stands at 7,920-to-7,185, giving Das a 4.79 percent lead of 51.63-to-46.84 over Laura.

This is very nearly the same lead he had when the first numbers were released Tuesday night, and it has remained largely unchanged since, suggesting that he was ahead among ballots mailed in weeks ago and also ahead in the first Election Day ballots counted, making it comfortable to assume that his edge will stay the same or perhaps grow.

Probability of occurrence: Greater than the chance Das ever admits there was anything wrong with taking $62,000 from an industry while writing the law that regulates it.

2-Laura shocks the world. This one is based on assuming that a) many late arriving ballots favored Joe Biden for president, a circumstance that appears to have occurred throughout California; b) the profile of Biden voters more closely matches Capps than Williams; c) Laura racks up, and our math is wiggly on this, depending on the actual number of outstanding votes in the First District, a +10% or so margin in the uncounted ballots.

Probability of occurrence: Greater than Charles Cole winning the November Assembly election against Steve Bennett.

3-The incredible run-off surprise. Alert readers no doubt noticed that the vote percentages in Scenario #1 total less than 100 percent -- because they omit the 1+% of voters who wrote in another candidate (or in some cases a grandchild – shout-out Jana Zimmer!).

For this intriguing, tear-your-head-off scenario to play out: a) Capps must close the gap with Williams via uncounted ballots, but not necessarily overtake him; b) an additional small but statistically significant number of uncounted ballots must be write-ins, resulting in; c) Williams slipping to 49.99 percent, or just below the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a November run-off between two primary candidates -- providing us eight more months of Das vs. Laura headlines!

Probability of occurrence: Greater than the chance that late presidential ballots break heavily for Amy Klobuchar, but less than the chance that Alexandra Gutierrez beats Jason Dominguez by eight votes in the 2019 District 1 City Council race.

But wouldn't it be special?


Images: Not this again (Dr. Bossert/Twitter); (; The laws of arithmetic; Das celebrates on election night (Josh Molina); Laura and Oscar at her election night party (Josh Molina); No, please God, not (

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1 Comment

Eileen Conrad
Mar 05, 2020

Thank you!

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