Northern Santa Barbara County cities vote in new and old faces, according to semi-official election results


As voters trickled into the Edwards Community Center, one of Santa Maria’s seven polling places, on Nov. 3 it appeared most were there to drop off mail-in ballots. Only a few were there to cast their votes in person.

Bolinda Rodriguez dropped off her and her daughter’s mail-in ballots. She said she felt better about seeing the poll workers physically receive her ballot than putting it in the mail.
A MAIL-IN MATTER Most voters in Santa Barbara County opted to vote by mail this year. Many voters arriving at polling places on Nov. 3 were dropping off mail-in ballots in person. - PHOTO BY MALEA MARTIN
  • A MAIL-IN MATTER Most voters in Santa Barbara County opted to vote by mail this year. Many voters arriving at polling places on Nov. 3 were dropping off mail-in ballots in person.

Rodriguez said she was able to get the day off to drop off her ballot, but in past elections, work was a reason she couldn’t make it to the polls. As a single mom, she said, it can be hard to find the time, but she wanted to set an example for her daughter, a first-time voter.

“Sometimes you don’t realize how important it is until it’s too late,” Rodriguez added.

Iran Nieves also opted to drop his mail-in ballot off in person. He said he was voting for his daughter’s future.

“Aside from the left and the right, we all have to come to an agreement,” he said. “At the end of the day, we need to do this for our future, for our kids.”

Semi-official results from the Santa Barbara County Election Summary Report show that nearly 67 percent of registered voters in the county participated in the election. Of those who voted, 89 percent voted by mail.

However the county still needed to count an estimated 59,000 mail-in ballots and 2,000 provisional ballots as of Nov. 4, a county elections office representative said.

Preliminary results indicate that Santa Maria, Solvang, Lompoc, and Guadalupe will all have fresh faces on the dais, though all except Solvang are expected to keep their incumbent mayors for another term.

Santa Maria
As of Nov. 4, the city of Santa Maria re-elected Mayor Alice Patino, who won with just more than 66 percent of the vote, or 12,936 votes. Will Smith was in second with 16.9 percent, and Alberto Ugalde third with 16.3 percent.

It would be Patino’s third term as mayor. In a September interview, she said that she plans to focus on housing, COVID-19 recovery, and public safety in the years ahead.

Preliminary results for the city’s District 1 City Council race show Carlos Escobedo ahead with 1,543 votes, nearly 44 percent, followed by Osvaldo Sotelo with 1,170 votes, or 33.3 percent. District 2 incumbent Mike Cordero ran unopposed and was re-elected.

In July, Escobedo said that he hoped to find ways for the city to connect with its youth to reduce crime, particularly through sports and recreation. His platform also included strengthening public safety, increasing affordable housing, and helping local businesses succeed.

Charlie Uhrig is expected to be the city of Solvang’s new mayor with 1,623 votes so far, or about 57 percent. His opponent, current City Councilmember Karen Waite, has 1,202 votes.

While Uhrig doesn’t have past experience as an elected official like his opponent, he’s been a community resource deputy in Solvang for more than 16 years. In September, Uhrig said that he believes the city council is out of touch with the public. He also wants to revisit the Copenhagen Street closure.

Mark Infanti and Claudia Orona are currently winning Solvang’s two open City Council seats with 1,356 and 1,181 votes respectively. Justin Rodriguez is close behind with 1,125 votes, and Chris Bowyer has 721.

Infanti told New Times in October that his goals include guiding the city toward COVID-19 economic recovery, preserving the Danish culture of Solvang, improving the city’s infrastructure, and encouraging local hiring.

Solvang residents also successfully recalled City Councilmember Chris Djernaes, with nearly 87 percent voting in favor. Unofficial results put Jim Thomas in the seat with 70.4 percent of the vote over challenger Jamie Baker. Thomas is a retired Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputy.

The effort to recall Djernaes was led by resident Lammy Johnstone, who spoke about the recall at the Aug. 18 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“If you do not listen to we the people of Solvang, we will remove you. Your job, as I look at it, is to represent us,” she said.

Djernaes could not be reached for comment on the results of the recall.

Lompoc incumbent Mayor Jenelle Osborne is expected to win re-election with 5,865 votes, or 55.5 percent, over current City Councilmember Victor Vega.

“I absolutely respect the process, and when the election is certified I’m hopeful that these early numbers are reflected and that Lompoc has affirmed two more years for my position as mayor,” Osborne said.

She said she looks forward to “having long-term vision discussions and implementing strategies that aren’t just wrapped up in a two-year budget, but start to … solve some of our long-term issues and set our community up for continued success rather than these bumps in the road.”

Vega said that despite his likely mayoral loss, he feels good to still have his council seat.

“I’m OK with everything. I’m still on council,” Vega said. “I wanted to challenge and inspire other people to try and get involved with the process. I’m hoping to build on a relationship with the new council member and the current council. We’re all there for the same purpose—to make Lompoc better, and I’m still going to move forward doing that.”

Lompoc’s District 4 challenger Jeremy Ball beat out incumbent City Councilmember Jim Mosby with 1,583 votes, or about 59 percent.

“We were fortunate to surround ourselves with a very young and passionate team of folks that really wanted to get out in the streets and work hard for this,” Ball said. “To see such a resounding success for all the efforts that the team put in and for us getting out and actually meeting people in our district, it just felt great to see all of that come to fruition and to win.”

Ball said he looks forward to the “detailed discussion” that the city’s next budget will bring to council, and that his win is “just the beginning.”

Mosby expressed his congratulations to Ball.

“How can you be bummed about it? It’s the will of the people,” Mosby said. “We’ve had a lot of significant accomplishments in the past six years that I've been on. There were opportunities to take us down the wrong path and I think we've gone the right way many times.”

Mosby added that he plans to write a book about his experiences traversing “the inside windings of small town government.”

Lompoc District 1 City Councilmember Gilda Cordova ran unopposed.

The city of Guadalupe re-elected Mayor Ariston Julian, who ran unopposed. City Council hopefuls Antonio Ramirez and Gilbert Robles, as the only two candidates on the ballot, will fill the two open seats on council. Ramirez got 53 percent of the vote and Robles got 45 percent.

A county elections office representative said the next announcement for vote counts will come either by the end of the day Friday, Nov. 6, or the end of the day Monday, Nov. 9. Δ

—Malea Martin

Add a comment