Monday, November 24, 2008

Local election in dead heat

Wild tie in sewer seat, other races no longer too close to call

By Daryl Kelley

With scarce few votes left to count, two races on the local Nov. 4 election ballot remained too close to call late Monday.
In the most expensive race in Ventura County history, the $10-million 19th state Senate District contest was within about 1,700 votes, with Republican Tony Strickland edging Democrat Hannah Beth Jackson.
But Jackson of Santa Barbara may have great difficulty making up that margin, since nearly all votes have been counted in her stronghold, Santa Barbara County, while perhaps 16,000 remain to be counted in Ventura County, where Strickland holds a sizeable lead.
But the most compelling local contest may still be the intriguing run between incumbent Bill Stone and challenger George Galgas for a seat on the obscure Ojai Valley Sanitary District board.
Stone, 50, and Galgas, 75, were tied with with 682 votes each late Monday, election officials said. Stone lost his one vote lead from last week, as he received six new votes to Galgas' seven during the count of provisional ballots.
“It's pretty wild, isn't it,” said Stone, a 14-year incumbent who is a plant manager for a communications company in Ventura.
“It's been very exciting to say the least,” said Galgas, a semi-retired masonry inspector from Oak View.
The winner will assume one of seven seats on a special district that operates sewer facilities from the Avenue area of Ventura through the city of Ojai, serving 23,000 people.
The directors, who oversee 19 employees and a budget of $7.5 million, hold one regular meeting a month and sit on at least one committee. They receive a stipend of $150 for every regular or special meeting and $75 for each committee meeting.
They receive no other financial benefit, said district general manager John Correa, except $150 a day plus expenses when they attend one of four conferences directors may attend each year.
Correa said he'd never seen a local race like this one, and that he's marveled over how it could be so remarkably close.
Phil Schmit, county elections chief, said he's not certain what would happen if Stone and Galgas end in a tie.
“Let's just hope they don't,” he said.
Either could ask for a recount, but would have to pay the cost themselves.
Schmit said his office still has about 9,000 provisional ballots to count, and perhaps 5,000 to 6,000 other ballots that had to be hand duplicated because of damage or other problems.
“We hope to have it all done Friday,” he said. “And if we don't we'll work Saturday to finish it.”
The county must submit final returns to the California Secretary of State by next Tuesday, Dec. 2.
Meanwhile, in other updates through Monday, Betsy Clapp and Sue Horgan still held strong leads for the Ojai City Council, despite a bit of closing by former Mayor Suza Francina on second-place Horgan, the council incumbent. Horgan still held a 106-vote lead over Francina, while Clapp, the leader in the five-person race, led Horgan by 256 votes.
The Ojai Unified School District parcel tax initiative lost a little ground and stood at only 65.55 percent approval, while a two-thirds supermajority is required for passage.

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