Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Strickland edges out Jackson

By Daryl Kelley

With election officials in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties down to their final 120 uncounted votes, two tantalizingly close races on the local Nov. 4 election ballot finally appeared to be decided late Wednesday afternoon.
By the Ojai Valley News' deadline, Republican Tony Strickland maintained an apparently insurmountable lead of about 800 votes over Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson in the $10-million 19th state Senate race, despite late gains by Jackson in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Only about 100 votes remain to be counted in Ventura County and just 20 in Santa Barbara County, officials said. About 65,000 votes remained to be counted in Los Angeles County overall, but that county encompasses only a small sliver of the 19th District and it had gone solidly for Strickland.
"Strickland still has a sizeable lead," Ventura County elections chief Philip Schmit said. "So (catching him) doesn't seem possible."
After more than 415,000 votes had been counted, Strickland led Jackson by less than one-third of a percentage point in the most expensive race in Ventura County history and the most costly legislative race in California this year.
Tracy Saucedo, assistant Ventura County registrar, said only about 100 votes remained to be processed late Wednesday, and some of those would not be eligible votes. The full vote count should be complete by Friday, after a Thanksgiving holiday.
The county must report final results to the California secretary of state's office by next Tuesday, Dec. 2.
In another compelling race, challenger George Galgas apparently won a directorship on the Ojai Valley Sanitary District after he broke a tie with incumbent Bill Stone late Tuesday, pulling ahead by 10 votes. Then on Wednesday, Galgas widened that margin to 14 votes.
For the latest results go to
Stone, 50, and Galgas, 75, were tied with 682 votes each late Monday, but Tuesday's count gave Galgas 21 more votes while Stone got only 11, election officials said. Then Wednesday afternoon Galgas received four more votes and Stone none as provisional ballots were tabluated.
"It's pretty wild, isn't it," said Stone, a 14-year incumbent who is a plant manager for a communications company in Ventura, before the outcome was known.
"It's been very exciting to say the least," said Galgas, a semi-retired masonry inspector from Oak View, after he'd staked his Tuesday lead. "It's been back and forth. I was ahead by five on election night, and then I was ahead by four, and then he was ahead. So being ahead by 10 is really encouraging."
Now, with a 14-vote lead, the race seems to be over.
Galgas 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 about 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 his staff has marveled over how remarkably close it has been.
Schmit said he was not certain what would have happened if Stone and Galgas had ended their race in a tie.
On Wednesday morning, Schmit said his office still had to count about 500 provisional and 1,500 ballots that had to be duplicated and reprocessed for a variety of reasons. But Saucedo said by mid-afternoon that all but about 100 had been counted.
"We hope to have it all done by Friday," Schmit said. "And if we don't we'll work Saturday to finish it."
Meanwhile, in other updates through Wednesday morning, Betsy Clapp and Sue Horgan held insurmountable leads for the Ojai City Council, despite some closing by former Mayor Suza Francina on second-place Horgan, the council incumbent.
Horgan still held a 92-vote lead over Francina, while Clapp, the leader in the five-person race, led Horgan by 280 votes.
The near-final count for City Council was: Clapp, 1,694, or 27.18 percent; Horgan, 1,414, 22.69 percent; Francina, 1,322, 21.21 percent; incumbent Rae Hanstad, 1,054, 16.91 percent; Mike Lenehan, 723, 11.6 percent.
A total of 6,233 votes had been cast in the council race, with each voter allowed to vote twice.
Also by Wednesday morning, the Ojai Unified School District parcel tax initiative had gained a little ground and stood at only 65.9 percent approval, but a two-thirds super majority is required for passage. And the near-final count on Wednesday showed that it had failed with 65.94 percent of the vote.

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