As four candidates take a comfortable lead in the race for two seats on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, efforts to win the November runoff race will begin in earnest.
With roughly half of the ballots counted, Fourth District candidates Watsonville City Council members Jimmy Dutra and Felipe Hernandez had garnered 1,152 and 862 votes, respectively, as of Wednesday afternoon. The two-edged out opponent, Ed Acosta, who received 345 votes.
That district covers much of unincorporated Watsonville. In 2012, Greg Caput, then a Watsonville City Councilman, defeated incumbent Tony Campos and has held onto his seat against several challengers.
Dutra attributes his success to walking his district and connecting with potential voters.
“I was out there personally talking to people, having conversations with them, and I did that for three months straight,” he said. “I think that connection is what people here in this community appreciate.”
Dutra also says his message of supporting South County resonates with his potential constituents.
“A lot of people, including myself, feel that we do not get the resources or finding that we deserve in this part of the county,” he said. “People feel that we’re forgotten.”
He also says he got support from voters who appreciated his opposition to a housing project on Ohlone Parkway being built on contaminated soil.
“People told me they were voting for me because of that vote,” he said. “I put the health and safety of our community first.”
Hernandez did not respond to requests for comment.
In District 3, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson had received 2,333 votes to opponent Justin Cummings’ 1,900. Ami Chen-Mills got 880.
Cummings says he is cautiously optimistic
“If we’re heading into a runoff, we’ll be looking forward to keeping up the momentum,” he said.
Cummings says that his connections with the diverse spectrums of the community helped push him to the runoff.
He also says he garnered support for his mayorship during 2020 when the community was reeling from the pandemic, the CZU Lightning Complex fires and the social unrest fomented by the murder of George Floyd.
Kalantari-Johnson says she focused her campaign on reaching out to voters, walking the district and making phone calls.
“I think that paid off,” she said.
Also resonating with constituents, she says, is that, if elected, Kalantari-Johnson would be the only woman on the board, which white men currently populate.
She says her work with nonprofit organizations and on the city council propelled her to the runoff.
“Voters want a leader who is in action, and who is really trying to work toward solutions and who is a collaborative thinker and can work across sectors and work across the county,” she said. That’s what the voters want, and they’ve seen it in me either through my professional work or my work on the City Council, and they know I can put it to scale at the county level.”
The four will face off in the Nov. 8 election.In the California Assembly race, 29th District incumbent Robert Rivas edged out Republican challenger Stephanie Castro with 65% of the vote. At the same time, in the 30th Assembly District, Democrat Dawn Addis and Republican Vicki Nohrden appear headed to the November runoff, having so far garnered 43.4% and 33.4%, respectively.