Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr had an easy victory in Tuesday’s primary election over challenger Steve Pappas in a rematch of their 2008 race.
Farr led with 54.5 percent of the vote and Pappas had 45 percent, with all 68 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.
Farr enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout the evening, but her campaign manager, Michael Tamariz, said he was cautiously optimistic after the early lead and was “hoping the end of the night goes like the beginning.”
“It’s looking really good. The problem I have right now is I don’t know what precincts they are,” Tamariz said.
Pappas could not be reached for comment.
Because only two candidates were competing for the 3rd District seat, Farr would retain her seat without having to compete again in the Nov. 6 General Election.
The 3rd District, the county’s largest, has traditionally been the swing vote on the five-member Board of Supervisors on issues that pit South Coast against North County interests.
The district is politically and geographically diverse, reaching southward from Guadalupe and the San Luis Obispo County line, taking in Vandenberg Air Force Base, Mission Hills and Mesa Oaks near Lompoc, the Santa Ynez Valley, UCSB and Isla Vista.
Supervisors serve four-year terms and are paid $84,200 per year. The chairperson is paid an additional $1,619.
Farr and Pappas, both Santa Ynez Valley residents, agreed during the campaign that the main issue was the need to eliminate the Santa Barbara County budget deficit and to provide the most experienced and effective leadership for the district and the county.
Farr said her four years as supervisor gave her the advantage of having a track record for voters to consider, an advantage this year that she didn’t have in 2008 when she defeated Pappas in a close race for an open seat.
Pappas agreed that Farr had the advantage of incumbency, having worked daily on county business, but said he still considered himself the better, more experienced leader.
He cited his experience as a self-employed businessman and four years of service on the school board in the Los Olivos School District. At the school district, including serving as president in 2008, Pappas said, he oversaw operations, a $5 million budget and the core curriculum for students.
Pappas also accused Farr of a lack of leadership skills, in that she was unable to sway board members her way on important issues. As an example, he said, two months after Farr and the board opposed a liquor license expansion for the Chumash tribe, she couldn’t get a majority vote to prevent the board from reversing itself.
Farr said that although the 3rd District is often viewed as the swing vote on the board, she has worked hard to serve any community that needed her help on any issue. As a result, she said, there have been fewer 3-2 votes.
During Farr’s time in office, the Board of Supervisors closed a $72 million budget shortfall by cutting 205 full-time-equivalent positions, reducing services such as libraries and the sheriff’s gang team, and consolidating departments. The county still faces a shortfall of about $14 million in the next fiscal year and $18 million in 2013-14.
A plunge in property and other tax revenues caused the budget problems, and although sales taxes and bed taxes are recovering slowly and a 2-percent increase in property tax revenues is projected, other costs are rising faster than that, Farr said during this year’s campaign.
Pappas said the board was headed in the right direction in tackling the county’s financial woes, but said more progress could have been made by creating a better business environment.
To create a better environment for businesses, Pappas said, he would review county ordinances one by one to determine their impact on businesses. However, he said, the fastest resolution would be to try to install a philosophy that ordinances be interpreted and enforced carefully.
After Farr won the 2008 race by only 806 votes, Pappas claimed voter fraud and waged a lengthy, legal battle in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn the results. The Los Olivos businessman is still challenging in court the $520,000 in legal fees that a court ordered him to pay Farr.
Early in this year’s campaign, Farr said she believed that the contentious legal challenges would work against Pappas in this election. She said voters had paid attention to the legal battle and were concerned about the possibility of a chilling effect on people who might consider running for public office.
Pappas said that if voters understood why he challenged the 2008 election results, they would not hold it against him at the polls this time. He said he challenged the results because of irregularities at the UCSB precincts, in which the returns totaled more than 100 percent.