Lompoc City Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne continued to hold an edge in the Lompoc mayoral race after the vote count was updated Friday evening, but her opponent and fellow City Council member Jim Mosby said earlier in the day that he wouldn’t concede the race until all the votes are counted.
Osborne, who is attempting to become Lompoc’s first female mayor in 20 years, had received 3,238 votes to Mosby’s 3,045, according to the updated data provided late Friday afternoon by Santa Barbara County election officials. With those additional ballots counted, Osborne had received support from 51 percent of voters to Mosby's 48 percent, a difference of 193 votes.
Those numbers marked a slight increase from the 148-vote advantage — 2,959 votes to 2,811 — that Osborne held over Mosby after absentee ballots and all of the polling location ballots were counted on Election Night.
Osborne, who was elected to her City Council seat in 2016, said Friday that she remained confident about her chances for mayor.
“First and foremost, every vote is important and should be counted,” she said. “I’m optimistic that the final count confirms the current results. I also fully understand the possibility it could invert the results, but I am not afraid of changes and respect the voters’ choice.”
Mosby, who was appointed to a City Council seat in 2014 and then re-elected to that same seat in 2016, said he felt like the mayoral race was still too close to call. Mosby pointed to the fact that once all the polling ballots were counted late Tuesday night, he cut into the lead that Osborne had held after the first wave of vote-by-mail ballots were counted earlier that night. He also pointed to his own late surge in the 2016 City Council race that propelled him into second place — behind only Osborne — in that year’s three-person race for two seats.
“It seems like a lot of the people who vote for me have a tendency to vote later in the election,” he said.
No matter which candidate is officially declared the victor, both Osborne and Mosby will continue their work at City Hall.
Both candidates have two years remaining on their respective City Council seats, so while one will shift over to become mayor, the other will continue to serve alongside them.
It’s in large part because of that fallback that Mosby said he isn’t stressed about the official balloting results in the mayoral race.
“It’s not something that’s make-or-break for me,” he said. “I’m not looking at my phone every five minutes. There seems to be more people contacting me who are a lot more nervous than I am.”
Osborne, who is on track to claim the mayor’s seat, said she was hopeful that her electoral lead was due to her campaign resonating with the Lompoc community.
“I’d like to think it’s because voters recognize and agree with my platform of public safety, pro-growth, and business-friendly environment while running a respectful campaign focused on the issues,” she said.
“But, realistically, it’s impossible to understand all voters’ motivations and why they chose who they chose,” she added. “I want everyone to continue participating in our local civic arenas, even though the election is over, because every voice is important, especially locally, where you have true access to your representatives. Everyone should feel welcome to express themselves at council and commission meetings, as well as directly to council members.”
If the voting numbers hold and Osborne is officially declared the winner, she will become the first woman to serve as Lompoc mayor since Joyce Howerton, who served from 1992 to 1998.
Osborne said Tuesday that her gender didn’t necessarily play into her decision to run, but she said she was proud to be a part of the recent uptick in women running for — and claiming — political offices.
As mayor, Osborne said Friday that she would follow through on her campaign promise to work collaboratively with the members of the City Council and community at-large.
“A key tenet of my platform was to work on inclusiveness and civility on the council, so the first thing I want to work towards is encouraging and improving the relationships between the council members, so we work more effectively together,” she said. “Regarding what my ‘first orders of business as mayor’ plans might be, residents need to understand the Lompoc mayor cannot conduct city business by themselves but, instead, require a public discussion and majority of council decision to conduct business on behalf of the city.
“Since a mayor can take no action on their own, my first goal will be to encourage residents to attend the upcoming budget workshop,” she added. “It is important for as many residents as possible to participate.”
One of the first orders of business for the new mayor and three City Council members — a group that will include the recently re-elected Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega alongside the runner-up in the mayor’s race — will be to determine how to fill the fourth City Council seat that is vacated by the mayor.
Due to the high cost of a special election, and the fact that the term will be for just two years, Mosby said he was in favor of having the council appoint someone, which is what the Lompoc City Council has typically done in the past — most recently in 2014 when Mosby was appointed.
The next regular meeting of the Lompoc City Council is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Osborne, who could be days away from being sworn in as mayor, said she was relieved to put this year’s campaign — her second, following her 2016 City Council run — behind her.
“On the other hand, I am also really excited for our community because now we can start doing all the things we talked about during the campaign,” she said. “We can start looking at ways to implement some of the goals and visions residents told me they wanted during the campaign. Some requested actions will absolutely need a council majority, but other ideas can be championed by the mayor and empower others outside the city government to accomplish.”