What was surprising about Jim Anderson winning the sheriff’s race last night wasn’t that he won but that he took over 50 percent of the vote.

Anderson, a county Sheriff’s Dept. commander, received 27,389 votes – 50.34 percent – and became the new county sheriff by a margin of 184 votes. Because four candidates were running for the office, Anderson needed over 50 percent to win and avoid a November runoff, and he just edged out retired undersheriff Dave Dorsey, Santa Barbara Police Dept. Detective Rodger Aceves and Carpinteria Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi.

Spirits were high last night at Anderson’s victory party at the Buellton Marriott, as Jim Burke, president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association presented Anderson with a plaque that was signed by everyone on his campaign staff and his supporters.

“I’m just overwhelmed by all the support,” Anderson said. “I’m surprised we were so ahead of all the other candidates. I expected a race much closer in numbers. I’m really happy to have this over too. We have run a very positive and honest campaign. I believe the voters really have showed that from the numbers.”

Anderson, a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, is one of nine commanders in the Sheriff’s Dept. During his campaign, he pledged to assign more deputies to the street and maintain and improve rural crime prevention programs in the county.

“I look forward to serving as the next sheriff of Santa Barbara County and providing quality law enforcement, protection and service to the citizens in our county,” he said.

Until he takes office, Anderson said he plans to learn from the current sheriff and discuss future plans for the Sheriff’s Dept.

Anderson said he wanted to improve Isla Vista safety by communicating better with community residents.

“I’m going to try to improve the safety of the overall community and I can only do that with the help of the people that live there,” he said. “Our department is here to protect and serve and we try to do that.”

Dorsey, who was expected to challenge Anderson in the November runoff, said he was disappointed with the results but appreciated the support he received during his campaign.

“I will still be very involved in the community and the youth,” he said. “I spend a lot of time working with high school sports activities by sponsoring them and raising funds. I will still be involved with my family and grandkids.”

Arnoldi said he had hoped his impressive work ethic would have weighed in more heavily with voters.

“I’m naturally disappointed. You would have thought people would have educated themselves more … you’d think honesty and integrity would count. Instead the amount of money spent on the campaign is what counts. That’s unfortunate,” he said. “I have had a 40-year career with the department. I’m not going anywhere. I will give the new sheriff 110 percent. I’m a team player and we’ll work together and hard.”

Arnoldi said he would eagerly return to the campaigning arena if another opportunity arose.

” Absolutely I’d run again,” he said. “We’ve learned from some of our mistakes in this campaign; we would do some things different. I’ve learned when you work full time, you really can’t do without a campaign manager.”