Long before the polls closed and even longer before the results were reported, the sign in front of a local cafŽ declared the election-night gathering for Hannah-Beth Jackson a “victory party.”
The early declaration proved correct as Jackson soundly defeated write-in Republican candidate Cristina Carreno Martin for the 35th District of the state Assembly. Jackson received nearly 33,000 votes, beating out her next closest competitor, Republican Bob Pohl, by over 15,000 votes. Martin had replaced Pohl on a write-in basis after Pohl learned he had brain cancer and dropped out of the race, but many voters followed the party line and voted for Pohl nonetheless.
In what amounted to a dual victory speech for herself and 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall, Jackson characterized Tuesday’s results as a triumph for democracy itself, particularly over those who sought to recall Marshall.
“This is about a commitment to making sure that everyone’s voice is heard, a voice that is not deterred by the bullies, a voice that is loud, clear and firm in our commitment to the reasons we live in this magnificent area,” she said.
Jackson proceeded to introduce Marshall, prompting a chant of “Gail, Gail, Gail” from the more than 50 celebrants at Figaro CafŽ on East Anapamu Street downtown. Marshall also chose to focus not on herself, but her friend, who stuck with her through the recall campaign.
“Hannah-Beth Jackson had a safe seat, and she could have hid out, or hedged her bet on this,” she said. “But she said unequivocally, this is wrong, and she was by me the whole way.”
Despite the resounding defeat, Martin said she fared almost as well as she hoped.
“I got more votes than the Libertarian and Reform candidates, despite the fact that they had much more time to campaign,” Martin said. “My goal was to get at least 5,000 votes.”
The number of votes Martin received was not available as of early this morning.
Martin’s six-week campaign, which started in September after fellow Republican Pohl dropped out of the race, was funded by unsolicited private donations and managed by Joaquin Carreno, Jr., Martin’s father.
“This campaign has been a lot of hard work,” Carreno said. “We made 250 hand-printed signs from old Bob Pohl posters and even stuck ‘C.C. Martin’ stickers on the Halloween candy we handed out.”
Martin’s late entry and write-in status presented name recognition problems, which Martin says were compounded by procedural errors at some polling places.
“At least one precinct in Santa Barbara County I visited wasn’t posting the names of write-in candidates,” Martin said. “I know many people didn’t think I had a chance to win, but I still expected a fair chance.”
Both candidates saw Tuesday’s election as a starting point, but for different reasons.
The victor, Jackson, focused on how she intends to use her new term, including her ideas for the area that includes UCSB and I.V.
“I’ve been talking with Chancellor Yang about making Isla Vista safer, and getting more responsiveness from the university to what happens in I.V.,” she said. “So far, the university has been very responsive.”
As evidence of her commitment to improving life in I.V., Jackson pointed to her support of a $15 million housing bond, which would help college students and others find housing at a reasonable price.
“This bond would help out not only college students, but all low-income folks,” she said. “We want to create opportunities for everybody to find decent, affordable housing, from students to the homeless to the disabled community.”
Martin considered this election a learning experience and looked ahead to future efforts.
“This campaign hasn’t been about winning as much as it’s been about laying a foundation for my next attempt at an assembly seat in two years,” Martin said, ” and giving the voters an alternative choice.”