35th District State Assembly candidates Bob Pohl and Pedro Nava headed home last night, still awaiting the official ballot count and a verdict on which official will head to Sacramento.
The large influx of absentee voters this year has significantly slowed the tallying of votes, Joe Holland, Santa Barbara County clerk-recorder-assessor, said. Holland said a final count was not likely to be made until Nov. 9. The county clerk’s office has already counted approximately 22,000 of the absentee ballots they received, leaving an estimated 49,000 absentee ballots to be counted out of a total of about 122,821 people who voted in the county.
Holland said the county clerk must also count a still unknown number of provisional ballots from each polling precinct. The 35th district stretches from Santa Inez to Oxnard, comprising parts of both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Democratic candidate Nava was slightly ahead as of last night, leading 51.51 percent to Pohl’s 48.36 percent in Santa Barbara County, with 100 percent of polls reporting.
In Ventura, the numbers as of 1 a.m. Wednesday were 50.6 percent for Nava and 49.2 percent for Pohl, with only 95 of the 116 precincts reporting. As of early this morning, the Ventura County clerk’s office could not be contacted for further information.
Holland said the close nature of this election makes it impossible for either candidate to accept victory or concede defeat. He said the unprecedented number of uncounted absentee ballots have the potential to swing the vote in either candidate’s favor.
“It’s a record,” Holland said. “It’s absolutely a record. Almost half of the people that voted in this election voted by absentee ballot, and more people are going to start doing it.”
Holland said county clerk officials must now review each absentee ballot to verify the voter’s identity by signature. He said each ballot will then be processed and added into the total tally. The process could take over a week, he said.
In the meantime, both the Pohl and Nava campaigns said they remain optimistic, with neither claiming any definitive victory.
The Nava supporters who had gathered at El Paseo restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara in anticipation of tonight’s election announcement cheered enthusiastically for their candidate. Current 35th District Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson said she eagerly anticipated Nava’s victory.
“I’m delighted to be passing the baton to Pedro,” Jackson said. “I know he will represent us well; I know he will fight for the issues we stand for.”
Nava also addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support throughout the campaign. He also cited the effectiveness of the state’s public education system, to which he attributed much of his success.
“Thanks to all of you,” Nava said. “Because of you I’ve gone from [the son of a railroad worker], to a lawyer and now to the legislature, and I thank you all for that.”
After his speech, Nava clarified and said while absentee ballots are still uncounted, he remains confident in the success of his campaign.
“I think we’ll all have to wait until the votes are counted,” Nava said. “But I’m very optimistic. We ran a good campaign and got a strong response from the community. I’m very optimistic.”
Josh Finestone, Pohl’s campaign manager, said that while Nava is currently ahead in preliminary totals, the votes from the absentee ballots could shift the election in Pohl’s favor.
“This race is too close to call,” Finestone said. “We’ve been ahead in absentee ballots [so far]. This thing is not called yet.”
Amanda Kirkman, a fourth year political science major and the I.V. coordinator for the Pohl campaign, said she still remains hopeful that Pohl will win the election.
“I was looking forward to a victory,” Kirkman said. “We busted our asses. We’ve been out there since day one. It’s not over. I don’t want to be disappointed until I hear the final results.”
Pohl campaign volunteer Brian Ray, a fifth year global studies and political science major, said he was more anxious about the election’s outcome.
“I may soil my pants tonight,” Ray said.