UCSB students and Isla Vista residents substantiated the popular saying that “every vote counts” in last week’s election – as they played an instrumental role in the midterm race for the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s seat.
Local turnout figures revealed markedly different sheriff candidate preferences between the UCSB community and the rest of the county’s voters – but the ballots cast by many area residents in favor of Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown over the incumbent sheriff, Jim Anderson eventually prevailed. More than 68 percent of campus and I.V. poll-goers voted to place Brown in the seat, though the candidate won only 54 percent of votes countywide.
Brown – who made a salient presence on campus and at popular I.V. hot spots during the days before the election – said he partially credits the upset victory to his efforts to reach out to students. He said he specifically aimed to garner support from the large number of students who were still undecided about the two candidates by spending the last three days of his campaign speaking with voters in the community surrounding the campus.
Brown said he attributed his large increase in political support from south county voters since 2004’s primary election to backing from UCSB students and residents of the surrounding area.
“In the last few days there were a significant number of voters – particularly from the UCSB and Isla Vista areas – who hadn’t made up their mind,” Brown said. “There was a great reception as I was campaigning through the precincts and on campus, talking to voters about issues such as public safety.”
Brown said he believes the extra support he received at the polls from UCSB-area voters – illustrated by the 14 percent disparity in votes from this group and those of the rest of the county – had a large impact on his success in the election.
“I would like to give my profound appreciation to the voters of UCSB and Isla Vista for all of their support and confidence,” Brown said. “They constituted a large amount of support and I look forward to serving as their sheriff.”
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, a county official whose constituency includes both UCSB and I.V., said he agrees Brown’s student-focused campaign efforts helped lead to the current police chief’s recent victory.
“It is a good policy for politicians to target the student vote,” Firestone said. “I believe Sheriff Candidate Bill Brown spent a lot of time campaigning on campus with students – people like to see their candidates.”
Despite local enthusiasm for Brown and the remarkable upset it caused – this year’s election was the first in more than a century to unseat an incumbent Santa Barbara County sheriff – last week’s election did draw lower-than-expected voter turnout from area citizens.
County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Joe Holland said voters in I.V. – who make up roughly 3 percent of registered voters in Santa Barbara County – showed up at the polls in relatively low numbers this year, following a countywide trend in declining voter participation.
Although predictions from the clerk’s office estimated that approximately 65 percent of the county’s registered voters would show up at the polls, Holland said only 48 percent of registered I.V. residents and UCSB students -and only 52 percent of registered voters countywide – made it to the polls this year. He said that decreased turnout numbers were also a trend throughout the state.