As Isla Vista’s student population floods back into town for the new school year, candidates for the 3rd District supervisor — the community’s only elected official — are starting to heat up their campaigns once more.
In light of a June 3 election that offered no majority winner, candidates Doreen Farr and Steve Pappas will now face one another in a run-off election on Nov. 4.
Voter turnout for the June election — in which Farr received 35.71 percent of the vote and Pappas 25.02 percent — was the lowest in 28 years, with roughly half as many people voting this year than four years earlier. Moreover, just 14 percent of I.V. residents and 16 percent of campus residents showed up to the polls to vote.
With this fall’s runoff election coinciding with the presidential election, however, turnout for the race is expected to be much higher this November.
Chris Henson, manager of Farr’s campaign, said that particularly the number of students voting is widely anticipated to be much higher than in June, but that the campaign’s strategy will not change.
“Doreen plans on running the same grass-roots campaign with the students that she did last time, which includes encouraging people to register and informing them about the issues,” Henson said. “It’s important to remind people that there is a supervisorial race at the same time as the presidential one, and that the local election could in many ways affect them even more.”
Pappas, who said his campaign really “kicked into gear” three weeks ago, echoed the belief that I.V. residents have a lot at stake in the upcoming election.
“The 3rd District supervisor position is so important because the I.V. community needs someone that is accessible and that is going to represent them,” Pappas said. “That is something they haven’t had in a while. It’s so clear to me when I talk to residents that people feel they have lost their voice and not been able to participate in the community.”
Pappas said that his campaign intends to set up shop next week in front of Sam’s to Go, where he and his student volunteers will distribute materials and information to I.V. residents and encourage them to come out for the election.
“We are amping it up a little more every day,” he said. “It’s all very exciting.”
Farr, supported by the county’s most powerful Democratic politicians, including Congresswoman Lois Capps, Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf, was an early frontrunner prior to the June election.
Many had suspected the race to come down to Farr and right-leaning David Smyser, who has worked for and was endorsed at the time by the incumbent 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone. Smyser, however, came in third in the June election and cannot participate in November’s election.
It was only in the final weeks leading up to the June 3 election that the Pappas campaign appeared to make a comeback, gaining massive support in the form of substantial third-quarter campaign cash contributions. Ultimately, the nonpartisan Pappas nudged Smyser out of second place, garnering a five-point lead over him.
While Firestone has not publicly endorsed either of the remaining candidates, in an interview with the Daily Nexus, Firestone said that he could not endorse Pappas.
Now, with the runoff election coinciding with the highly politicized national elections, some local political commentators have predicted that the Democratically-backed Farr will have an advantage over Pappas, who is a registered independent.
Pappas has rejected this theory, saying that partisanship will not play a strong role in this election.
“Doreen Farr is backed by what we would traditionally call the ‘Democratic machine,’ and I’m nonpartisan, so I don’t have those affiliations,” he said. “But I think the national campaigns so far have shown that people are really tired of politics as usual, and there is a real flavor for change. I’m just a guy who shows up on the scene and gets involved, and that’s change.”