Quick Take:

As of early Wednesday, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson held a lead of 52.25% to 46.75% over Justin Cummings with more than 7,700 votes counted in the race for 3rd District Santa Cruz County Supervisor.

Election 2022: Santa Cruz County

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In one of the most high-profile political races of the year in Santa Cruz County, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson had a 5.5-point lead over Justin Cummings for the seat of District 3 county supervisor as of Wednesday

Kalantari-Johnson led 52.25% to Cummings’ 46.75%, with more than 7,300 votes counted.

“I’m very optimistic,” Kalantari-Johnson said on Tuesday night after learning of her early lead, “but not just because of the returns, but what I’ve been hearing from voters, knocking on doors. Someone told me, ‘Walk until your feet bleed.’ So I think my feet are almost literally bleeding. I think a foot massage is in order.”

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Kalantari-Johnson said she expects her lead over Cummings to hold. And though she was confident coming into Election Day, she still did what she could to bring her campaign good luck.

“I’m Persian/Iranian,” she said. “I have one of my grandmother’s rings on and I have another grandmother’s bracelet on. I have my evil-eye protector necklace on. I connected with a lot of people and what will be will be. But I hope the universe is with me and I hope my ancestors are with me.”

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Cummings told Lookout on Tuesday night: “As I’ve said in the past, when I ran for city council in 2018, at the end of the first night I was in fourth place, and by the end I was in first,” he said. “So we’re just going to have to watch.”

Tuesday brought to a close a race between two candidates to take over Ryan Coonerty’s seat after he decided not to run again.

For the 56,000 residents of Santa Cruz, Davenport and Bonny Doon who make up Santa Cruz County’s 3rd District, the battle between Kalantari-Johnson and Cummings could often feel like it came down to style over substance.

The candidates weren’t far apart on many of the district’s most pressing issues: homelessness, affordability, public safety. Both would have represented an historic demographic change to the board and the race and the campaign was also seen as a bellwether for the modern makeup of Santa Cruz’s progressiveness.

Cummings, 39, is an environmental scientist with a Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz. Kalantari-Johnson, 44, is a neighborhood/social activist and grant writer, whose parents fled to the U.S. from Iran when she was 7.

Kalantari-Johnson’s approach often appealed to homeowners living in family-oriented neighborhoods like the one she inhabits with her husband and two teens, who are animated by quality-of-life issues.

Cummings, a longtime renter in the city who shares housing with roommates, campaigned on a future for Santa Cruz where more working-class people can afford to live.

He was willing to push for a higher percentage of below-market-rate housing units in developments such as 831 Water Street and the Riverfront housing project, while Kalantari-Johnson campaigned on a platform of public engagement and consensus-building.

Wallace reports and writes not only across his familiar areas of deep interest — including arts, entertainment and culture — but also is chronicling for Lookout the challenges the people of Santa Cruz...