Primary election recap: No magic rally for Measure F as final votes counted in Santa Cruz County

A county elections worker looks over a ballot
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Santa Cruz County Clerk’s Office took all the time available to make its final tallies for the June 7 primary election. Measure F, a sales tax put before voters in the city of Santa Cruz, was the only race that went down to the wire. A hand count did not change the fact more voters were against the new tax than were for it.

City of Santa Cruz officials watched their hopes of a Measure F sales tax rally fade away as the final tallying of the June primary election became official Tuesday.

The tabulation took a while — right up to the July 5 deadline, in fact, as county officials predicted it would, largely because of the unexpectedly large number of mail-in ballots received on Election Day.

Most of the races had been all but finalized in the first few weeks after June 7. But over the past week, Santa Cruz County Clerk Tricia Webber and her staff have been processing more than 1,000 outstanding countywide ballots — and manually counting all Measure F votes, as “no” just barely led “yes” a week ago.

A hand recount of all the Measure F ballots over the final days still left the city, which had been hoping for a win to provide up to an extra $8 million annually to its general fund, looking at defeat. “No” prevailed by a miniscule margin of 50 votes, garnering a total of 8,613 votes while “yes” garnered 8,563 votes.

Meanwhile, other than Measure D’s big election night downfall, there were no major surprises in how the results went.

In the Santa Cruz County Supervisor races, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Justin Cummings are poised for a District 3 runoff in November, as are District 4 hopefuls Jimmy Dutra and Felipe Hernandez.

In State Assembly races, former longtime Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin marched onto the November ballot for District 28, where she will face off against former Monte Sereno Mayor Liz Lawler, the only Republican among the four candidates who vied for the seat.

District 30 will see Morro Bay-based Democrat Dawn Addis take on Republican Vicki Nohrden of Monterey.

How the measures went

Measure F — the proposition to increase the Santa Cruz City Sales Tax by a one-half-percent — was the only ballot item still undecided before Tuesday’s final deadline. With the final count in, “no” held onto its profoundly small lead, 8,613 to 8,563, officially rejecting the sales tax increase.

As for the other ballot measures, the divisive Measure D received a resounding “no” from county voters right out of the gate, and that gap only grew in the following weeks. Greenway supporters conceded defeat June 8. Measure B (a countywide transient occupancy tax), Measure C (county disposable cup tax) and Measure E (city of Santa Cruz district elections) passed easily.

Measure E is likely to prove the most consequential for the city of Santa Cruz.

The measure was introduced partly in response to a 2020 lawsuit threat, pushing the city to shift to a district voting system. The city council came to a settlement agreement committing to transition to district elections by this November.

With the “yes” vote certified, the city will enact a new system of governance that divides Santa Cruz into six districts and introduces a directly elected at-large mayor who serves a four-year term, ending a nearly 75-year stretch of a rotating mayor position within the city council.

Measure E supporters believe a directly elected mayor would be accountable to all of the city’s residents, and would have more time to develop a holistic view of the city’s needs and provide steady leadership.

Opponents share concerns over fair representation, since one of the city’s districts will always have two councilmembers, as the mayor will have to hail from one of the districts. Further, there are worries that the chosen district maps are not constructed to meet the goal of equity.