Santa Cruz County District 4 Supervisor: Felipe Hernandez opens up 11-point lead over Jimmy Dutra

Felipe Hernandez with supporters Tuesday night at Jalisco in Watsonville.
(Thomas Sawano / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Felipe Hernandez held an 11-point lead over Jimmy Dutra with 3,482 votes counted as of early Wednesday in the race for 4th District Santa Cruz County Supervisor.

Election 2022: Santa Cruz County

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In a race punctuated by political controversy, Santa Cruz County District 4 candidate Felipe Hernandez was well ahead of opponent Jimmy Dutra in the race for 4th District Santa Cruz County Supervisor as of the vote count on Wednesday.

With 3,482 votes counted, 1,817 (55%) had gone to Hernandez and 1,460 (44%) to Dutra. That amounted to a nearly 11-point lead for Hernandez.

On Tuesday night, Hernandez stopped short of declaring outright victory in a speech to his gathered supporters, who numbered about 40 at Jalisco restaurant near downtown Watsonville.

“It’s still early,” Hernandez said. “And I’m still gonna be watching the TV tonight, late at night. But it’s a good early indication.”

Just a stone’s throw away from his opponent’s party, Jimmy Dutra hosted a similar gathering of supporters at Carmona’s BBQ Deli off Lake Avenue.

Jimmy Dutra supporters gathered at Carmona’s BBQ Deli in Watsonville on Tuesday night.
(Thomas Sawano / Lookout Santa Cruz)

By 10:40 p.m., the event had all but petered out — with only Dutra and a handful of friends and volunteers remaining — though the candidate said the event had been well-attended earlier in the evening.

Dutra declined to give a statement about the night’s results, but said that he was thankful for the turnout.

“Tonight’s about my supporters,” Dutra said.

In this spring’s primary election, Dutra posted a 7-point lead over Hernandez, though he failed to win the contest outright. Ed Acosta, received a comparatively modest 14.7% share of the votes in the primary, announced shortly after the June vote that he would be throwing his support behind Hernandez.

From election night through the ongoing vote counts, Election Central directs you to our latest coverage.

District 4 lies on the southeasternmost tip of Santa Cruz County, encompassing most of Watsonville and much of the Pajaro Valley. The race between Dutra and Hernandez comes after long-reigning District 4 Supervisor Greg Caput announced in February that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection this year.

Both candidates are veterans of Watsonville’s city council, with Hernandez serving from 2012 to 2020. Dutra is currently in the middle of his second term, which began in 2020. This election marks Hernandez’s second supervisorial run and Dutra’s third, with both entering a crowded field attempting to unseat Caput in 2018, and Dutra also running unsuccessfully against Caput in 2014.

During the race, Dutra faced a highly publicized civil suit filed by Stephen Siefke, who alleges Dutra sexually assaulted him during a trip to Southern California in 2005.

Dutra spoke out against the charges, calling them “completely false” and questioning the timing of their release a month before the election. Late last month, Dutra told Lookout that he was optimistic about his campaign, saying of the charges that “we’ve just got to let the courts take over from here.”

Stark differences between the candidates emerged as the campaign unfolded. Hernandez generally took a more pragmatic approach to the hot-button issues facing the Pajaro Valley — namely the health effects of pesticides sprayed near residential areas and urban growth — saying he’d want to work with state and federal agencies to help growers shoulder the costs of transitioning to organic farming methods, and throwing his support behind Measure Q.

Meanwhile, Dutra, branding himself District 4’s “anti-establishment” pick, said he aimed to ensure that growers switch to organic farming methods quickly. He supported Measure S, which sought to allow for land beyond Watsonville’s urban boundaries to be used for development. He was part of the council majority that brought forward the measure.


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