Quick Take:

By Wednesday, just 10 votes separated incumbent and current mayor Ari Parker and Nancy Bilicich in the race to represent District 7 on the Watsonville City Council. With 784 votes counted, Parker had 378 (50%) and Bilicich had 368 (49%).

Election 2022: Santa Cruz County

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In a contest between two longtime Watsonville politicos, Ari Parker and Nancy Bilicich were running neck-and-neck for Watsonville’s city council District 7 seat.

As of Wednesday, 716 votes had been counted for the two candidates, with Parker earning 343 (50%) and Bilicich 336 (49%).

“It’s going to be close, and I knew that going in,” Parker told Lookout late Tuesday night. “But the early votes will favor my opponent.”

Both candidates have had decadeslong careers in education and public service in Watsonville.

Parker has served on the city council since 2018, and currently teaches sixth grade at Bradley Elementary School in Corralitos.

Bilicich, who in 2018 termed out of her nine-year stint on the council, directs the Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult Education program and sits on the board of the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency — the body overseeing the planning and construction of the $400 million Pajaro River levee.

Throughout the campaign, few differences separated Parker and Bilicich on the hot-button issues of housing development and taxation — embodied in ballot Measures Q, S and R — facing Watsonville voters this year. Both supported Measure Q over S and oppose Measure R.

One gulf between the two candidates: how they think downtown Watsonville should be developed in the coming years.

Parker said she was for current city plans that would see Main Street narrowed from four to two lanes to encourage more pedestrian and bicycle traffic, hopefully acting as an economic magnet to developers. Bilicich was against such changes, citing the disruptions to car and emergency vehicle traffic they would cause.

District 7 straddles the easternmost corner of the jurisdiction and is bounded to the west by Beck Street, Lake Avenue, Turtle Avenue, Rogers Avenue and Vermont Street.

Though Watsonville City Council’s 3rd, 4th and 5th District seats were also up for grabs this election, none of the three saw more than one candidate surface. Pajaro Valley Unified School District trustee Maria Orozco, attorney Kristal Salcoido and residential care director Casey Clark will be the representatives for Districts 3, 4 and 5 respectively.

All three are newcomers to the council, though Clark made an unsuccessful bid in 2018 against longtime mayor and council member Rebecca Garcia, who has since termed out of the District 5 seat.

Thomas Sawano joins the Lookout team after two-and-a-half years at City on a Hill Press, the student-run newspaper at UCSC. While there, he reported on the university, arts and culture events, and the...