Virginia Bass' election party started off with bravado, as one of her advisors declared victory based on the early vote-by-mail returns in her bid to retain her 4th District supervisor seat. Bass herself was outwardly hesitant.
As the evening progressed, votes cast for challenger Chris Kerrigan at the polls narrowed Bass' initially commanding lead. But when election night's final report came, it appeared the Bass camp's confidence was warranted.
In the final tally, Bass held 53 percent of the vote — a lead of 303 votes. While it's unclear how many outstanding provisional and vote by mail ballots remain to be counted, it's almost certain that Bass has won re-election.
That result was not entirely unexpected. The Eureka native has been in politics since winning a seat on the Eureka City Council in 2000, going on to serve as mayor and then unseating longtime 4th District Supervisor Bonnie Neely in 2010. She also entered the race with considerable financial backing. By the May 17 campaign finance reporting period, Bass had spent $81,000 — more than twice as much as Kerrigan.
The challenger had significant name recognition as well — having been a Eureka council member himself for two terms until 2008. But Kerrigan didn't announce his candidacy until March 8, the last day he could file. Strong leftie support and Bass-malaise on the part of some Eureka residents doesn't appear to have been enough to carry Kerrigan to the supervisor's chamber.
What does it all mean for the 4th District and Humboldt County?
Bass said before the election that she is excited about business opportunities on the Samoa Peninsula that she says the county is promoting. She wants to attract a variety of industries to the area through pre-permitting and other zoning tactics.
She's been part of a large community group looking for solutions to homelessness and "vagrancy," and says she wants the county to focus on affordable housing.
Bass says the board is scheduled to finish the contentious General Plan Update this year. Her re-election and that of 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg mean the political makeup of the board of supervisors will remain the same. While Bass' seemingly development-friendly votes and appointments angered some this year, she continues have the 4th District's support.
While the board has pulled back somewhat from looser development guidelines proposed by the county planning commission, there's still much to do to finalize the general plan. It's likely Bass' legacy — along with that of the current board — will be the completion of the document that will guide this county's development for the next 20-plus years.