Election Night

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Bushnell Takes Second District Supes Race in Final Tally

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2020 at 3:36 PM

Michelle Bushnell
  • Michelle Bushnell
There's a new supervisor-elect in the Second District.

The Humboldt County Elections Office released final results today for the Nov. 3 election and they have challenger Michelle Bushnell besting two-term incumbent and current Board of Supervisors Chair Estelle Fennell, having taken 52 percent of the vote to Fennell's 48 percent and winning the race by 416 votes. Bushnell, a rancher and small business owner, will be seated in January.

Down in Ferndale, former Mayor Don Hindley will get his gavel back, having fended off Robin Smith to reclaim the seat he previously held from 2014 through 2018, taking 53 percent of the vote to Smith's 47 percent.

With all the ballots counted, 69,932 Humboldt County residents voted in this election, 82 percent of those registered and 68 percent of those eligible.

See the full results copied below.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Yurok Tribe Certifies Election Results, Readies to Welcome New Board Member

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 5:51 PM

The Yurok Tribe certified its runoff election results today, with incumbent Weitchpec District Council Member Toby Vanlandingham retaining his seat and challenger Phillip Williams claiming a seat representing the board's North District.

The new council members will be sworn into office at 11 a.m. Nov. 30 in a ceremony that will be live streamed on the tribe's Facebook page.

Williams took 57 percent of the 293 votes cast in the North District to edge out incumbent Edward "Horse" Aubrey, while Vanlandingham took 57 percent of the 69 votes cast in the Weitchpec District to stave off challenger Lucinda "Inday" Myers. No one has officially challenged the results, according to a press release from the tribe.

With more than 6,000 enrolled members, the Yurok Tribe is California's largest tribe, with an ancestral territory along the Klamath River. The tribe's reservation spans 84 square miles, straddling the Del Norte and Humboldt county border.

See the full press release announcing the election results from the tribe below:

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bushnell's Lead Looks Insurmountable in Second District Race

Posted By on Sat, Nov 21, 2020 at 1:36 PM

Michelle Bushnell
  • Michelle Bushnell
There are fewer than 3,000 ballots in Humboldt County remaining to be counted, according to Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders, seemingly making it incredibly unlikely two-term incumbent Supervisor Estelle Fennell will be able to make up her deficit to challenger Michelle Bushnell.

With 11,742 ballots tallied in the Second District race thus far, Bushnell has taken 51.5 percent of the vote and holds a 356-vote lead.

In an email to the Journal, Sanders said her office still has approximately 2,950 ballots left to process countywide, though likely not all will prove valid. She said 2,500 provisional ballots were cast on Election Day that still need to be tabulated, as well as 100 vote-by-mail ballots the office still has to scan. Finally, she said, her office has about 350 ballots it received in which the voter's signature was missing or did not match the one the Elections Office had on file. Those voters, Sander said, were sent a letter and still have the opportunity to fill out a signature verification form and prove their ballots are valid.

As such, precisely how many votes remain outstanding in the Second District race is not entirely clear. Sanders said 284 provisional ballots were cast at two Second District voting locations, but it's possible Second District ballots were cast at other locations, too.

But it appears unlikely to matter. Even if all the approximately 2,950 ballots remaining prove valid and fall within the Second District, Fennell would have to pull 56 percent of them to make up the deficit — a margin she has yet to meet in any batch of ballots thus far.

Sanders indicated she expects to have the last of the outstanding ballots tallied soon.

"We're a lot closer to finishing," she said.

See the latest Elections Office update below:

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Bushnell Grows Lead in Second District Supes Race with Latest Election Tally

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2020 at 4:40 PM

Michelle Bushnell
  • Michelle Bushnell
The Humboldt County Elections Office has issued its third post-election update, adding about 10,000 ballots to the count, which has strengthened challenger Michelle Bushnell's lead over two-term incumbent Estelle Fennell in the race to become the county's next Second District Supervisor.

Bushnell, who narrowly trailed Fennell after Election Night, now leads by 356 votes, having taken 51.5 percent of the vote to Fennell's 48.5 percent with 11,742 ballots counted thus far. It's unclear how many ballots may remain to be counted in the race.

Down in Ferndale, meanwhile, former Mayor Don Hindley has grown his lead to a slim 57 votes over challenger Robin Smith with 887 votes counted in the race thus far. Again, it's unclear how many ballots may still be counted in the race.

Today's update pushes countywide turnout for the election to 67,985 voters — roughly 80 percent of those registered and 66 percent of those eligible.

See the full third post-election update below.
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Friday, November 13, 2020

Bushnell Takes Lead in Tight Second District Supes Race with Latest Election Report

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2020 at 4:46 PM

Michelle Bushnell
  • Michelle Bushnell
The Humboldt County Elections Office issued its second post-election report this afternoon, adding about 10,000 ballots to the ongoing tally and pushing Second District supervisor challenger Michelle Bushnell into a narrow lead over two-term incumbent Estelle Fennell.

With 10,016 votes cast in the Second District race, Bushnell now leads by 34 votes, with an estimated 7,000 ballots yet to be counted countywide.

Down in Ferndale, former Mayor Don Hindley continues to hold a narrow lead — 20 votes — over challenger Robin Smith, with 768 ballots cast in the race.

See the full report copied below. Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders has indicated her office will update results every Friday until all ballots are counted.

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

What Prop. 15’s Defeat Means for California Schools

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2020 at 5:14 PM

A special education pre-k class that has been permitted to reopen amid coronavirus concerns on the Lu Sutton Elementary school campus in Novato on Oct. 27, 2020. - ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • A special education pre-k class that has been permitted to reopen amid coronavirus concerns on the Lu Sutton Elementary school campus in Novato on Oct. 27, 2020.

Voters narrowly defeated Proposition 15, the tax measure that aimed to eliminate decades-long protections for commercial properties – dashing hopes of billions of dollars flowing into California’s cash-strapped public schools and community colleges in the coming years.

In the second-most expensive ballot fight this election, Prop. 15 supporters said the measure would help right what they viewed as a fundamental wrong in the state’s school funding system by increasing the share of property-tax revenues going toward schools. Opponents characterized Prop. 15 as harmful to small businesses and the state’s economy at a time when the pandemic has already strained or shuttered several local businesses.

“We’re the fifth-largest economy in the world,” said E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association, the top benefactor for the Yes on 15 campaign, “and big corporations should be paying their fair share to invest in our students, our public schools, our families and our communities.”

The measure backed by labor unions, community organizations and several of the state’s progressive leaders challenged the state’s still-popular 1978 constitutional amendment, Prop. 13, and had been slightly trailing in the vote count since election night before the Associated Press called its defeat Tuesday by a 51.8 percent No to 48.2 percent Yes margin.

What happens now?

Legislative analysts projected Prop. 15 would have drawn between $6.5 billion and $11.5 billion in commercial property tax revenues, with 40 percent of the take going to K-12 schools and community colleges beginning in 2022-23.

So while the measure would have been a boon in the long term, any financial fruits borne out of a Prop. 15 win would not have arrived soon enough to address the immediate twin financial crises facing the state’s public schools: Tense efforts to physically reopen campuses and the state education budget’s looming cliff. 

California K-12 schools and community colleges, almost a decade removed from the steep Great Recession-era cuts that resulted in more than 30,000 teacher layoffs, were slated to receive a record $84 billion in state funding this year — up from $81.6 billion — before the pandemic cratered the state’s budget forecast.

Faced with a potential 10 percnet cut to the state’s main school finance artery, the Local Control Funding Formula, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature protected school budgets this year by deferring $11 billion in state funding for schools. That move held schools’ funding flat by delaying payments to schools into the next fiscal year – some installments coming as late as seven months – but also means the state will have to confront a potentially taller school finance cliff starting next year.

“Yes, Prop. 15 would’ve helped in the long run, but it wouldn’t have fixed this short-term problem that the Legislature’s going to face in the coming spring,” said Bruce Fuller, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education.

As state education funding increased over the latter part of the decade, so too have fixed costs such as employee pension contributions and support services for growing populations of students in the state who have special needs or are English learners. 

Several communities across California with the state’s permission to reopen campuses are engaged in fraught debates among school leaders, teachers, parents and employee unions over when and how to do so. Among the sticking points has been whether schools have the resources to implement and sustain safety measures, such as surveillance coronavirus testing for employees. At a recent legislative hearing, state lawmakers acknowledged schools’ dearth of testing capacity was prolonging potential campus reopenings while noting that the state had little room in its budget to assist with local efforts.

State officials have suggested on several occasions schools tap into $5.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds allocated for schools this summer to purchase laptops and technology for remote learning, personal protective equipment and expand their coronavirus testing bandwidth.

“(This) is not magical money that can be stretched forever,” Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association, said of the CARES Act funding, adding that schools are “in a very perilous position” financially. 

“Anytime there’s a new expectation or the state imposes a new requirement, it keeps pointing to that same pot of money,” Flint said.

Prop. 15 is the second education-related statewide measure to face defeat this year, in part, due to the tall shadow of the landmark measure commonly referred to as the third rail of state politics.

Voters also rejected in the March primary a $15 billion state bond for school construction that, because of the state’s sequential numbering requirements for ballot measures, shared the same name as the 1978 property-tax cut: Prop. 13. Though some political observers pointed to the measure’s confusing name as a reason for its defeat, others also noted that its supporters failed to adequately communicate to voters the bond’s importance. 

Despite Prop. 15’s defeat, supporters were optimistic late election night when initial returns came in, saying that the closeness of the vote suggested an appetite from voters to invest more money in public services such as K-12 education.

At the local level, school measures across the state continued to receive broad support — another sign of voters’ support for education funding, according to advocates. About 80 percent of the 60 K-12 and community college bonds on local ballots, including a $7 billion bond in Los Angeles Unified, appeared headed toward approval at press time, according to results gathered by Michael Coleman, publisher of the California Local Government Finance Almanac. Nine out of 13 parcel taxes, which require two-thirds voter approval, appeared to pass, though the votes remained too close to call in two communities. 

Another attempt at an education-related tax measure in the near future seems likely, though it’s too soon to predict how a future measure would be structured. Also unclear at the moment is whether education and community advocates would again mount their own effort, similar to Prop. 15, or if the governor and Legislature would get involved.

Before the state’s budget crunch, researchers affiliated with Stanford University had calculated it would take an additional $25 billion in school funding for all of the state’s 6.1 million public-school students to meet its learning standards. In recent years, some state lawmakers have wanted to go even further. The pandemic has increased those needs, according to advocates.

Newsom endorsed Prop. 15 in September, though did not campaign for the measure. The governor also said recently that he would not support legislation calling for higher income taxes.

Whatever the course, the road to more schools funding will likely require broad support among state leaders, education unions, advocacy groups as well as a unified message, said Carrie Hahnel, an independent education researcher and fellow with the Berkeley-based Opportunity Institute. 

Without federal or state intervention, Hahnel wrote in a recent Policy Analysis for California Education brief, schools are likely to face a downturn like the one they experienced nearly a decade ago. Because California’s public schools are heavily reliant on state income taxes, it makes them more susceptible to volatility amid the peaks and valleys of the state’s economy, Hahnel wrote.

In 2012, at the tail end of the recession as the state neared a similar school funding cliff, then-Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned aggressively for Proposition 30, a quarter-cent sales tax that aimed to prop up school funding. The message then was clear: Vote yes or schools stood to lose $6 billion in cuts. It passed, 55.4 percent to 44.6 percent. That kind of support from the governor might be what it takes to put a future ballot measure over the top. 

“I think we need to start from scratch and get everybody together and say what we are trying to do and how we can build this thing even if it means some compromises, some shared pain,” Hahnel said. “It’s very hard to hit the business community alone.”

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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Newsom's Pick? Who Might Fill VP-Elect Harris' Senate Seat?

Posted By on Sun, Nov 8, 2020 at 2:55 PM

Now that she is Vice President-elect  Kamala Harris, who will fill her Senate seat? - PHOTO BY GAGE SKIMORE VIA FLICKR
  • Photo by Gage Skimore via Flickr
  • Now that she is Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will fill her Senate seat?
The victory of Joe Biden and California’s junior senator, Kamala Harris in the 2020 presidential race brings to a close one of the most protracted post-Election Day waiting games in modern political history. It also opens up a relatively rare thing in the Golden State: the prospect of an open Senate seat.

For career-minded Democrats, that holds the opportunity of a major promotion to the national stage and the potential job security of no term limits, bolstered by the fact that California’s Democratic incumbent U.S. senators have a 28-year track record of winning.

And the one man who could bestow that on them is Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. State law gives the governor the power to fill Harris’ empty seat for the duration of her term, which ends with the 2022 election.

“Newsom has built his career on opportunities to make history. And representation does matter,” said Rose Kapolczynski, president of the American Association of Political Consultants, who ran all four of former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Senate campaigns.

Case in point: Last month, Newsom nominated Justice Martin Jenkins to an open seat on the state’s supreme court. If confirmed, Jenkins will be the court’s first openly gay member.

And so, for politicos who enjoyed the spectacle of this campaign season, get ready for a fresh round of political drama as Newsom considers his options.

The scale of the bustle to come is in part thanks to a simple math problem.

California has nearly 40 million residents. A little over half of them are registered to vote. That’s more people than all but two states. But thanks to some last-minute haggling at the Constitutional Convention, all of those voters get just two statewide representatives in the U.S. Senate.

And because California’s electorate predictably and overwhelmingly votes for Democrats, there’s a very deep bench of Democratic mayors, state legislators, statewide officeholders, members of Congress and other could-be senators who would love to hold one of those two seats.

Consider the list of Harris allies who reportedly lobbied Biden to make the case for Harris as a vice presidential nominee in late July. Among them were Secretary of State Alex Padilla, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.

“I looked at that list and thought, ‘this could be the U.S. Senate audition list,’ said Kapolczynski.

The governor will have until January to pick a replacement for Harris. And as the last seven months of pandemic, recession and civil unrest have shown, a lot can change in the meantime.

But as Newsom chooses Harris’ successor, he’s likely to keep a few things in mind.

First, there’s the state’s largest and thoroughly under-represented demographic group.

“I would be shocked if it were not a Latino or Latina, candidly,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican political consultant with a focus on Latino voting trends.

Nearly 40% of Californians are Latino — yet the state has never been represented by a Latino in the U.S. Senate.

Two women have represented California in the Senate since 1993, while Harris shattered a series of glass ceilings, serving as the state’s first Black and Asian American woman senator.

Newsom’s modus operandi — from allowing same sex couples to marry when he was mayor of San Francisco to imposing a death penalty moratorium as governor — is to “make history,” said Democratic strategist Garry South. “In this particular case the only way he can do that is to appoint a Latino.”

That’s in part why prognosticators often name both California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra as among the most likely to be appointed.

And as a power bonus, naming either would give the governor the opportunity to choose their respective replacements as well.

In one fell swoop, Newsom would “build an ally in the U.S. Senate, and you also get an opportunity to appoint their replacements in the interim, so (he would) get a whole lot of chits,” Madrid said.

Former Labor Secretary and now Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, state Sen. Maria Durazo and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia also appear on the guessing-game short lists of political consultants.

Padilla may be the most natural choice. Long before he became the state’s top elections chief, he got his start in politics working for California’s senior U.S. senator, Dianne Feinstein. Padilla also is a longtime ally of the governor — an early endorser in both of Newsom’s gubernatorial campaigns who also served as state chair of Newsom’s aborted run for governor a decade ago.

“They’re very close, they’re very much alike,” said Nathan Ballard, a political strategist who worked for Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco.

Rep. Karen Bass, a Black congresswoman from Los Angeles who was circulated as a possible vice presidential choice for Biden, makes for another likely contender.

Although women have long represented California in the Senate, the governor will still be under pressure to choose one, said Ballard. With women making up just over a fourth of the Congress’ upper chamber for the first time in U.S. history, “you don’t want to be the one who diminishes the number of women who are in the Senate.”

“To replace a woman with an appointment of a man, I think is politically perilous, because there is still a sense of, ‘We’re not there yet,’” said Katie Merrill, a Democratic political consultant who worked on Kounalakis’ 2018 campaign.

And Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez tweeted her suggestion for a twofer: Los Angeles state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, who recently has been perhaps the Legislature’s strongest advocate for extending Medi-Cal health care to qualifying undocumented residents. The daughter of migrant workers, she was a trade official before entering politics.

Another consideration, said South: electability.

Governors have filled senatorial vacancies five times in California history. The last governor to get that opportunity was Pete Wilson, who jumped from the U.S. Senate to the governor’s office in 1990 and appointed his own successor, fellow Republican John Seymour. Seymour served for fewer than two years before losing to Feinstein.

Before that it was Democrat Pierre Salinger in 1964, who served only five months before losing to a Republican.

“It’s embarrassing for a governor to appoint a senator and then have that senator get their clock cleaned,” said South. Plus no governor wants to lose a loyal friend in Washington.

“It’s like how Gavin Newsom owes (former San Francisco mayor) Willie Brown gratitude forever because Willie Brown got him his start in politics by appointing him to a commission,” he said.

Kapolczynski said electability isn’t likely to be a major issue. It’s been nearly 30 years since either a Democrat or an incumbent U.S. Senator lost her race in California. “Whoever is appointed will have a huge advantage in holding onto the seat in the future,” she said.

This won’t be the first time that Harris’ advancement has set off a statewide frenzy to replace her. After Harris won her first Senate race in 2016, then-Gov. Jerry Brown was given the opportunity to pick her replacement as attorney general. Brown ultimately blindsided political prognosticators by appointing Xavier Becerra — a Los Angeles congressman who, despite a powerful position in Congress’ Democratic caucus, had little home-state name ID.

Asked who she thought it might be, Kapolczynski hedged in every way but one.

“You could see an argument for a Latino. You could see an argument for a Black woman. Newsom has obviously made history for the LGBTQ community in the past,” she said. But a white guy?

“Highly unlikely,” she said.

Laurel Rosenhall contributed to this story. CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.
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Friday, November 6, 2020

First Post-Election Report Narrows Fennell's Lead in Second District

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2020 at 4:43 PM

  • File
The Humboldt County Elections Office released its first post-election report this afternoon, adding almost 5,000 ballots to the last tallies released Wednesday morning.

The new ballots further narrowed incumbent Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell's Election Night lead in a close runoff. She now holds a 197-vote advantage over challenger Michelle Bushnell, having taken 51 percent of the 8,169 ballots counted in the race thus far.

There are reportedly roughly 17,000 ballots left to be counted.

See the full report below and check back for additional updates as we receive them:

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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Roughly 20,000 Local Ballots Left to Count

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2020 at 5:03 PM

On top of the 41,189 ballots that have already been processed, Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders estimates there are roughly 20,000 ballots yet to be counted, which would represent about 71 percent of registered voters.

For comparison, 60,983 Humboldt residents, or 74 percent of registered voters, cast ballots in 2016. (Find the latest election results here.)

Though the comparison seems lower than 2016, the number 0f Humboldt County registered voters increased by 2.8 percent this year. 

As required by law, before the Elections Office can continue counting ballots, the office must first sort and audit the ballots from polling locations to make sure that there were no problems on Election Day and that the final election night report is accurate.

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Final Election Night Report Leaves Lots of Ballots Yet to be Tallied

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2020 at 5:04 AM

  • File
The final election night results are in and, well, they don't feel very final.

The final election night report added another 1,890 ballots to the mix, for a running total of 41,869 counted thus far, representing about 49 percent of the county's registered voters. But a lot of votes remain to be counted — likely tens of thousands — making it hard to dub any winners or losers at this point. In fact, because the Elections Office has other duties it must carry out before sorting, verifying and counting remaining ballots, it's probably going to be some days before we get a better idea of how this all shook out.

Of note, however, is the fact that in the county's Second District supervisorial runoff, incumbent Estelle Fennell's lead over challenger Michelle Bushnell continues to slim, and now sits at just 239 votes on a tight 52-48 split.

And here's a quick look at how local ballot measures are fairing as of the last Election Night report:

Measure A: Would add a $37 parcel tax for Arcata landowners to fund city parks and needs a two-thirds vote to pass — Passing with 78 percent of the vote
Measure B: Would allow the city of Arcata to build and finance additional affordable housing — Passing with 77 percent of the vote
Measure C: Would approve ranked-choice voting in Eureka city council and mayoral elections — Passing with 61 percent of the vote
Measure D: Would authorize $5 million in bond sales for South Bay and Pine Hill schools and needs 55 percent of the vote to pass — Passing with 60 percent of the vote
Measure E: Would continue a 0.75 percent sales tax in the city of Trinidad — Passing with 74 percent of the vote
Measure F: Would add a special tax for property owners in the Arcata Fire Protection District to raise a projected $1.9 million for the district and needs a two-thirds vote to pass — Passing with 75 percent of the vote
Measure G: Would extend a 0.75 percent transaction and use tax in Fortuna into 2033 — Passing with 70 percent of the vote
Measure H: Would indefinitely raise the transaction and use tax in Eureka to 1.25 percent — Passing with 67 percent of the vote
Measure I: Would allow the county of Humboldt to build and finance additional affordable housing — Passing with 68 percent of the vote

Check the county's full second report below to see how the races are shaping up for seats on four special districts, 14 school boards and seven city councils.

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