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Hart leads Assembly District 37 preliminary election results 

Candidate for the 37th District Assembly race Gregg Hart spoke with New Times on June 8 after a morning hike to de-stress and get some fresh air to celebrate finishing a long trail of campaigning to represent Santa Barbara and SLO counties at the state level.

click to enlarge CELEBRATION Gregg Hart (right) celebrates on election night with Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido on election night. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARC CHACONAS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Marc Chaconas
  • CELEBRATION Gregg Hart (right) celebrates on election night with Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido on election night.

Campaigning efforts seemed to pay off as unofficial election results show Hart in the lead with 59 percent of the vote in Santa Barbara County, and 48 percent (PDF download from slocounty.ca.gov) of the votes in SLO County. Votes are still being tallied and official election results will be added to county websites by July 15, but Hart said he's very grateful for the support and is looking forward to the November general election.

"I think my strong showing demonstrates voters appreciate the work I've been doing for three decades as a local elected official and want to see me as their representative," Hart said. "I'm looking forward to continuing to have an aggressive campaign and get my message out there."

The 37th District looks a little different this year after the recent redistricting process—it now contains all of Santa Barbara County and southern SLO County as opposed to its old layout containing Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Preliminary results also predict that Hart will likely go up against Republican candidate Mike Stoker in November—as third candidate Bruce Wallach earned just 3 percent of the votes in Santa Barbara and 5 percent in SLO.

Stoker had earned 37 percent of the votes in Santa Barbara County, and was hot on Hart's trail in SLO County with 46 percent of the votes—only 56 votes short of tying with Hart, according to unofficial results. Stoker said he had been expecting to fall short of Hart by a larger extreme, and he has high hopes for the November election.

"I think a lot of voters that don't like the direction for California will get out to vote and make a change in the general election. ... We're ready to go and the campaign starts now," Stoker said.

The stack of ballots to be counted may be relatively small, as low voter turnout—including in the two Central Coast counties—plagued the state. The LA Times reported that early voter turnout was "dismal" before polling sites opened on June 7, and only 15 percent of the state's registered voters got their mail-in ballots to election officials. It cited voter fatigue and "lackluster" races as some of the reasons why voter turnout is so low.

"It's a stark contrast with some parts of the nation, where voter turnout is exceeding expectations," the article stated.

Santa Barbara County only had 49,288 votes cast out of its 235,212 registered voters as of June 8, making it just above state levels with a 20 percent voter turnout. SLO County had a similar turnout with 39,777 of its 181,894 registered voters, just 21 percent of the county's voters.

Both Stoker and Hart said in separate interviews that, historically, primary elections have lower numbers than general elections, but Hart added that Gov. Gavin Newsom's recent recall election in September might have thrown some voters "off their rhythms."

"[However], people care about our community and want their voices heard, and my campaign will do everything we can to get voters to the polls," Hart said. Δ

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