With nearly 95 percent of votes in supervisor District 5 counted as of March 10, Bea Gonzales was on her way this week to a stunning upset of four-term incumbent and San Benito County Board of Supervisors Chair Jaime De la Cruz.
Gonzales, a teacher, saw her lead grow this week from 66 to 91 votes—52 percent to 48 percent—with just 130 ballots left to count on March 10, according to the county Elections Office. When votes were counted the evening after the polls closed on March 3, she had trailed De la Cruz by 17 votes.
The winner of the two-person supervisor primary for the mostly-Hollister district will be declared the winner of the four-year seat, with no election in November.
That is what has happened in the other two-person race, in District 1, where one-term incumbent Mark Medina won re-election handily over challenger Betsy Dirks, with 58 percent of the vote as of March 10. Medina appeared to have been unaffected by his strong support for ballot Measure K, which was rejected in the primary election 60-40 in a countywide vote. District 1 covers the northeast corner of the county, and a section of north Hollister.
Medina was chair of the Board of Supervisors when the rezoning of land around four Highway 101 interchanges west of Hollister for commercial use was unanimously approved by supervisors last year. A petition challenge force the referendum.
The continuing ballot count this week resulted in no change in the District 2 lineup, which will pit the top two vote getters from among five candidates against each other in the November general election. The District 2 seat was left up for grabs by the departure of Supervisor Anthony Botelho.
Political newcomer Kollin Kosmicki continued to hold a solid lead March 10 with 35 percent and Democratic Party activist Wayne Norton recorded 22 percent of the votes cast. Planning Commission chair Valerie Egland and accountant Frank Barragan followed at 17 percent, and San Juan Bautista Councilmember John Freeman still had 9 percent of the vote.
De La Cruz collected three times as much money in campaign contributions as his opponent, most of it from labor unions and county vendors. He had been unopposed in 2016. Gonzales lent her own campaign $1,400 in her grassroots effort.
It was unclear whether De La Cruz was hurt by his strong support of a zoning change for the Highway 101 zoning measure.
The District 5 race also has potential implications for City of Hollister politics, as De La Cruz is a political ally of Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilmember Rolan Resendiz, and Gonzales is allied closely with Councilmember Honor Spencer, who has announced she is running against Velazquez in November.
Elections officials couldn’t say Tuesday when the final votes would be counted. They have until April 3 to certify the official results.
The overall turnout in this first-ever March primary election was considered strong for a primary, and a higher percentage of voters cast ballots for their favorites in the Democratic and Republican primaries—62 percent—than in local races, where turnout varied from 44 to 55 percent.
Overall voter registration continued to grow, reflecting the county’s continued population growth. In the March 3 primary, San Benito County reported 32,371 registered voters, compared to 25,646 in the last presidential primary election in 2016, a more than 26 percent increase.
The number of independent—No Party Preference—voters grew at nearly twice the pace of growth in Democratic Party ranks.
The county breakdown is: 15,058 Democrats, 8,473 Republicans, 7,236 ‘NPP’ voters and 1,363 members of other political parties.