It’s all but official—Kollin Kosmicki has won the San Benito County District 2 Supervisor contest. In what turned out to be the closest local race, the San Juan Bautista resident totaled 2,819 votes (51.3 percent) to Wayne Norton’s 2,671 (48.6 percent) in the latest update from the County Registrar of Voters.
There are still 1,060 ballots left to be processed, meaning a hundred or so ballots are left to be counted for District 2. But vote totals have been trending in Kosmicki’s favor, as he turned a 103-vote advantage from last Friday’s update and upped it to a 148-vote buffer in Tuesday night’s release.
“(Waiting) the extra week was a little difficult, but we’re definitely feeling great about the result and certainly relieved,” Kosmicki said. “Mentally, it’s about moving onto getting some things done for the people of the county.”
In a text message to the Free Lance, Norton said he has conceded defeat and left a congratulatory voice mail for Kosmicki, “offering whatever support I can.”
“I thank Wayne Norton for his campaign and efforts to serve the county,” Kosmicki said. “He gave up a year and a half of his life just like me (campaigning) and deserves immense credit for running.”
Kosmicki built his campaign on “smart growth” and successfully opposed the Measure N Strada Verde project. Along with the defeat of Measure N, despite heavy spending by the developer of the proposed Strada Verde Innovation Park, Kosmicki’s probable election would indicate voter rejection of plans to commercially develop the 101 corridor south of the county’s border with Santa Clara County.
Kosmicki has called for “smart growth” and opposed both Measure N and plans to develop commercial nodes at Betabel and three other freeway exits.
“The electorate here is certainly in favor of slower, more responsible growth,” Kosmicki said, “and when you get away from the politics and the political campaigns and just talk to the people, there is no doubt that they want smarter growth. I don’t think the vast majority of those people are against growth altogether, but they realize we can’t make the same mistakes over and over.”
One of Kosmicki’s campaign promises was that should he get elected, he would sell or take down his news and video website, San Benito Live.
“It’s a no-brainer that I’ll be doing that,” he said. “As much as I loved what I developed with San Benito Live and have a real passion for, there is a much higher calling with being supervisor. There’s no way I can operate a media website while serving as county supervisor, so I’ll definitely be moving on from that.”
As the new District 2 Supervisor, Kosmicki must also decide whether he will return for a fourth season coaching the Anzar High football team, a decision he’ll probably make in the next month. Kosmicki worked for 10 years as editor of the Free Lance, departing in 2017. It was around that time he started putting together a game plan to run for local office.
In March, he garnered 35 percent of the votes to easily outdistance four other candidates to win the primary. However, since no candidate won at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters—Kosmicki and Norton—went into a runoff in the general election to decide the outcome.
Along the way, he made all the right moves, focusing on a ground game where he knocked on hundreds of doors and held dozens of meetings before the pandemic hit.
Placing an emphasis on smart growth clearly resonated with voters, which is why once Kosmicki takes office in the first week of January, his first order of business will focus on housing.
“I’m committed from Day 1 to propose a slow-growth ordinance and a slow-growth cap on single-market rate housing,” he said. “There will also be a proposal to increase the minimum threshold of affordable housing in all subdivisions. Right now it’s 15 percent, but I would like to see that number increase.”
Kosmicki also would like to eliminate the in-lieu of system which allows developers to pay a fee to forgo building a set amount of affordable housing units. Having won a hard-fought campaign, Kosmicki knows the work—and the challenges—are just beginning.
“As much as I’ve been around county government, I’m not naive to the fact there are still areas where I’ll have a learning curve,” he said. “At the same time, I’ll be spending the next month and a half, two months getting caught up to speed and having plans in place and meeting with people so I’m fully prepared from Day 1 more so than perhaps the average (newly elected) supervisor would be.”
Kosmicki thanked his supporters and especially his wife, Cecilia, for being the ultimate support system. He said county supervisors—which is classified as a part-time job—have an annual salary of $48,000 or $49,000. One thing is for certain: Kosmicki won’t be treating the position like it’s a part-time gig. Just like on the campaign trail, he’s going all in.
“I think everyone understands it’s a full-time position,” he said. “I intend to go above and beyond what I’m called to do.”
Kosmicki ran a grassroots campaign with a message of abolishing the status quo, that it wasn’t just politics as usual. He promises to bring transparency to the office and give his constituents a true voice and representation concerning all the small and big issues in District 2.
“I’m totally ecstatic to start serving the people of this county,” he said. “There is a level of enthusiasm knowing there is a lot of work ahead. I’m not naive that this will be a very challenging role, and that’s exactly why I pursued it. I did things completely differently and wanted to set an example that we can change the political system here.”