(Evelyn Jones (left) and Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin sort through provisional ballots Thursday at the Clerk's Office. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — Santa Cruz County Fourth District incumbent Supervisor Greg Caput defended his seat for the third time in the June 5 election, beating back challenges from four candidates by garnering 33.1 percent of the vote.
Caput has held the seat since the November 2010 election.
Caput’s fight is not yet over. Thanks to California’s top-two election rule, the contest will go to the November election, when he will face off against the candidate who came in second.
Currently, that is Watsonville Mayor Pro Tem Jimmy Dutra, who has so far received 26.3 percent of the vote.
Santa Cruz County election officials will update the numbers during the week of June 11.
County Clerk Gail Pellerin said Thursday that there were still more than 30,000 ballots left to count.
Caput said Thursday that there is a “long road ahead of us from now to November,” and added that there are still more votes to be counted that could change the positioning of the race.
“I feel good that I have support out there and I want to thank everybody that went out and voted one way or another,” he said.
Before November, Caput said he is gearing up for the county budget that will be headed to the Board of Supervisors soon, and plans to spend time with his children.
“I’m a public servant,” he said. “It comes down to the voters. The top of the chain of command is the people that we serve and also the people that go out and vote.”
Dutra said Thursday that he is “cautiously optimistic” that the numbers will keep him in the number-two slot.
Dutra said he knew the vote would be close, after watching meager returns of mail-in ballots in the month leading up to the election.
“I was focused on getting out the vote among my supporters,” he said.
Dutra pointed out that Caput garnered 44 percent of the vote in the June 2014 election, when he faced three challengers.
The fact the number has dropped more than 10 percentage points is significant, Dutra said.
“To me it’s telling me that 67 percent of the people who voted want change in the community,” he said.
Dutra attributed his apparent success to his mother, who he said walked the district with him during the campaign.
“We both walked this entire district,” he said. “We were able to cover the entire thing as a team.
“I would not be where I am if it weren’t for my mom.”
Dutra said that he reached the general election runoff despite not having the endorsements his opponents had.
“I didn’t have the union behind me, I didn’t have the (Santa Cruz County) farm bureau behind me, a political party didn’t endorse me,” he said.
If elected, he said he hopes to speak for all his constituents.
“Sometimes voices get silenced or are not heard,” Dutra said. “The people supporting me know I am giving everyone a voice. I think people know that and it’s resonating with them.”
Watsonville City Council, District 2
Aurelio Gonzalez took a slight lead in the race for the District 2 seat on the Watsonville City Council.
In early results, Gonzalez netted 143 votes to Jenni Veitch-Olson’s 114.
With the race separated by only 29 votes, Gonzalez said Thursday that he was remaining cautious.
He added that over the past few months before the election, he walked the district more than three times, and found he had much support among the voters.
“A lot of the walking I did paid off,” said Gonzalez, a former Watsonville planning commissioner. “Walking and meeting all the voters, it felt really positive. I had a lot more positive contacts, which helped me out a lot.”
Veitch-Olson called the race “too close to call.”
“It’s only 29 votes, so we look forward to seeing how it turns out,” she said.
Veitch-Olson, who has served on a number of boards and community groups, said she was “excited and energized” by the support she received from voters over the last few months.
“They really resonated with my thoughts and ideas about continuing to create a vibrant and healthy community here,” she said. “There is so much good that is happening in our city right now. People see that and definitely want more of it.”
According to the Santa Cruz County Elections Department, Watsonville’s District 2 has 1,955 registered voters. The district covers Watsonville High School, parts of downtown and streets surrounding Palm Avenue to the northeast.
State Assembly, District 30
San Benito County Supervisor Robert Rivas leads the five-person race for the District 30 seat on the California State Assembly.
With 33,400 votes counted as of Thursday morning, Rivas, a Democrat, garnered 44.1 percent. He was followed by property manager Neil G. Kitchens of Prunedale with 31.4 percent, who is running as a Republican.
The top two vote-getters will head to the November runoff election.
Peter Leroe-Muñoz is in third at 10.6 percent, and Watsonville City Councilwoman Trina Coffman-Gomez placed fourth with 7.7 percent of the vote. Bill Lipe of Salinas rounded out the list with 6.1 percent.
The District 30 seat covers Watsonville, Southern Monterey County, San Benito County, Gilroy and Morgan Hill.
Monterey County Supervisor, District 2
Incumbent John Phillips leads the race for Second District Monterey County Supervisor, early results showed.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Phillips received 58.48 percent of the vote, and remains nearly a thousand votes ahead of challenger Regina Gage.
The seat represents North Monterey County, including Pajaro, Las Lomas, Moss Landing and parts of Aromas.
U.S. Congress, District 20
Incumbent Congressman Jimmy Panetta handily carried the election for his 20th District seat, beating out challenger Ron Kabat with more than 80 percent of the vote, according to the California Secretary of State.
Still, Panetta will again face Kabat in November.
“We’re comfortable, but we’re never over confident,” Panetta told the Register-Pajaronian. “I’m going to get out there and do my job and that’s how I look at it. I do my job and serve the people of California.”
To drive that point home, Panetta said he and his support staff have closed more than 1,000 cases and responded to nearly 200,000 contacts in the past 17 months.
His time in Congress has so far focused on immigration reform, helping to fund federal infrastructure and protecting the environment.
Panetta said he is pushing back against federal efforts to explore for oil and natural gas on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and to shrink national monuments.
Panetta said he is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 48 whose members seek bipartisan solutions to key legislative problems such as immigration.
He co-authored H.R. 5058, a bill that lifts caps on the number of “U” visas available for undocumented immigrant witnesses and victims of violent crimes who cooperate with law enforcement.
Panetta said he also wants to find ways to help Dreamers, the name given to young people who immigrated to the U.S. with their parents and who benefit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“We need to take care of the people who come to our community and contribute to our economy and our communities,” he said. “I can’t stress enough, because I don’t have confidence in this administration or this Congress to pass immigration reform.”