Even with some losses, Santa Clarita’s Democrats gained ground on Nov. 6Mai Nguyen Do November 7, 2018 0 COMMENTS
Although Santa Clarita City Council and William S. Hart Unified School District Governing Board incumbents held their seats on Nov. 6, the amount of Democratic challengers alone showed unprecedented Democratic enthusiasm in Santa Clarita.
In 2016, only four Democratic candidates challenged Santa Clarita’s incumbents. This year, eight first-time candidates endorsed by the Democratic Alliance for Action sought to unseat local Republican officeholders. Two of this year’s challengers – David Barlavi and Laura Arrowsmith – won election to the Saugus Union School District Governing Board. As of Nov. 7, there are now eight Democrats elected to local office in Santa Clarita.
During the local Democratic election night party, Democratic Alliance for Action president Michelle Kampbell expressed her motivation and energy moving toward the elections in 2020.
“We need to send a message to the local GOP establishment that we will not be going anywhere,” Kampbell said during her speech to the crowd of 600 attendees. “We’ll be working toward a bluer Santa Clarita.”
Katie Hill, who has just defeated Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and is preparing to be sworn in as the 25th Congressional District’s next congresswoman, is optimistic about the continued growth in Democratic representation in Santa Clarita.
“What [the increase in candidacies] shows is that the tide has changed here, that this is a district where Democrats can win and this a community where Democrats can win,” Hill said. “The registration is just going to continue in that direction the more young people that are moving out here, the more diversity that we get here, we’re going to see that kind of change. I hope the infrastructure built around this campaign will be able to build upon that and help local candidates.”
Santa Clarita has historically been represented by Republicans at all levels of government. However, recent years have seen gains in Democratic representation at the local level. For example, Christopher Trunkey was appointed to the Saugus Union School District Governing Board in 2014 and Edel Alonso was elected to the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees in 2016. Castaic Town Council member Bonnie Nikolai, SUSD Governing Board member Julie Olsen and Santa Clarita Valley Water Company directors Maria Gutzetit and Lynne Plambeck are also among current Democrats elected locally.
Of the 128,374 registered voters in Santa Clarita, Democrats now trail Republicans by only 438 voters, according to the most recent reports from the Secretary of State.
“In Santa Clarita and Simi Valley, there were a lot of silent Democrats,” Hill’s campaign manager, Zack Czajkowski, said. “People that wanted change but didn’t really have anything to get out and vote for suddenly realized that there [were] a lot of others like them that wanted to do something about it.”
City council incumbents Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda won re-election, but more votes were cast against them than for them. Weste won with just 14.67 percent of the vote, McLean with 14.48 and Miranda with 10.88. Brett Haddock, Logan Smith and Diane Trautman – who ran together as a slate endorsed by the Democratic Alliance for Action – pulled well ahead of Jason Gibbs, the conservative candidate endorsed by Councilmember Bob Kellar, Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) and Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale).
“The increase in Democratic candidates is a reflection of the fact that in this community, more and more residents are waking up to the fact that business-as-usual isn’t working for ordinary people,” Smith said. “I think these candidates are driven by the realization that the wealthiest one percent of Americans continue to grow wealthier while hardworking families struggle to cover the basics. That’s a wave that’s only going to grow, and I think that will be reflected on the field in 2020.”
The 38th Assembly District race is still too close to call as of Nov. 7. According to the Los Angeles County Registrar, 1 million ballots in Los Angeles County have not yet been counted, which means there are plenty of ballots left to count in the 38th Assembly District.
Nonetheless, the Democratic campaigns for Assembly and Congress are not the conclusion of local Democratic efforts to bolster representation and defeat Republican incumbents in Santa Clarita.
“We’ve seen an absolute surge in activism,” 38th Assembly District challenger Christy Smith said. “We’ve seen a shift in the voter registration numbers. The community is changing.”
“We know this is the beginning,” Kampbell said. “Katie and Christy have built a foundation that the 25th and 38th [districts] can build upon for a bluer [sic] Santa Clarita in 2020.”
Daniel Jacob Kulick contributed to this story.
Mai Nguyen Do is a Vietnamese American poet and researcher. She is a lifelong Santa Clarita resident and a College of the Canyons graduate. She is also the author of Ghosts Still Walking (2016) and Battlefield Blooming (2019). Find her on Twitter @DoNguyenMai.