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Election 2020: Live Updates from Across Santa Cruz County

Live updates on the 2020 election results, including local candidates and state legislative races

Cheyanne Halbleib, 21, casts her vote on Election Day at the Elections Office in the Santa Cruz County Building. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Check back here for the latest news on the 2020 election results from across Santa Cruz County. The most recent updates are added at the top.

Click here to see all of our ongoing in-depth 2020 election coverage.


Nov. 13, 4pm: Sonja Brunner shares incredible story; Gail Pellerin Signals Next Move

There have been no changes to Santa Cruz County’s major election races.

In the race for four Santa Cruz City Council seats, Sonja Brunner remains the top vote getter, followed by Councilmember Martine Watkins, Councilmember Sandy Brown and grant writer Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson. Brunner opened up to GT about her recovery from a harrowing collision with a drunk driver three years ago that she thought would kill her. The experience changed everything for her. “That accident really shifted my mindset. If you’re thinking about doing something, go for it. Give it your all,” she says.

Ballot counting is nearing its end, with more than 85% of registered voters casting a ballot, according to an update posted this afternoon.

Ballots had to be postmarked by Nov. 3 in order to be counted. Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin remarked on Twitter that it broke her heart to see ballots come in that got placed in the mail one day too late.

Handling such matters will soon be someone else’s responsibility.

After nearly three decades running the county’s elections department, Pellerin has announced that she will retire at the end of the year. The county clerk has been suggested as a potential candidate for the California state Assembly in the year 2024, after Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) terms out.

Pellerin won’t specifically say whether she’s considering a run for that seat. But she pointed out that a woman in an elected position from Santa Cruz County has never been elected to a state office. “I want to be a part of that movement,” she says.

In the United States presidential race, several news outlets called the state of Georgia for former Vice President Joe Biden, the race’s Democratic nominee, on Friday. President Donald Trump has won North Carolina. The results give Biden a commanding 306-232 lead in the electoral college. Biden flipped four states—Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—that Trump won in 2016. Biden leads Trump by 3.5 percentage points in the popular vote.

In Santa Cruz County, 78.5% of voters supported Biden; 18.5% supported Trump, according to the latest returns.

Nov. 4, 3pm: Supervisor John Leopold concedes race to transportation activist Manu Koenig

The local election results are mostly unchanged from last night.

But transportation activist Manu Koenig has widened his lead over Supervisor John Leopold, who conceded the race to Koenig. In a Facebook post, Leopold said he was humbled by the support from volunteers and voters in his reelection bid, and he extended gratitude to his supporters.

“Although I wanted a different result, I accept the will of the voters,” he wrote. “I have contacted Manu Koenig and offered my assistance in his transition to help meet the needs of residents of the 1st District and the people of Santa Cruz County. I am proud of the work that we have accomplished together and I will look for new ways in the future to contribute to the community.”

This electoral event marks the first time in 10 years that a challenger has successfully unseated an incumbent county supervisor. (The last time was when Supervisor Greg Caput defeated then-incumbent Tony Campos in 2010.)

At 35, Koenig will be the youngest member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

In the city of Santa Cruz, Sonja Brunner, Councilmember Martine Watkins, Councilmember Sandy Brown and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson remain at the front of the pack in the City Council race.

Turnout was extraordinarily high in the county. The totals counted so far show that 74% of registered voters cast a ballot. That number will only continue to go up, as results roll in. Of those who voted, more than 90% voted by mail.

The overwhelming turnout blew away Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin. 

“This is really unprecedented,” Pellerin said yesterday afternoon. “I’ve been doing this job since 1993, and I have never seen so many voters engaged and participating and getting out to vote.”

In the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden looks poised to narrowly win the electoral college, by carrying the swing states of Arizona, Minnesota and Michigan. He is also ahead in the popular vote.

We’ll offer one clarification to some information we shared last night, when we reported results for the state legislative races. We neglected to include results from the other counties. After you factor in those areas, the leads of the Democratic frontrunners narrowly slightly, but they’re still quite significant. Senate candidate John Laird has 68% voter support so far, Assemblymember Robert Rivas has 70% voter support, Assemblymember Mark Stone has 61%, and Congressmember Panetta is at 78%.

Nov. 3, 10:50pm: SONJA BRUNNER NOW LEADS SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCIL RACE  

Sonja Brunner, the Downtown Association’s operations director, has edged into first place in the race for Santa Cruz City Council, according to results updated after 10pm. 

City Councilmember and former Mayor Martine Watkins is now second. Councilmember Sandy Brown is in third. Grant writer Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson is fourth. 

It’s anyone’s guess when we’ll have clarity on the outcome. In 2018, it wasn’t clear who would prevail in that year’s Santa Cruz County City Council race until three weeks after the election.

Former Santa Cruz County Greenway director Manu Koenig’s lead over incumbent District 1 Santa Cruz County Supervisor stands at 11 points. Koenig raised his profile in the last two years for his work with Greenway, which opposes passenger rail in Santa Cruz County, and for his criticism of Leopold, whom Koenig viewed as too supportive of the concept.

Nov. 3, 9pm: WATKINS AND KOENIG UP, BUT IT’S STILL VERY EARLY 

It is too early to know much of anything in the local elections, but District 1 Santa Cruz County supervisor candidate Manu Koenig leads incumbent Supervisor John Leopold by 2,872 votes.

Koenig is ahead with 55% of vote totals so far, compared to Leopold’s 44%, according to early returns from the Santa Cruz County Elections Department.

Only 111,805 votes have been counted in Santa Cruz County. That’s almost as many total votes as there were two years ago, but turnout this year is widely expected to surpass 2018 levels, given the excitement around the presidential contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

In the Santa Cruz City Council race, Councilmember and former Mayor Martine Watkins is in first place with 15% of the vote. But the race for four seats is currently rather tight from first place through seventh.

Meanwhile, Democratic California Senate candidate John Laird is beating Republican Vicki Nohrden by a huge margin, 80% to 20%. Incumbent assemblymembers Mark Stone and Robert Rivas are cruising to reelection by similar margins.

In the race for superior court judge, attorney Nancy De La Peña is winning in a landslide of her own. She has 72% of the vote over her opponent Annrae Angel, who announced that she had dropped out of the race, even though her name still appeared on the ballot.

In Capitola, candidates Kristen Petersen and Margaux Keiser lead the Council City race there.

In Scotts Valley, incumbent city councilmembers Donna Lind, Randy Johnson and Jack Dilles all appear to be coasting toward reelection. In Watsonville, City Councilmember Aurelio Gonzalez and former Councilmember Jimmy Dutra have big leads in each of their respective district races.

Nationally, Trump is leading in the electoral college over Biden, the Democratic nominee. But poll workers are still counting votes. Later returns may favor Biden, because many Democratic voters indicated they were more likely to vote by mail, and those ballots take longer to count.

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