In Eureka, conservatives won big, with Virginia Bass overthrowing six-term supervisor Bonnie Neely. First Ward Concilmember Larry Glass looked to be decisively beaten by businesswoman Marian Brady -- a huge upset that surprised many, including Glass himself. And Measure N, the ballot measure/referendum that cleared the way for the Marina Center development, at least insofar as city government is concerned, looked as if it were headed toward a big win.
Of all the Eureka races, only one remained in doubt: the three-way Third Ward contest. At press time, Mike Newman and Ron Kuhnel were neck-and-neck, each with about 43 percent of the vote. Xandra Manns trailed far behind, with 13 percent.
Proposition O, a Eureka citywide half-cent sales tax increase, was headed to easy victory.
When the third-round results, which included all but one Eureka precinct, were announced, Bass' husband Matthew Owen clinked his glass to call the assembled revelers to attention in Eureka's Avalon restaurant. He read off the latest numbers for Bass and Brady, both of whom were in attendance, to massive cheers, hugs and woo-hoos.
Meanwhile, other races around the county were mostly too close to call at press time, owing to the extraordinarily late count at the Humboldt County Elections Office. High turnout and a complicated two-page ballot meant long turnaround times for new results Tuesday night.
Fifth District Supervisorial candidates Patrick Cleary and Ryan Sundberg were all but tied in the early results, with Sundberg showing a very slight lead. But almost no precincts had reported by press time, and it was way too early to call anything.
The contentious race for District Attorney started out looking like a breeze for challenger Allison Jackson, who opened up a 19-point lead in the early absentee and vote-by-precinct results. But that lead narrowed throughout the night, down to 9 points by the time the Journal went to press, with half the precincts counted countywide.
Assistant Assessor Mari Wilson looked to pull off a big upset against Johanna Rodoni in their race to be Humboldt County's new assessor. Rodoni had raised and spent over $100,000 in her quest for the office; by the end of the night, it was clear that it was all for naught.
In Arcata, absentee results showed incumbent city councilmembers Mark Wheetley and Alex Stillman with big leads, though no precinct results had been counted either.
The Election Office was slammed at the lunch hour. Citizens were dropping off ballots as the phones rang and rang, while a beefed-up elections staff scurried from place to place carrying sheaves of papers. County Clerk-Recorder Carolyn Crnich was down in the basement with the tabulation equipment, fiddling with a computer in preparation for the count to come.
There had been a couple of minor snafus that morning. A school lockdown in McKinleyville interrupted voting at Morris Elementary for about 15 minutes at around 9 a.m. More seriously, it turned out that ballots for two precincts -- Loleta and the Ferndale outskirts -- had been printed upside-down. The tabulation machines would not accept them. Crnich estimated that around 100 votes were cast at these locations before the problem was corrected. Those votes would have to be transferred to new ballots before they could be counted.
At noon, the office had about 1,500 absentee and vote-by-mail ballots that would not be counted on election night. That compared with about 14,760 votes that had already been delivered and counted, and which would be released shortly after polls closed.
"The [remaining] absentee ballots probably won't be counted for another couple of weeks," said Crnich late Tuesday evening.
At around 7:30 p.m., Gallegos campaign strategist Richard Salzman led a dwindling team of phone-bankers still trying to get voters to the polls. The lights were out at Jackson H.Q. Earlier in the day, while rallying with her supporters at the courthouse, Jackson said that her people would not be conducting an extensive Get Out The Vote campaign. They had gotten their message to the people and that should have been enough, she said.
Then the first results were posted, and they brought ghastly news for area progressives. Absentee ballots always skew conservative, but these were particularly so. Jackson had opened up a 17-point lead over Gallegos; Bass a 29-point lead over Neely; every Eureka city race showed conservative candidates with very healthy leads.
The Eureka City Council meeting ran long during the night, continuing right on through the first round of results. Bass was presiding over the meeting as mayor; councilmembers Larry Glass and Frank Jager, both of them on the ballot, were trapped there as well. Candidates Ron Kuhnel and Marian Brady came through council chambers before moving out to their parties.
"It's election night -- I gotta see what's goin' on," Kuhnel said. To which Bass responded, "Let us know, will ya?"
About an hour later, the meeting was over and Glass was on his way out to the car. The absentee results showed him trailing challenger Marian Brady 64-36.
"Sounds pretty grim," Glass said.
"Is this surprising to you?" a reporter asked.
"I certainly didn't go into this expecting to lose."
"Is there still time to turn it around?"
"I dunno. That sounds pretty bad." He climbed into his car and took off.
The only person bucking the trend on the left side of the aisle was Fifth District Supervisorial candidate Patrick Cleary, who trailed his opponent, Ryan Sundberg, by about two and a half points -- a safe place to be at, given the absentees' typical conservative skew. "It's a good sign," Cleary said upon arriving to his campaign party at Six Rivers in McKinleyville.
Meanwhile, at Avalon, a crowd of about 40 celebrated their candidates' early leads. Richard Marks, Supervisorial candidate Virginia Bass' campaign manager, was ecstatic at the early returns. "This isn't a referendum, it's a demand," Marks said.
Bass herself was only cautiously optimistic, despite a nearly 30-point lead over incumbent Bonnie Neely. "It's a small percentage of votes, but it's looking good," she said. Likewise, Jager didn't let his 25-point lead rile him too much. "It looks really positive," he said. "It's preliminary, but there's more and more people voting absentee. We won't really know anything until the second and third wave come in."
"I fucking hate politics," said Joan Gallegos, the incumbent district attorney's wife, at his Lost Coast Brewery shindig.
Reporting by Ryan Burns, Bob Doran, Andrew Goff, John Osborn, Jennifer Savage and Hank Sims.