By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Mayor Ernesto Olivares and Councilman Gary Wysocky will return to their seats on Santa Rosa’s City Council, joined by two challengers, neighborhood activist
Julie Combs and attorney Erin Carlstrom.
Final vote tallies late Tuesday night showed top vote-getters were Olivares with 15.1 percent, Combs with 14.1 percent, Carlstrom with 14 percent and Wysocky with 13.8 percent.
See photos from Election Day here
“I’m happy with what I see so far,” Olivares said Tuesday evening as he snapped pictures with supporters at D’Argenzio Winery.
Trailing behind were restaurateur Don Taylor, with 12 percent, former volunteer coordinator Caroline Bañuelos, with 11.9 percent, and Hans Dippel, with 7.3 percent.
“I’m grateful the voters returned me to office,” Wysocky said outside Democratic Party headquarters downtown as results came in. “I look forward to good healthy discussions of public policy for the betterment of our city.”
The results could significantly shift the direction of the council for the third time in four years.
The 2008 election swept liberals into power for the first time in the council’s history, but only by a slim 4-3 majority. Their grip on power was brief and turbulent.
The 2010 campaign saw business and public employee groups attack Mayor Susan Gorin and Veronica Jacobi as inept. Gorin survived, but Jacobi, the coalition’s staunchest environmentalist, lost her seat.
With the election of Scott Bartley, an architect, and Jake Ours, a retired economic development official, the balance shifted back in favor of council members supported by public employee unions and business and development interests.
For the past two years, the council has focused on a collaborative approach to pension overhaul, which some have criticized as not going far enough, and aggressive economic development efforts, which critics said came at the expense of neighborhood input.
Carlstrom could now find herself in the potentially influential position of being the swing vote on many key issues before the council.
In late September, Carlstrom and Olivares endorsed one another and agreed to restore a spirit of collaboration on the polarized council.
She took some heat for it from party loyalists, some of whom said they felt betrayed, but was praised by others for trying to change the tone on the council.
“It’s my intention to work very hard on behalf of the city if indeed I do win,” Carlstrom said shortly before midnight.
Combs said she was “delighted” with the results and attributed her success to her focus on neighborhood issues.
“I think folks are ready to have a council that reaches out to them and listens to them,” Combs said.
Two other candidates who pulled out of the race still managed to get some votes. Mike Cook received 8.1 percent of the vote, while Shaan Vandenburg received 3.6 percent.