Despite a disappointingly low voter turnout for this years’ local midterm elections, there were still some surprises up voters’ sleeves including the passing of Regional Measure 3, a toll increase that will help fund major roadway projects such as the widening of the Novato Narrows and the “yes” vote for current Sonoma County Supervisors, most of whom will keep their seats this fall even after the November primaries.
According to the Sonoma County Registrar’s Office, there are around 268,669 registered voters in Sonoma County — about a little more than half of the county populace, however, only 70,897 ballots including absentee and precinct ballots were cast, leading to a dismal turnout.
“The turnout was pretty low, I’m thinking around 40 percent,” says Paul Gullixson, a former writer for the Press Democrat who focuses on politics and now works in strategic communications at Sonoma State University. “It is pretty sad if you think about it given this came after Trump and that there has been a lot of activism. It’s pretty disappointing when so much emphasis was placed on the number of people who didn’t vote and could have voted in 2016.”
Nevertheless, voters ended up deciding on Regional Measure 3, one of the major measures that will affect several counties including Sonoma County.
“Regional Measure 3 was a big one. The money is going to go to local road and transportation projects here. It is really significant and will bring millions for helping to finish the Novato Narrows project and widening the road where there is the clogged traffic on Highway 101,” Gullixson explained. “A lot of that money is going to Marin, but we will benefit from that.”
Rohnert Park Council member Jake Mackenzie, who is also the chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and serves on the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District board, said the passing of this measure is a milestone because it is one of the few Bay Area mandates that includes and benefits Sonoma County.
“This is the first time Sonoma County was included in the counties that will benefit from a toll increase on seven state owned bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area. That increase will get extended in three years so over five years it will rake in about 4.4. billion,” Mackenzie said.
In addition to the Novato Narrows widening project, money from the increased tolls (about a $1 increase starting Jan. 1, 2019) will also go towards updating Highway 37, which has flooded multiple times and often sees gridlocked traffic, and extending the SMART train north towards Windsor.
“These are projects that will have a major impact on the people of Sonoma and Marin County… we were very anxious to see it pass,” Mackenzie said.
Other local measures that passed included Measure E Coast Life Support District, which will allow the use of proceeds or taxes to go towards urgent care and ambulance services. School District 55 percent bonds also passed in the West Sonoma School District, Alexander Valley School District and Harmony Union School District.
“There were really no statewide ballots (that would impact us here in Sonoma County,” Gullixson said when asked of the impact of state ballots. Yet, Proposition 68, the California Clean Water and Safe Parks Act, is noteworthy as it will help ensure everyone has safe and clean drinking water.
“Prop 68 passed, but not by much. There was a lot of support from that,” Gullixson mused.
In terms of political seats
David Rabbitt, County Supervisor, District 2, will keep his seat as he received 11,424 votes. James Gore, County Supervisor, District 4, will also keep his seat and received 10,053 votes.
Both candidates were not challenged this year, a rarity. Only a couple hundred votes were received for write in candidates.
“For local races we have no run-offs in the fall. The supervisors were not challenged and they automatically won. I can’t remember that ever happening, I wanted to go into the history books and check, but I don’t think that has ever happened,” Gullixson said.
The Sonoma County District Attorney, Jill Ravitch was also re-elected, her opponent Scott Murray, only receiving 25.2 percent of the vote. Mark Essick received 57.4 percent of the votes and will be the Sonoma County Sheriff Coroner and the Sonoma County Clerk Recorder - Assessor seat will go to Deva Marie Proto.
And as for the role of Sonoma County School Superintendent, current superintendent Steve Harrington was re-elected.
For all of the June 5 midterm election results, visit the Sonoma County Registrar’s office website at: vote.sonoma-county.org.