By TESS KENNY
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
As seven candidates fought for the 37th District state Assembly seat Tuesday night, Republican Charles Cole and Democrat Cathy Murillo pulled out ahead, each hoping to fill the vacancy of termed-out Assemblywoman Monique Limon.
With 67.18% of the precincts reporting, Mr. Cole led all candidates with nearly 31% of the vote, followed by Ms. Murillo, who had 23.19% of the vote. If Mr. Cole and Ms. Murillo remain the top two vote getters, they will advance to a runoff in the November election.
Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett trailed behind Ms. Murillo at 16.98% , followed by former Santa Barbara City Councilman Jason Dominguez with 9.12% of the vote. Other candidates fell in line with Santa Barbara City College Trustee Jonathan Abboud at 8.8%, local nonprofit Executive Director Elsa Granados at 6.53% and teacher and attorney Stephen Bloom at 4.11%.
Mr. Cole, 22, faced six Democrat candidates as the lone Republican in the race. The Santa Barbara native has a background in business accounting, contractive and statistics, though he’s based his campaign on change.
“I’m looking forward to changing and listening to people,” Mr. Cole told the News-Press. “I just want the people to vote on their values. Enough with this party line stuff, because we agree on a lot more than we disagree on.”
Hoping to address state freeways, preserve Proposition 13 – which reduces property tax rates on homes, and protect private health care, Mr. Cole’s goals as assemblyman focus on limiting government oversight.
“No new taxes,” said Mr. Cole. “Other than that, I would like to work on lessening regulations on businesses and buildings that don’t need to be put in place.”
As the votes continue to roll in through the next week, Mr. Cole is grateful for early support and is optimistic for what’s to come.
“This is better than I thought it would be to say that much,” he said. “I just want to thank people for their support now and in the coming months.”
Ms. Murillo, 59, is the 50th Mayor of Santa Barbara. If she sworn in as assemblywoman in December, the mayoral position would be left open for 11 months leading up to the regular election for mayor in November 2021.
With the vacancy lasting less than a year, the City Council can choose to appoint among themselves rather than hold a special election.
“Whatever happens with the state Assembly won’t have to cost the City extra,” she assured the public.
Throughout her campaign, Ms. Murillo has focused on protecting the environment, improving public education and creating economic opportunities for working families and individuals – goals that extend far beyond her state Assembly run.
When Ms. Murillo was elected to City Council in 2011, she was the first Latina to take on the responsibility. Now three years into her first term as mayor, Ms. Murillo hopes to continue the work she started.
“We’re optimistic and hopeful, so we’ll see what happens.,” Mr. Murillo told the News-Press. “For now I’m just grateful to all the volunteers and supporters.”