Alejandra Gutierrez will be the new 1st District Member of the Santa Barbara City Council, replacing Jason Dominguez after she won a drawn-out election by eight votes.
Ms. Gutierrez captured 47.39 percent of the 2,053 ballots cast, while Mr. Dominguez captured 47 percent.
In an interview with the News-Press, Ms. Gutierrez spoke about the journey she has taken to get to City Hall, also looking toward what’s to come.
“I don’t come from a political background,” said Ms. Gutierrez, as her parents are from a town in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, where the city of Guadalajara is.
“My dad worked in the fields, and my mom was cleaning houses … They had to work for everything that they have. I wanted to basically stand up as a young Latina that was raised and born in the city of Santa Barbara and that came from a working class family.”
She said that sitting on the City Council of a beautiful and wealthy city means a lot for her and her loved ones.
“It’s also a win for my family. My whole entire family … an example of achieving the American dream,” said Ms. Gutierrez.
Her connection to District 1 seems to be what earned her that slim margin of ballots that made the difference. She said that she was happy to see locals in the district locals and go out to vote.
“It really was grassroots,” said Ms. Gutierrez.
“District 1 has a very low turnout in votes. One of my biggest goals is to bridge that gap between local government and families in the district to create better communication, inform them of any new policies, get them engaged, make them feel like their voice is being heard.”
Other issues that Ms. Gutierrez hopes to take on include those surrounding housing and homelessness.
Ms. Gutierrez taking over from Mr. Dominguez (who holds the spot until January) shifts the tide for Santa Barbara’s City Council in terms of gender representation. Currently, the council has four men and two women. Come January, the council will have three men — Mike Jordan (who will replace Randy Rowse), Oscar Gutierrez and Eric Friedman — and three women — Kristen Sneddon, Maegan Harmon and Ms. Gutierrez.
“I think it shows the movement and how women are empowered to take on these leadership roles,” said Ms. Gutierrez. “It’s a time with a lot of women in empowerment.”
Beyond gender and racial diversity, Ms. Gutierrez winning the race will also bring socioeconomic diversity. While her main competitor for the race attended Stanford and Berkeley, Ms. Gutierrez’s educational background involves a community college (Santa Barbara City College) from where she transferred to UCSB. She said that her time at these educational institutions motivated her to dedicate years toward making education more accessible.
“And that’s something that I’m really proud of. You don’t have to be rich. You just have to have the heart,” said Ms. Gutierrez. “People will gravitate towards people that are genuine.”
Even with the results being so close, Mr. Dominguez told the News-Press that he will not call for a recount but instead focus on his next endeavor: State Assembly.
“While this result is not what we hoped for, I am immensely grateful to my wife Kaci and to all the volunteers and supporters who worked so hard. I remain focused on the next chapter and the work ahead, and I am running for State Assembly because the single biggest issues facing our communities cannot be solved at the local level alone,” said Mr. Dominguez.
“The issues related to homelessness, public safety, and electrical utilities are getting worse everyday, and I am committed to helping tackle these challenges. I look forward to talking with the voters in the weeks and months ahead about solutions to confront the problems head-on.”
Results are available on the city’s election website, sbcityvote.com.