Despite a close race that left candidates squirming, incumbent Ventura County Supervisor Susan K. Lacey retained her seat by capturing 50.5% of the vote in this week's primary election.
Lacey narrowly averted a runoff with political newcomer Carolyn Leavens, who garnered 38.8% of the 29,110 votes cast. If no candidate had won more than 50%, the top two contenders would have faced a runoff in November.
Lacey declined to offer an explanation for Leavens' strong showing, except to note that the rancher/businesswoman had spent about twice as much money as she did on the campaign.
"I am just going to concentrate on the more than 50%, and I'm extremely pleased. It's a nice feeling to get back to tend to the everyday chores of the county on a full-time basis," Lacey said.
Mingled With Supporters
Lacey on Tuesday night mingled with supporters at an aide's east Ventura home. Chili bubbled on the stove, while onlookers monitored the local TV station for election results.
Leavens, who awaited results with supporters at an insurance office near the County Government Center, spent about $75,000 on the campaign and hired a political consultant. She said she feels no regrets and has not ruled out the possibility of running for another office someday.
"This has been a real eye-opener for me. I think we went a long way and, if we had more time, we could have gotten through to more voters," she said.
In assessing her loss, Leavens said some voters may have misconstrued her position by thinking that she was exceedingly pro-growth. Her campaign stressed the need to revise the county's longstanding guidelines that control development and protect greenbelts. She also said county officials should be more aggressive in luring high-technology businesses to Ventura County.
"I think a lot of them mis-heard the message about business," Leavens said.
Three other candidates combined for more than 10% of the vote, according to preliminary election results: Robert W. McKay, 5%; Herschel M. Johnson Jr., 2.9%, and Gary L. Wean, 2.6%.
But, from the beginning, the race was between Leavens and Lacey. The first absentee ballot count at 8 p.m. Tuesday showed Lacey leading Leavens 54% to 37.6%. Leavens slowly whittled away that lead as the night wore on, but could not force Lacey below 50%. The final tally at 2 a.m. Wednesday showed Lacey the winner by 3,413 votes, although official results will not be made available by county election officials until the end of the week.
Richard D. Dean, county clerk and recorder, said the race was the closest he could recall in his more than seven years in office. In 1972, Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn, who represents Oxnard, squeaked to victory by 272 votes.
Dean said Tuesday's voter turnout was 43.4%, one of the lowest three turnouts on record for a presidential primary.
In a pattern similar to that in the rest of California, the county's Democrats opted for Michael S. Dukakis over Jesse Jackson by a margin of about 68% to 26%.
In other election results, incumbent Supervisors John Flynn and Maggie Erickson, who were running unopposed, won reelection.
An emergency tax measure that would raise about $125,000 a year for the Somis Unified School District passed by 55.1% to 44.9%.
2 Commissioners Recalled
In Oxnard's unincorporated beach communities, voters demonstrated support for three controversial assessment districts in retaining three commissioners who had supported the districts. But they recalled two other commissioners who had reversed their support of the districts.
Recalled were Kathy Silveri and William J. Higgins. Retained were Phil White, James J. Henry and Patrick M. Forrest.
Moorpark voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that allows the city to keep a greater percentage of its revenue than it could under current state limits. The vote was 79.5% in favor, 20.5% against.
In Camarillo, a measure to raise the city's transient tax from 5% to 9% also passed overwhelmingly, by a 61.3% to 38.7% vote. The transient tax is added to all hotel and motel room rates.