Update, 12 a.m.: A controversial school bond measure was showing strong support as election tallies rolled in early Wednesday, and several Pajaro Valley incumbents also held leads in their respective races.
Measure L, which would assess an additional property tax $38 per $100,000 of home value to pay for school repairs and upgrades, needed a vote of 55 percent or more to pass.
State Rep. Luis Alejo held an early lead over challenger Rob Bernosky early Wednesday.
Votes from three counties—Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey—will need to be tallied before a winner is declared. Alejo held a commanding lead over Bernosky in Monterey County, nearly doubling his opponent's votes with more than 14,000, and smaller margin in other counties.
Alejo, who made the rounds in Hollister and Salinas—also part of District 30—before coming to the Watsonville festivities Tuesday, said he felt like there were a lot of really great candidates being elected, including his financé, Karina Cervantez, an unopposed candidate for Watsonville City Council.
"This is such a historic night for the Pajaro Valley and the rest of our country," Alejo said.
In Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees races, incumbent Karen Osmundson was leading Elsa Nunez and newcomer Maria Orozco was ahead of former Watsonville Mayor Antonio Rivas.
Orozco, a 2010 Santa Clara University graduate, was optimistic.
"I'm feeling good," she said. "We worked hard. I don't think we could have worked any harder.
Measure R, which would increase fees for mobile home residents in the city, also appeared destined for victory. The money would be socked away in a legal fund to defend against challenges to mobile home rent control in the city.
Four candidates for Watsonville City Council, including two rookies, will be ushered into office after all ran unopposed for their positions. Incumbents Lowell Hurst and Felipe Hernandez will be joined by Cervantez and Trina Coffman-Gomez.
Despite his lack of opponents on the ballot, Hurst said he campaigned anyway, battling "apathy" and "indifference" by knocking on 700 doors in his district and helping Orozco spread her message as a school board candidate.
"We had a lot of fun," Hurst said.
Update: 10:29 p.m.: Watsonville Democrats celebrated President Barack Obama's reelection at their "Obamanos" party on Tuesday evening.
Pajaro Valley School Board incumbent Karen Osmundson was waiting to hear results of her own race. But, she said, she was happy to see the president reelected.
"Obama winning is good enough for me. I could lose and it would be OK," Osmundson said.
Luis Alejo was waiting for results of his reelection race for state Assembly. He was there with his mother, Maria Luisa Alejo, who also was happy about Obama's victory.
"I think he wants to finish what he started," Maria Luisa Alejo said. As for her son, who was leading in early results, "He doesn't belong to me. He belongs to the people," she said.
Candidates, campaign workers and supporters gathered at the Watsonville Center For Change, an empty storefront on Main and Beach streets converted to the local Democratic headquarters this fall, to watch the results roll in. They celebrated with tacos, Jello cake, beer and local wine.
It's time to go to the polls, and Watsonville residents will be making some major decisions about the future of education in the Pajaro Valley.
If the 2008 election turnout is any indication, expect a crowd at the polls today. Four years ago, 86.6 percent of Santa Cruz County voters cast ballots; of those, 77 percent supported Democratic President Barack Obama and 19.8 percent voted for Republican candidate John McCain.
Meanwhile, voters 11 miles away near Prunedale in Monterey County are finding new places to cast ballots. A wildfire is threatening homes and a polling place.
Locally, voters will decide if Measure L, a $150 million school facilities bond measure, will get the go-ahead to repair aging schools. While students, parents and teachers are rallying for the bond (did you see them on Main Street on Monday afternoon?), others believe homeowners should not bear the brunt of the bill. Measure L would assess about $38 per $100,000 of assessed home value to property owners' taxes.
Watsonville High graduate Velma Vallejo, 20, said she voted for Measure L because she saw the need for facilities improvements when she attended local schools and her younger brother, who attends Pajaro Valley High, is hopefully his school will finally get the sports facilities it lacks.
Vallejo also cast her ballot for President Barack Obama.
"I feel like he's actually been trying, he's actually been doing something for the Hispanic community," Vallejo said. "... I feel like he's getting soemthing started, so why not let him finish?"
Also on Tuesday's ballot, Pajaro Valley residents in two school district "areas" will select their next Pajaro Valley Unified School District trustees.
- Elsa Nunez is challenging incumbent Karen Osmundson for the Area 3 seat, which represents North Monterey County.
- Former Watsonville Mayor Antonio Rivas is making his first run for school board against newcomer Maria Orozco, a recent Santa Clara University graduate, in the race for Area 6 representative.
Watsonville voters in four of the Watsonville city council districts also will vote for their representatives, though none of the candidates have opponents in their races and are expected to win outright.
Watsonville City Council candidate Lowell Hurst didn't have a challenger, and was appointed in lieu of election. But, he said, he knocked on 700 doors anyway to "battle apathy and indifference."
"I had a lot of fun," Hurst said.
You can read Patch profiles of each candidate here.
Measure Q asks voters to increase by 1 percent the hotel tax, which would raise about $470,000 a year for city services.
Measure R asks city residents to vote on whether those living in mobile homes will pay more into a legal fund reserved for defending rent control for Watsonville's 955 mobile homes. The measure increases the monthly payment from $1 to $5.
Looking for state and national election results? Click here.