Former State Assembly member Hannah-Beth Jackson was elected to represent the 19th District in the California State Senate, beating out State Assembly member Tony Strickland in Tuesday’s general election.
As of 8:15 a.m., Jackson defeat Strickland 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
At the Democratic Party celebration at the Stateside Restaurant and Lounge in Santa Barbara, more than 300 people packed in to watch the election results. Although there was barely room to stand, the mood was excited and celebratory.
“This was intended to be a conservative right-wing seat,” said Jackson.
She said her victory, like that of President-Elect Barack Obama, means change.
“I think there’s a change in the way people see what their future should be,” she said. “That message, that wave of optimism, has found its way into our district.”
Jackson will take over the senate seat from Republican Tom McClintock, whose conservative views demonstrate a “lack of faith in the American people,” Jackson said.
In 2000 and 2004, this district voted decisively for McClintock. This makes the Democratic win especially significant.
Jackson served three terms on the California State Assembly from 1999 to 2005. Her campaign for State Senate focused on conducting sensible health care reform, restoring excellence to schools, protecting the environment, and securing California’s economic future.
Strickland held his own election event in Thousand Oaks, but did not have a presence in Santa Barbara. He could not be reached as of press time.
Strickland, who served three terms in the California State Assembly, focused his campaign on lowering taxes, cutting spending, and ending dependency on foreign oil. He proposed to end dependency in part by finding alternative forms of “green” energy.
This environmental angle upset many eco-groups like the Sierra Club, who questioned Strickland’s voting record on important environmental issues.
At the Earl Warren Showgrounds, site of the Republican gathering in Santa Barbara, Republican voter Scott Wardlaw predicted a Strickland victory before the polls closed.
“Because of the way the district was organized years ago, it’s a safe area for Republicans,” Wardlaw said.
The turnout for the gathering was a mere 50 people. Big screen TVs aired Senator John McCain’s concession speech at 8:20 p.m., and many people left immediately after.
At Stateside, Jackson praised voters and volunteers for their efforts, and supporters were inspired by her victory.
Daraka Larimore-Hall, the chair of the Democratic Party in Santa Barbara and emcee at Stateside, praised Jackson as well.
“She is one of the most capable, pragmatic, progressive candidates that has emerged in this area,” said Larimore-Hall.
Also an assistant professor and graduate student at UCSB, he offered his take on how this result would affect college students.
“To pass a budget in California is difficult. We now only have to flip one Republican to pass a pro-student, pro-labor, pro-environmental budget,” he said. “That’s a lot better than four. There was not a race more important to City College students than that race. It was huge for students,” said Larimore-Hall.
Other supporters felt it was huge for them as well.
“She’s for us,” said Santa Barbara resident Mary Wheeler. “She’s for the future of my grandkids.”