Bruce McPherson's early 23 percent lead in the race for the Fifth District seat on the Santa Cruz County Board Of Supervisors dwindled to 11 percent by 1 a.m. on Wednesday, meaning he and Eric Hammer will head to a November runoff.
The first block of absentee ballot results gave McPherson a 54- to 31-percent lead over his strongest challenger, Eric Hammer, and he needed to remain above 50 percent to win the position without a runoff in November. The final results gave McPherson 49.48 percent of the vote to Hammer’s 38.11 percent.
The Fifth District supervisor seat encompasses Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley. Hammer and McPherson, along with Bill Smallman, who finished with 6.23 percent of the vote, are vying for the seat left vacant by Mark Stone who is running for State Assembly.
A Hammer supporter who asked to remain anonymous said that Hammer, a lifelong San Lorenzo Valley resident, “is the right person for the job.”
“McPherson is going to come in and represent the wealthy in Scotts Valley,” he said. “It's a retirement position for [Bruce]. Eric is a fourth-generation San Lorenzo Valley resident and he is just a really genuine guy who really cares.”
McPherson lives in the Pasatiempo area and has strong support in Scotts Valley, but says his focus as supervisor would be on issues of importance to the deeper parts of the valley where his decisions as supervisor would have more of an impact.
“The needs are the greatest in the San Lorenzo Valley, from Felton on up,” McPherson said. “The roads system, the public safety and the sheriff's office, I think that's where the need is.”
In the November runoff, both candidates will have the option to place a party affiliation on the ballot. Having the “Democrat” title next to his name could be a plus to Hammer given that there are three times as many Democrats than Republicans registered to vote in the county.
The county's permitting process for businesses was a hot topic in all three supervisor races, and it was the focus of supporters at both Hammer and McPherson’s election night parties in Felton.
"[The county] really needs to take the gray area out of rules in the process,” said Dave Hunt, a fifth-generation Santa Cruz County resident and McPherson supporter. “You and your neighbor can present identical plans to the planning commission and get two different answers depending on who looks it over. I think they do that just to stifle business.”
Hammer, a contractor by trade, said most of these issues are a problem of perception and that he will work to get the word out to property and business owners as well as builders whether he is on the board or working through committees which make recommendations to the supervisors.
He stayed in good spirits through the night dancing with his family at Don Quixote's just down the street from McPherson's gathering at the Cowboy Bar and Grill, while waiting on more vote totals to come in.
“I will be supervisor here one day. I will,” Hammer said. “[If Bruce wins], I will begin revamping my campaign for the next four years and come back even stronger.”