UPDATE: 33 votes separate Williams, Alvarado in second place race for supervisor

Mike Wasserman

Thirty-three votes – that’s all that separates Forrest Williams
(11,439 votes) from Teresa Alvarado (11,406 votes) in the race to
take on Mike Wasserman in November for the District 1 Santa Clara
County supervisor seat.
Wasserman took a commanding lead early in Tuesday’s primary
election and secured the top position with 25,218 votes – 42.5
percent of the vote.
Thirty-three votes – that’s all that separates Forrest Williams (11,439 votes) from Teresa Alvarado (11,406 votes) in the race to take on Mike Wasserman in November for the District 1 Santa Clara County supervisor seat.

Wasserman took a commanding lead early in Tuesday’s primary election and secured the top position with 25,218 votes – 42.5 percent of the vote.

The latest update at 2:31 p.m. Friday includes 99 percent of vote-by-mail ballots, according to the county Registrar of Voters; about 10,000 ballots remain to be counted and the bulk of those are provisional. Elma Rosas, a Registrar of Voters spokeswoman said about 7,000 of those will likely be validated. The deadline to count provisional ballots is not until early July.

It’s unclear if either Alvarado or Williams will seek a recount once the election is completed and all ballots have been counted. All costs for a recount must be paid by the person seeking the redo. However, if the results are contrary to the original count – that money will be reimbursed. It’s estimated a recount could cost up to $10,000.

At final count of vote-by-mail ballots, fourth-place winery owner Tom Kruse won 11 percent or 6,562 votes. Gilroy city councilman Peter Arellano won 7.97 percent of 4,732 votes.

District 1, which has a population of more than 330,000 and encompasses about 800,000 acres – or 70 percent of the county – is the largest geographical district. It includes Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Martin, Los Gatos, Almaden Valley, Santa Teresa and Blossom Valley, as well as the Mt. Hamilton Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Just 24.8 percent of District 1’s eligible voters participated in Tuesday’s election – a far cry from general elections counts, which have surpassed 60 percent.

Current District 1 Supervisor Don Gage’s term expires this year and he has said he will consider running for the Santa Clara Valley Water District board of supervisors – a government agency that is a water wholesaler and is the steward for flood protection and reservoirs.

“They all did a good job. They held as much as they could to a clean campaign,” said Gage, who endorsed Wasserman. “It will be interesting to watch the runoff.”

Wasserman hosted an election party Tuesday night at his home in Los Gatos to celebrate his victory.

“The reaction from me is very, very positive and excited for all of the voters out there for their tremendous showing and their support at the polls and in the mail. That’s very, very gratifying and very encouraging toward my bid to become supervisor for District 1,” Wasserman said at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday by phone.

The discrepancy between Williams and Alvarado is just 418 votes, although an update on vote-by-mail ballots won’t be available until this afternoon, according to the registrar.

That doesn’t shake Williams.

“I’m confident that the numbers are solid,” he said Thursday.

Alvarado left for vacation and was unavailable for comment after Tuesday, but her campaign did send out an e-mail that stated, “While there are still many ballots to be counted, I wanted to express my thanks to my supporters and voters.” Alvarado went onto say she will update her supporters “as they learn more about Tuesday’s results.”

At 11 p.m. Tuesday at her election party with several hundred supporters at the Summit Steakhouse and Saloon at the Holiday Inn in south San Jose, Alvarado said she felt good about her outreach in the county and added that she and her team spent a lot of time in South County.

“I’m really hopeful. We generated a lot of momentum throughout the district. I’m very hopeful that was translated to voters,” she said.

Arellano’s campaign adviser, Ross Gomez, said the Gilroy councilmember in no way thought Arellano was a spoiler in the Alvarado run, splitting the Hispanic vote.

Arellano’s value came from his experience as a medical doctor coupled with his public service – a good combination, he thought, to deal with a county budget that is nearly half invested in public health.

“It was an exciting journey,” Gomez said. “Peter wishes his best to all candidates. We tried our best and we never got into the politics as usual.”

The grass-roots campaign focused on going door-to-door, and their expenditure on the campaign was modest compared to the top three candidates, he said.

Kruse owns and operates a winery in Gilroy.

In most precincts in Gilroy, an overwhelming portion of those who voted Tuesday either already mailed their ballots to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters in the weeks leading up to the primary election or stopped by to drop them off on election day.

According to the registrar, there are 765,680 registered voters in the county. In Tuesday’s primary, 314,926 people – or 41.1 percent – voted.

In previous primary elections, the final precinct count by the registrar was done about 11 p.m. But because the variety of ballots and the number of races, this primary moved a bit slower, Elma Rosas with the Registrar of Voters said. Many of the ballots – especially from South County and other outlying areas – did not arrive at the registrar until 10 p.m. or later. In November, the registrar uses a single ballot that contains fewer races, which reduces the time spent counting votes, Rosas said.

The breakdown of how South County residents voted won’t be available for at least a few days, if not a week, she said.

Those who did show up to the polls in Gilroy tended to come out of obligation rather than for a particular passion.

“I just vote all the time,” said Ernie Bellezza, who dropped off a mail-in ballot at the Masonic Temple.

M.A. Bowe, who showed up at the Gilroy High School polls, said she looked into the various candidates, but she still stressed that it was only a primary election.

“It’s just a step, and you’ve got to do it,” she said.

Most poll workers throughout the morning sat along long tables, casually chatting with each other while looking at empty voting booths.

“It becomes a long boring day after awhile,” said Frank Valencia, an election officer at the Masonic Temple.

Wasserman, 52, lives in Los Gatos and most recently served as a Los Gatos city councilman and rotating mayor. His first priority if he is elected District 1 supervisor is to curtail the county’s spending.

“I’m a big believer in prioritizing needs,” Wasserman said. “No entity can do everything for everyone.”

Williams, 73, is a computer science engineer from San Jose who said he would not cut a single job in public safety. His strategy for balancing the county’s $200 million deficit is to examine Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, which has a $2 billion budget – nearly half of the county’s budget and a place Williams said could survive on much less.

He spent eight years as a San Jose council member, eight years on the San Jose planning commission and 12 years as an Oak Grove school board member.

Alvarado, 45, was the only candidate who has not held public office. Rather, her life’s work has been about green technology and innovation, and she has said she will be a champion for a renewed economy.

“While the county is not directly responsible for generating a lot of jobs, we realize that when people don’t have a job they rely on the county,” Alvarado said, noting a recent rise in domestic violence and homelessness. Prevention is the “underpinning of a healthy community,” she said.

Look for an update online and in Tuesday’s edition of the Gilroy Dispatch.

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