Teresa Barrett, a progressive city councilwoman, will become the next mayor of Petaluma, scoring a decisive election victory over challenger Mike Harris, a former councilman.
With ballots in all 22 precincts counted, councilwoman Barrett led the race for mayor with 52 percent of the vote. Harris trailed with 43 percent, while political newcomer Brian Powell had 4 percent.
With more provisional and mail-in ballots still to be counted, it seemed unlikely that Harris would overcome the more than 1,500 vote deficit. Harris lost the 2014 mayoral election to David Glass by 84 votes.
Besides choosing a new mayor for the first time in eight years, Petaluma voters flocked to the polls Tuesday to also select three City Council members in an election that could determine how Sonoma County’s second-largest city develops over the next two years.
In the crowded City Council race, incumbent Dave King led six challengers with 17 percent of the vote. Kevin McDonnell had 17 percent and D’Lynda Fischer had 14 percent. She held a 97-vote lead over Dennis Pocekay. If the results hold, Fischer would cement a progressive stamp on the council and would give the seven-member board three women.
Michael Regan had 13 percent of the vote, Scott Alonso had 13 percent and Robert Conklin had 12 percent.
The mayoral race became a referendum over how Petaluma should develop in the future. The progressive-leaning Barrett favors a measured approach to new construction while Harris, a Republican-turned-independent, is more development-friendly.
They ran to replace retiring Mayor David Glass, who has held the office since 2010.
The race was also marked by an influx of outside spending for the first time. A coalition of big oil companies spent about $62,300, mostly on mailers to support Harris. It may have had the opposite effect, said Harris, an executive for a financial company.
“Unfortunately, we had outside influence, but hey, that’s politics,” he said. “I think we ran a great race. It doesn’t look good right now, but it’s still early. You always like to be ahead.”
King, the council front-runner, held a small gathering at his home Tuesday night as early returns started trickling in. The civil rights attorney said he was “feeling confident” that he would be re-elected, paced by a methodical campaign that forced him to canvass Petaluma neighborhoods until the final day.
“I continued to walk right to the end,” King said. “I got good feedback from the community going door to door. I thought everyone in our race ran strong campaigns but, at this point, just waiting for the rest of the verdict.”
Turnout was high in several polling places across the city, fueled in part by an opportunity to weigh in on national politics, where President Donald Trump and Republicans faced a challenge from Democrats for control of Congress. At a polling place at City Hall, spa consultant Karen Ray cast a ballot for Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat who faced scant opposition.
“Mainly, I want to get the president out of office,” she said. “I wanted to send a message of Democrat support.”
At Casa Grande High School, with two separate precincts sharing the multi-purpose room, volunteer Elizabeth Sheehan said they experienced a “huge rush” of voters swarming the building around 6:30 a.m. – 30 minutes before the polls were even open.