Calistoga City Council challenger Don Williams is leading incumbents Gary Kraus and Jim Barnes, who are tied for second place in the race for two council seats, according to preliminary election returns.
As of early results posted at 8:01 p.m. Tuesday, Williams has 482 votes (45 percent), Kraus and Barnes each have 289 votes (27 percent). The next count will be posted Friday, Nov. 9 at 4:30 p.m.
Incumbent Mayor Chris Canning is running unopposed, with 539 votes, or 100 percent.
About 45 percent of the ballots have been counted. More results will be posted on Friday, and again on Nov. 13 and 14. By then more than 95 percent of the ballots will have been counted. Then the Calistoga ballots will be manually hand-counted.
Registrar of Voters John Tuteur said this is the first time he’s seen a tie vote in a City Council race during his 21-year tenure. He said the outcome of the race won’t be certain until he certifies the election the week of Nov. 26. In the meantime, the lead could jump back and forth between Kraus and Barnes.
While the Kraus and Barnes campaigns emphasized city government experience, Williams’ campaign called for new leadership, more restrained development, and more equitable water rates.
The election essentially polarized the city, with those who advocated halting commercial development to maintain Calistoga’s small-town character versus those who maintained slow but steady growth is the path to keeping the town fiscally healthy.
“Numbers look promising at this moment. If they hold up, the results will speak strongly to Calistogans’ desire to respect its small-town tradition with more than vague assurances,” Williams said in an email. “It appears residents are rejecting the diminution of the small-town sensibility. Economic growth has become the supreme goal of too many governments. This election is an opportunity to appreciate business and budgets but also move beyond them to embrace a simple, unpretentious, low-profile lifestyle.
“In this campaign I enjoyed remarkable community support from concerned Calistogans whose names aren’t normally in the newspapers. They volunteered in huge numbers on behalf of me and the ideas I articulated. I am grateful for their tremendous efforts.
“Finally, we do indeed appreciate and thank the incumbents for their work at city hall these last years. It was significant.”
Kraus wished fellow Council Member Barnes good luck. “Looks good for Don Williams. Jim Barnes and I as you can see, could not be closer. The next update should see one or the other of us pull ahead, but it will probably not be until all the votes are counted that there will be a clear winner,” he said.
Barnes declined to comment until all the ballots are counted.
Mayor Canning said he was pleased that Measure D, which would raise Calistoga’s hotel taxes by 1 percent to raise money for affordable housing, has 530 votes in favor (76 percent) and 166 votes against (24 percent).
Voter turnout was brisk at the Calistoga Community Center on Nov. 6.
People prefer the physical experience of voting in person and prefer paper ballots over digital, said Vote Lead Official Lori Townsend. “It’s a lack of trust, unfortunately.”
Overall, in Napa and nationwide, voter turnout was way up, said Voting Center Official Karen Chilson.
Voters had a lot of passion this year, and were placing their ballots in the box along with prayers, she said.
“I don’t think people have had such strong opinions in a long time,” she said.