Measure C faces a 632-vote deficit with about 97 percent of the votes counted, leaving it in need of a huge—and perhaps improbable—comeback if it is to pass.
The county’s Wednesday election update showed the watershed and oak protection initiative had 17,471 “no” votes and 16,839 “yes” votes. All that remains now is for the Election Division to release a final, certified count, perhaps during the last week of June.
Registrar of Voters John Tuteur said this final count will include about 200 ballots from voters who registered 14 days prior to the election or on Election Day and 750 to 1,000 ballots that were damaged and had to be duplicated.
That means Measure C to win must eliminate that 632-vote deficit with only about 1,000 to 1,200 ballots in play. No tally is official until the election is certified. The slender difference between 50.92 percent for “no” and 49.08 percent for “yes” shows how tight the race has been.
For both Measure C proponents and opponents, Wednesday had the air of Election Day all over again. The original June 5 returns and three subsequent updates failed to settle the race. Wednesday’s update was crucial.
A spokesperson for Measure C opponents on Wednesday evening stopped short of declaring the measure defeated.
“We’re going to wait until the election is finally certified, but we’re very pleased with the lead that we have right now,” said Ryan Klobas of the Napa County Farm Bureau.
The Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Winegrowers of Napa County opposed Measure C.
Measure C co-author Mike Hackett said it’s unlikely Measure C will prevail. He’s proud of the campaign, sad that Napa Valley lost a chance to show how various parties can work together when Napa Valley Vintners reversed its position on Measure C and angry that the “Trump-like strategy of twisting the facts” appears to have come to Napa Valley.
“This movement will not be diminished,” Hackett said. “It will go forward.”
In what form remains to be seen, he added.
Local residents Hackett and Jim Wilson co-authored Measure C. They met at a 2015 county growth forum, launched a signature-gathering drive for an earlier 2016 version of Measure C that the county disqualified on a technicality, then launched another effort to qualify Measure C for the June 5 ballot.
Wilson on Tuesday mentioned the bittersweet nature in recent days of taking down the “Yes on Measure C” signs, with their depictions of forests and water, while the outcome remained in doubt.
Measure C became part of a bigger debate over whether Napa County’s winery and tourism success threatens to overshadow both farming and the environment. It focused on the agricultural-watershed zoning district that includes the mountains that frame Napa Valley.
Among other things, Measure C would set a 795-acre limit on cutting down oak woodlands. After the limit is reached, property owners in most cases would need a county permit to cut down oaks. New vineyards are not listed among the uses eligible for a permit. The measure would also strengthen stream development buffers.
Proponents said Measure C would protect watersheds that feed local reservoirs serving Napa, Calistoga, St. Helena and Yountville. The opposition said Measure C is anti-agriculture and that the county already has strict conservation laws.