WATSONVILLE—Felipe Hernandez has taken an early lead on Jimmy Dutra in the race for the 4th District Santa Cruz County Supervisor seat, according to initial results reported by the County Elections Department.
Hernandez, the former mayor of Watsonville and current member of the Cabrillo College Governing Board, had secured 54.55% of the 3,482 votes that had been counted by Wednesday morning.
The early results are an inverse of the June 7 primary, when Dutra, a current Watsonville city councilman, took an early lead on Hernandez and nearly won the seat outright in a three-candidate race.
But much has changed since then, and Dutra’s campaign suffered a significant blow on Oct. 5 when a man filed a sexual assault lawsuit against Dutra, claiming that the candidate molested him when he was 12.
Dutra has denied the allegations, calling them “baseless.”
Hernandez, 51, served as a councilman between 2012-2020. He ran unsuccessfully for the 4th District Supervisor seat in 2018, taking third in the primary that year.
If he hangs on, Hernandez would be the first Latino to serve on the board of supervisors since Tony Campos was ousted in 2010 by current outgoing Supervisor Greg Caput, who elected not to run for a fourth term earlier this year and endorsed Hernandez for the seat.
Importantly, Hernandez said at this party on Tuesday night at Jalisco Restaurant, he would be the first progressive Latino candidate to serve on the board.
“I’m proud of that,” said Hernandez, who while serving as Watsonville’s mayor in 2016 introduced then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during his visit to Santa Cruz.
Although he was unwilling to claim victory on Tuesday night, Hernandez did say that—win or lose—he was proud of his campaign because of the wide net of support he generated. He received endorsements from across the political spectrum, getting the nod from more conservative figures such as Caput and left-leaning individuals such as Justin Cummings, the Santa Cruz City Councilman running for 3rd District County Supervisor.
“It was really about building bridges,” he said. “That wasn’t just something that I put on my website or social media. I really meant that.”
Dutra, 47, earned his second term on the city council in 2020. He served as mayor last year. His first term on the city council was from 2014 to 2018. He stepped away from politics after running unsuccessfully for the 4th District Supervisor seat in 2018—he placed a distant second behind Caput.