WATSONVILLE—Felipe Hernandez and Ari Parker have established large leads on their respective competitors and will likely capture key political seats in South County, updated results released Wednesday by the Santa Cruz County Elections Department show.
Hernandez, a former Watsonville mayor and current member of the Cabrillo College governing board, had a 1,341-vote advantage over Jimmy Dutra in the race for the 4th District seat on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.
Meanwhile, Parker, the current Mayor of Watsonville, has continued to build her lead Nancy Bilicich in her bid to retain her seat on the Watsonville City Council as the District 7 representative. She led Bilicich by 139 votes as of Wednesday’s count, which did not include more than 5,000 vote-by-mail ballots, 1,275 same-day registration ballots and 90 provisional ballots, according to the Elections Department.
4th District Supervisor
Hernandez served as a Watsonville city 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.
In a statement sent to the Pajaronian on Nov. 10, Hernandez said he was “proud of the support I’ve received from the voters.”
“We built the strongest coalition with the broadest range of political support, kept a positive campaign, and spoke about the issues the voters cared about the most,” he said. “We definitely worked hard coming in as the underdog from the primary in the campaign. We still have votes to count, but we feel good about a solid victory, because of the response we got talking and connecting door-to-door to the voters.”
Hernandez says that it’s important to note that he will not only be the first Latino to serve on the board since Campos, but he will also be the first progressive Latino in the county’s history to be elected supervisor.
Hernandez, who while serving as Watsonville’s mayor in 2016 introduced then-presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders during his visit to Santa Cruz, says that his voting record from his eight years city council—during which time he voted to approve affordable housing projects, investment in public programs and transportation and support for unionization—shows that he carries the progressive values that have resonated with younger generations of voters.
“For me, that’s what it’s about—I’ve always shown my true colors,” Hernandez said. “But I’m also pragmatic.”
As the son of a former cannery worker and a farmworker, Hernandez says his victory serves as an important moment for him, his family and the people in South County—the majority of which are of Latinx descent—who might see themselves in him.
“People know my history,” Hernandez said. “Of course it matters. It’s important in so many ways.”
Dutra did not respond to request for comment.
Parker’s likely victory will keep her in office through 2026. She was first elected to the city council in 2018, the same year Bilicich termed out of office and ran unsuccessfully for 4th District Santa Cruz County Supervisor.
Parker is a teacher at Bradley Elementary School. Bilicich serves as the director of Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult Education.
The District 7 seat was the lone Watsonville City Council seat of four up for grabs that saw more than one candidate step forward. Casey Clark (District 5), Maria Orozco (District 3) and Kristal Salcido (District 4) all ran unopposed and will assume office next month.