Santa Cruz County voters reliably support Democratic candidates for public office and last week’s election was no exception, but the political preferences of local voters aren’t evenly distributed across the county.
That’s the upshot of unofficial precinct-level voting results for the 2020 general election, published on Monday afternoon by the Santa Cruz County Elections Office when there was just one ballot still outstanding.
The results showed a familiar trend: Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden was most popular in Nogales-area precincts and also beat incumbent President Donald Trump handily in communities along the Interstate 19 corridor and in Patagonia. But Trump voters outnumbered Biden backers in two precincts in Sonoita and Elgin, communities in the rural eastern part of the county.
The numbers also shed light on the District 3 Supervisor race, where incumbent Bruce Bracker bested challengers Donna Federici and Justin Luna in a bid to keep his seat, but Federici beat Bracker in some eastern county precincts.
There are 24 voting precincts in Santa Cruz County, ranging in size from fewer than 100 voters to more than 2,000. The “vote center” system implemented in 2016 means voters don’t need to cast their ballots in their own precinct, but the precinct vote tallies still show how the residents of different geographic areas voted.
The results for the presidential race show that Nogales remains the deepest-blue area in Santa Cruz County. In many Nogales-area precincts, Joe Biden earned more than three-quarters of all votes.
Biden counted 79 percent of votes in Nogales 2, covering the west side of the city; 79 percent in Nogales 20, which includes Western Avenue west of Grand Avenue; and 78 percent in Nogales 8, which covers the Monte Carlo neighborhood.
Trump had the upper hand in Sonoita 15, covering the State Route 82 and State Route 83 crossroads and surrounding areas, where the president earned 63 percent of the vote; and Elgin 6, in the county’s northeastern corner, where he earned 60 percent.
Precincts in Rio Rico, Tubac and Patagonia also voted decisively for Biden, though the Democratic candidate didn’t enjoy quite as large margins as in Nogales.
In Baca 19, which includes a swath of Rio Rico north of Ruby Road and east of Interstate 19, Biden picked up 70 percent of votes to Trump’s 29 percent. In Tubac 11, Biden earned 62 percent and Trump 37 percent. Patagonia voted almost exactly 2-to-1 for Biden, giving him 66 percent to Trump’s 33 percent.
In the race for District 3 supervisor, Bracker took home majorities in the largest precincts within that district. In Baca 19, he took 62 percent of the more than 1,700 votes. In Rio Rico 7, with more than 2,600 votes, Bracker earned 51 percent, with Federici and Luna roughly splitting the other half.
Federici made her mark in the eastern county areas where she promised to provide more attention to residents who felt they weren’t being well-served by the county government.
In Elgin 6, Federici earned 61 percent of votes; In Patagonia 14, she took 53 percent; and in Sonoita she earned 67 percent of the vote. But the total number of votes for District 3 Supervisor in those three precincts totaled 2,029, about a quarter of the 8,098 ballots cast in the race.
In the end, Bracker won with 49 percent overall – less than half of all ballots, but still a comfortable margin over his challengers who came in at 32 percent (Federici) and 18 percent (Luna).
A slight right shift
Santa Cruz County has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats presidential candidates in recent years, but local voters showed more support for President Trump this year than they did four years ago, during his first run for office.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton garnered 71 percent of the vote in Santa Cruz County and Trump took home just 24 percent. That meant a stronger showing for Democrats than in 2012, when then-President Barack Obama earned 68 percent of county votes to Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s 30 percent.
By 2020, Trump had scraped back the few percentage points his party had conceded in 2016. The president earned votes on 32 percent of Santa Cruz County ballots, with Biden earning 67 percent of local votes.
A few Nogales- and Rio Rico-area precincts exemplified that shift.
In Coronado 5, where more than 900 voters cast ballots this year in an area that include the Meadow Hills neighborhood, 76 percent of votes went to Biden, with 24 percent to Trump. That meant the president gained ground from his showing in 2016, when Hillary Clinton earned 79 percent of votes in the precinct, to just 16 percent for Trump. In 2012, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in Coronado 5 with 68 percent of votes to Romney’s 31 percent.
A similar dynamic appeared in Rio Rico 7, the county’s largest district, with more than 2,700 voters participating in this year’s general election. In 2012, Barack Obama earned 58 percent of votes in Rio Rico 7 to Romney’s 40 percent. Clinton beat Trump in 2016 by a wider margin: 61 percent to 33 percent. This year, the president earned 38 percent of the vote, to 61 percent for Biden.
Other major precincts, however, showed different trends in recent years.
In the conservative strongholds of Elgin and Sonoita, support for Republican candidates remained relatively stable. Voters in those precincts gave roughly 60 percent of their votes to Republican presidential candidates in 2012, 2016 and 2020. This year, more than 800 voters cast ballots in Sonoita and nearly 600 voted in Elgin.
Tubac 11, where more than 1,600 voters cast ballots this year, has shifted towards Democratic candidates in both presidential elections since 2012, when Obama beat Romney with 54 percent to 45 percent. In 2016, Clinton earned 56 percent to Trump’s 39 percent and in 2020, Biden bested the incumbent with 62 percent to Trump’s 37 percent.
And in Patagonia 14, a solidly Democratic precinct that’s a buffer of sorts between the deeper blue Nogales and the reliably red eastern county, the breakdown has stayed consistent over the course of the past three elections. Voters gave the Democratic candidate a winning margin of 30 percentage points in 2012, 28 percentage points in 2016 and 33 percentage points in 2020, with Biden earning 66 percent of votes in Patagonia 14 and Trump 33 percent this year.