Letter to the Editor: Reflections on When an Opponent Won’t Concede


Doreen Farr

During the third and final Presidential debate, like many Americans I was shocked when Republican nominee, Donald Trump, stated he may not accept the outcome of the Nov. 8 election and then added later that the Presidential election might be “rigged” if his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won. This idea of rigged elections is part of a larger false narrative currently being publicly touted by Republican Party leaders even though voter fraud in our country is nearly non-existent. At the same time they are trying to actively suppress the vote of certain minority and student voters in various parts of our nation because they feel those voters will not be supporting Trump.

These issues of voter fraud, voter suppression and a losing candidate not conceding an election strike very close to home for me. In 2008, I was very proud to be elected to my first term on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. I defeated my opponent, Steve Pappas, by 806 votes. It was a close, but clear, victory for me. However, Pappas did not accept the results nor has he ever conceded. In fact, after the 2008 election, he and his campaign manager, a woman named Terry Baxter, demanded a costly recount. However, they didn’t ask for a full recount, only of the votes cast in the Isla Vista and UCSB precincts. The recount only changed one vote. Not satisfied, they then sued me, alleging widespread voter registration and election fraud had occurred in Isla Vista. They also sued the University, demanding student enrollment records including names, addresses and citizenship status of all students. Pappas and Baxter based their actions solely on their own perception that Pappas should have received more votes from those precincts than he actually did.

I had to hire a team of lawyers to defend my election and to defend the validity of the 9,700 student votes cast in it. This was a costly attempt by Pappas and Baxter to intimidate me, steal an election and disenfranchise thousands of students who had legally cast a ballot. The case dragged out for more than four years. Although we overwhelmingly prevailed every step of the way, I had to fight it all the way to the United States Supreme Court to protect those student votes. One local newspaper called the case “a legal farce” and the Superior Court judge who first heard the case and ruled in our favor said it was “tantamount to a misleading of the court.”

Now one of the things I find to be most alarming in this November 2016 election cycle is that Baxter is back. Bruce Porter, a candidate for Third District Supervisor running to replace me, hired Baxter over the summer to manage his Isla Vista campaign. It is unclear whether he knew of her history in trying repeatedly over a number of years to toss out all 9,700 student votes in the 2008 election.

Current students have a right to know this history. On the eve of my retirement after eight years of service to this student community representing your interests on the Board of Supervisors, one of the things I am most proud of is that I fought back against bullies who tried to steal your votes. Don’t let it happen again in 2016. Study the issues and the candidates and make it a priority to get out and vote before or on Nov. 8. Your future and that of your community and your country depend on it.

Doreen Farr is the incumbent 3rd District County Supervisor. Farr has served as supervisor since 2008, and her term will end in December 2016.