By Mike Allen
Photos: Samm Hurst and Dustin Trotter
December 8, 2020 (Santee) -- With only five votes separating winner Dustin Trotter and Samm Hurst in Santee’s City Council District 4 race, a recount of the nearly 8,000 votes cast has been requested.
The San Diego Democratic Party has requested the recount in a letter sent to Registrar of Voters Michael Vu yesterday, one day before the deadline. Hurst, a UCSD professor, is a registered Democrat.
Will Rodriguez Kennedy, party chair, signed the letter which states that given the closeness of the vote, “I believe a thorough recount could affect the outcome.”
He said the process should involve not only the nearly 8,000 ballots cast, but the ballots that were not counted, including unopened and rejected mail-in ballots, as well as provisional ballots.
Neither Hurst nor Trotter, a local contractor, could be reached for comment, but Santee Mayor John Minto said the process involves reviewing every ballot, as well as those that were not counted.
Minto was involved in a recount in his first election in 2002 after incumbent Councilwoman Lori Howard lost by nine votes. In the recount, Minto picked up two votes, and won by a total of 11, he said.
Recounts are usually not favorable to the losing candidate, Minto said.
Minto said the recount request was made by the Democratic Party because of the hefty expense. “The reason why Samm Hurst didn’t ask for the recount is because the cost will be in the range of $50,000 to $60,000,” he told ECM. The Registrar of Voters, however, said cost of the recount had not yet been determined as of this morning.
The Democratic party has set up collection page for donations to fund the recount .
The final certified tally for District 4 as of Dec. 1 was Trotter, 3,920 votes and Hurst, 3,915 votes, making it one of the closest in the county. The closest? A Warner Springs Scool Board race ended in a tie, which under state law must be decided by random draw or a game of chance, such as a coin toss. In another close race, the County Board of Supervisors District 2 contest, Joel Anderson beat Steve Vaus by 282 votes.
Hurst, a political novice who only recently moved to the new Weston development, made an impressive showing in the election. She ran on a platform of responsible growth and opposition to the controversial Fanita Ranch housing development.
Trotter, a pro-growth building contractor, was conducting his second campaign for Santee City Council. He had significant financial backing and endorsements from real estate and other political groups. He drew controversy as a self-proclaimed co-founder of Defend East County, a group taken down by Facebook after some racist and violent posts, though it was ostensibly formed with a mission of protecting businesses during civil unrest.
Citizens, meanwhile, passed a ballot measure to require a vote of the people for future large developments and also turned in a petition with enough signatures to give the people a vote on Fanita Ranch, which the Council approved just days before the November election. So residents will cast the ultimate vote on the project, whether or not Hurst can pull off an upset victory in the recount.
“I never thought the race would be that close,” Minto said. “Generally someone who moves into the district within six months of an election, and doesn’t understand the intricacies of the city, usually doesn’t fare well.” (Update: Hurst disputes Minto's statement. She says, "I was raised in East County until my early 20's. I bought my home in Spring 2019 ... not 6 months prior to the election.")
All three of Santee’s winning candidates including Trotter are being sworn in Dec. 8 at Santee City Hall, and will be videotaped, and shown at the City Council meeting the following night.
Minto said if it turns out Trotter loses, then he’ll have a really nice souvenir.