While San Ramon voters may have overall cast their ballots in favor of continuity -- re-electing both incumbents to two of the three available seats -- local history has been made as Sabina Zafar will become the first woman of color elected to serve on the City Council.
Newcomer Zafar, who was born in Pakistan, will be joined on the council by the San Ramon’s longest serving elected official, Dave Hudson, who finished first on Election Night. Mayor Bill Clarkson also won his fourth consecutive term as the city’s top elected official.
With 100% of the precincts reporting as of early Wednesday morning, Hudson led the way with 37.03% of the vote, followed by Zafar, former member of the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee and 2016 council candidate, who earned the second available seat with 26.87% of votes.
The pair defeated San Ramon parks commissioner Sridhar Verose, who was in the third spot with 18.53%, and Aparna Madireddi, a small business and community volunteer, who rounded out the ballot with 17.57% of Election Night results.
There are still ballots left to count, namely provisionals and final-day vote-by-mail, but the Election Night results represent the bulk of ballots cast, the margins are too significant for the challengers to overcome.
Zafar will essentially be taking the seat of departing Councilman Harry Sachs, who decided to not run for re-election.
“We've ran a great campaign, it feels amazing but it comes with a great responsibility to the city. Right now I am just enjoying the moment,” Zafar said after winning. “Running a grassroots campaign and having so many people come together along the way has been so rewarding.”
While campaigning Zafar stated her key priorities would be, the promotion of local business, reducing traffic congestion through upgrades to existing infrastructure, and perhaps her most vocal objective, open space preservation.
Zafar also took time to mention the impact her election means in terms of representation for the San Ramon community.
“Defying so many barriers and breaking so many barriers being on council is rewarding,” Zafar said. “We haven't had a woman on council for eight years in San Ramon, we haven't ever had a woman of color, or of southeast Asian background.”
Zafar also is the first person of color to serve on the council since former mayor H. Abram Wilson’s final year at the position in 2011, City Clerk Renee Beck confirmed to DanvilleSanRamon.com.
And she was one of five American Muslims to win local elected office across the Bay Area this week, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Zafar’s ascension to the council would seem to reflect the changing demographics seen in San Ramon, specifically representing its large Asian American population, which as of 2017 comprises 42% of the city’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“She has worked extremely hard... I mean I think she started to work right after the last election. I'm happy for her,” Hudson said of his new colleague, adding that one of his priorities will be mentoring her for success. “There’s a learning curve and we want to step back and make sure that everyone is on the same page and treated equally. and that they have the opportunity to get the information (they need).”
When asked about his feelings about his own victory, Hudson said it still hasn't sunk in yet.
“I think I've been doing it for too long,” he laughed. “You just do what your supposed to do and they count the votes. We still have a lot more work to do and this was one of the things that you have to do to keep going.”
A well-known name to San Ramon residents, Hudson has served in the position for 21 years, including tenures as its mayor and vice mayor.
While campaigning Hudson maintained that under his stewardship the city continues to move in a positive direction. Further stating he will continue the city’s positive trend by maintaining his priorities of public safety, fiscal responsibility and government transparency.
After Election Night, Hudson took some time to praise Mayor Clarkson and the difficult job he continues to succeed in.
“I don't think people are up for having someone you don't know anything about run City Council meetings,” Hudson said, referring to Clarkson’s opponent, Sanat Sethy. “It’s not as easy as it looks trust me. (The job) takes a little more than just hoping and wanting to do good, you need a little more experience before you jump into battle.”
Clarkson dominated the polls in his quest for a fourth and final term as mayor, achieving a large lead early on that he did not relinquish. Clarkson maintained 75.97% of the vote, while political newcomer and engineer Sethy, trailed at a distant second holding 24.03% of election night results.
“The initial results does seem to give us a pretty good sense that it is going in our direction, and I think it really is a validation from residents that the city is going in the right direction,” Clarkson said after preliminary results placed him far ahead of his opponent. “I will not forget all of the encouragement and support I received from all of my supporters and I will always appreciate that for all of my life.”
The unofficial election results include early vote-by-mail tallies and totals reported by the precincts on Election Night. The election figures will likely change in the coming days as final vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots and other qualifying ballots are processed, according to the California Secretary of State.