As Santa Clara County's vote counts for the Nov. 8 midterm election continue to trickle in, one contest finally has a winner: the District 7 seat of the Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors. Gary Kremen, who held a position for eight years, has conceded to Palo Alto attorney Rebecca Eisenberg.
Kremen remained behind Eisenberg by nearly 10 percentage points as of 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, according to the county Registrar of Voters. Eisenberg continued to maintain her lead with 54.9% of the vote to Kremen's 45.2% in a big-money race in which he had four times the funding as Eisenberg, according to candidate financial statements.
As of Wednesday, the county had tallied 91% of ballots, according to the Registrar of Voters office, and Kremen conceded he had lost the race.
"I respect the will of the voters and wish the winner well," he said in a statement to this news organization.
Eisenberg, who had not yet heard from Kremen, said, "This was a decisive victory, and I am profoundly humbled, proud and grateful."
Eisenberg in a statement thanked multiple people, including her mentor and role model retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell, Water District Board Director Barbara Keegan, former director Brian Schmidt and her "incredible, brilliant" husband, Curtis Smolar, who was her campaign manager.
He "held my hand when I was ready to give up (a few times) and was there with me both as I grieved the cruel and unfair words said by a few local electeds and celebrated with me every hard-won success," she said. "And I am very, very honored for this opportunity to serve the community which I take entirely wholly seriously."
The water district, which has an $838 million budget overseen by a seven-member board, supplies water and provides flood protection and stewardship of streams throughout the county. While Palo Alto is served by Valley Water, it does not get its water supply from the district but rather the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
Eisenberg said there is much consequential work to be done — and urgently — on behalf of current and future generations. She is excited to get Generation Z more involved in governance regarding the existential issues of water supply, drought and climate change, which "impact them more than anyone else."
Eisenberg said she would seek government grants from the Inflation Reduction Act to support the district's need to catch up with water recycling, recapture and reuse. She is also looking forward to working on settling the Pacheco Dam lawsuit and other legal actions against the district alleging environmental harm and tribal land destruction.
"I want people to know that they can reach out to me. And those that backed the wrong horse, I am willing to forgive them even without any apologies. We have so much to do and we must put petty personal grudges behind us to get it done. We have literally no time to waste. We only can succeed if we work together," she said.
Kremen at one point amassed a $272,814 war chest that was more than 10 times that of Eisenberg's, funded largely by a $101,000 loan he made to his campaign and $162,440 that was rolled over from his campaign for county assessor, which was aborted earlier this year.
Eisenberg reduced Kremen's lead from 10 times to four times her campaign's, largely with funding from individual donors and her own loans. Through Oct. 22, she raised more than 1.5 times the amount as Kremen from individual donors — $41,889 to his $26,317, Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) filings show.
Both candidates focused their campaigns on promises of building a sustainable future for the water district, which has faced the need to rebuild an aging infrastructure, dwindling water supplies during the current drought and concerns about a growing population thirsting for more water amid climate change.