Two hospital boards—including a brand new board representing North County—saw upsets of incumbents by voters on Nov. 8.
A long-time Watsonville doctor, Joe Gallagher, now retired, won a seat on the newly formed Pajaro Valley Health Care District Board by an overwhelming margin. In early results, Gallagher received over 40 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
The district covers Watsonville and the Pajaro area of North Monterey County.
If those results hold, one of the people who helped form the district earlier this year and save Watsonville Community Hospital from closure, Jasmine Najera, will likely lose the seat she was appointed to by the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors. On Tuesday night she had 26 percent of the vote.
In second place to take the second board seat was Marcus Pimentel, who had around 30 percent of the vote on election night.
Both Pimentel and Najera fought to keep the hospital open after the private company that owned it filed for bankruptcy in 2021. That was followed by a herculean and swift effort by California State Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, and a team of other local leaders, residents and others to form a new hospital district. They raised over $60 million to purchase the hospital. It’s now publicly owned and operated by the district.
Gallagher ran as a well-known retired doctor, having worked from 1986 to 2020 at Watsonville Hospital, according to his candidate statement. Pimentel told the Weekly in September that while he hoped he and Najera could keep the seats they were appointed to, all three of them were "good candidates."
In the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System board race, relative newcomer Catherine Carson is the winner over incumbent Richard Turner with 39 percent of the vote to Turner's 28 percent.
Carson ran on her decades of experience as a registered nurse and hospital administrator who worked to improve patient safety at other California hospitals. Turner had no medical background, but contended his financial background was necessary to help steer the business-side of hospital operations.
In Zone 1 of SVMHS, physician Rolando Cabrera won over former wellness coach Greg Fuller, 78 percent to 21 percent. In Zone 5 incumbent Joel Hernandez won over Sonia Cardenas, who only listed herself as a medical clinic supervisor. Hernandez garnered over 57 percent of the vote while Cardenas earned over 42 percent.