Record numbers of voters nationwide cast their ballots this year, all either hungering for change or hoping for status quo in what is possibly one of the most polarizing political climates in U.S. history.

Locally, those numbers likely were a catalyst in driving thousands of voters to the polls and causing surprising upsets on Santa Cruz County ballots.

Maybe the most surprising of them all: longtime Santa Cruz County 1st District Supervisor John Leopold being ousted by challenger and political newcomer Manu Koenig.

Leopold has been a county supervisor since 2008. He says he was disappointed by the loss, in which Manu Koenig garnered more than 56% of 33,537 votes.

“I worked very hard throughout my campaign, and I am very proud of my work as a member of the Board of Supervisors,” he said. 

Leopold said he had already called Koenig to congratulate him.

“I let him know that the voters spoke clearly, and I want to assist him with the transition to meet the needs of the residents of the first district,” Leopold said.

He said his loss during 2020’s “change election” likely came from voters looking to remold both local and national politics.

Leopold added that he is proud of his work during his time on the board, which includes creating the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz County and LEO’s Haven inclusive playground. He also pointed to his work with land use policies such as vacation rentals and addressing sea level rise.

“I am gratified by what we’ve been able to accomplish, and I treasure the relationships and friendships I’ve made as a member of the board. And I’ll look for some way to contribute to the community in the future.”

Koenig called his numbers “phenomenal,” and said they reflected what he and his team have been hearing on the campaign trail.

“I want to express my deep gratitude to the voters for their trust,” Koenig said. “And I look forward to getting to work for them.”

He was celebrating Tuesday night at home with his parents, fiancee and two friends. He attributes his high numbers to a desire by the public for change, on such issues as homelessness, the high cost of living.

“We’ve seen that people are frustrated with the way things are in the nation, but on the county level as well,” he said.

For full results from the Nov. 3 election, visit


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