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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Voter's Guide to Candidates' Thought Balloons

Since Labor Day, the five candidates for mayor have recited their sound bites and stock lines about the reasons they’re running a collective 21,678,913 times, say sources close to our imagination.

Strange but true, Newsmakers geezers sat through many more hours of those recitations than medical experts advise for the overall well-being and mental stability necessary for a healthy retirement lifestyle.

Now it’s payback time.

Somewhere past the midway point of every forum, debate and interview of the campaign, our SB Bureau Chief’s mind has wandered for a few moments (before gaining a second wind, not to mix a metaphor) fleeting seconds when a puffy white thought balloon suddenly seemed to arise from the noggin of each candidate.

Here’s how they read:

Angel Martinez:

How can anyone vote for one of these stiffs instead of me?

The campaign devised by Martinez and his handlers, to use the wonders of social media to obviate the need to meet voters face-to-face at their doors, gained him some early season buzz and business backing, but he since has struggled to gain traction and looks more unhappy each day the race grinds on.

In California, the campaign trail is littered with the bleached white bones of wealthy CEO candidates for executive office who lacked previous public service experience (shout-out to Meg Whitman!) and now Angel has found that a) politics ain’t as easy it looks, and b) the four candidates with ties to City Hall are all still around for a reason.

Bendy White.

I gave up retirement for this?

From the start, White was forthright about his ambivalence about running, from his telling, late entry, to his reveal in the Indy that he’d plotted his “’cliché retirement’ down to the Winnebago,” followed by his disclosure in an August Newsmakers interview that he’s running, in large part, because he feared that the politically like-minded Hal Conklin couldn’t win.

There’s little doubt that Bendy knows more than any of the bunch about the nuts and bolts of local government and public policy, and he would make a fine mayor if only someone could appoint him, but his disdain for the theatrical aspects of campaigning and the underlying weakness of his reason for running (let’s face it, “If Hal can’t win, maybe I can” ain’t much of a rationale for a candidacy) have hampered his effort to capture Helene Schneider’s third term.

Cathy Murillo.

Can't wait to spend your money on my social justice schemes.

Lest we forget, Cathy majored in theatre arts at UCSB and, to her credit, has given a disciplined, four-star campaign performance, a public portrayal designed to uplift her public stature and neutralize weaknesses, such as a) her orneriness around City Hall and b) her most-lefty positions amid the field, (viz. her calculated emphasis on conservative sound bite phrases like “fiscal discipline,” “public safety” and “preserving the character of our neighborhoods”. Her big delivery flaw has been the heaping bowl of personal boasts and Dear Leader self-congratulations she serves herself on a regular basis.

Theatre criticism aside, the Democratic Party apparatchiks handed her its early endorsement for a good reason: she’s a reliably undeviating “progressive” on issues like building more rental housing more densely, assenting to the demands of public employee unions and treating homelessness as a social welfare, never a law enforcement, issue.

Hal Conklin

I coulda’ been a contender.

Why Conklin is trying, at 71, to reclaim the office from which a lawsuit about term limits ousted him at 44, following eight elected years as a young councilman with great political potential, is a question better posed to a shrink than a political reporter; despite his year long, first-one-in-the-pool-by-far advantage over the field, he’s remained stuck in the pack in the three-way race for left-liberals.

Hal is the most accomplished public speaker of the bunch – articulate, thoughtful in making an argument and in control of a deep institutional knowledge that enables him rhetorically to connect the future to the past, but in the end the whole always seems less than the sum of the parts.

Frank Hotchkiss.

Man the drawbridge, and be quick about it!

Hotchkiss is another ex-actor, with eight TV shows and series and one feature film (he played a motorcycle cop in the classic 1972 pot movie “Cisco Pike”) to his IMDb credit, in addition to stage work in casts with Sal Mineo and other big names, and he’s damn good at it – his campaign trail, scripted, opening statement of paean to the splendors of Santa Barbara (“4,000-foot mountains…and we even have a zoo!") are delivered in the same genuine voice as the grouchy old guy (75) stuff that routinely pours out of his mouth.

Frank is a conservative in the true meaning of the word - holding on to traditional attitudes and values and suspicious of change – and thus is out of touch with a large majority of the town, from his benighted denial of climate science (a Yale education - no wonder) to his diatribes against the inexorable force of immigration and his kiss-off, (move to Lompoc!) attitude towards the middle class and young, local workers who can’t afford housing in Santa Barbara.

Bottom line: My own thought bubble reads: these are five high-quality people, and the community owes them a vote of thanks for their bravery, caring, endurance and willingness to put themselves out there, at a time when the notion of running for political office has become devalued, along with civics, journalism and voting.

P.S.Don’t forget to vote, and remember you can turn your ballots in at City Hall and other locations up to 8 p.m. on Election Day, if you don’t get around to mailing it before. So: plenty of time left for undecideds, such as myself, to dither.


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An earlier version incorrectly reported that no incumbent member of council endorsed Murillo; Gregg Hart did.

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