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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Why the Three Libs Didn't Cut a Deal

On the evening of Oct. 4, one of the 200 liberal environmentalists who packed the Santa Barbara Women’s Club to see the candidates for mayor, asked a compelling question, raised there and then for the first and only time during the campaign.

Only three of the five contenders had showed for the event, sponsored by the Community Environmental Council and about 800 other likeminded non-profits, but they were the trio this group wanted to hear: Hal Conklin, Cathy Murillo and Bendy White, who each has a record of proven support for left-of-center political positions on the environment and other policy issues.

The question, as read by the moderator, the inestimable Dr. Barbara Lindemann, was this:

“How can the three of you cooperate, so the progressive vote is not split and we end up with a climate change denier as mayor?"


Candidate answers below.

Dems qua Dems. The question captured a concern that still echoes in Santa Barbara’s progressive precincts a month later, as the race enters its final 48 hours.

Since the Newsmakers Poll showed, on Oct. 22, that the race at that time was a statistical tie between Murillo and conservative council member Frank Hotchkiss, with the latter holding a nominal lead, Democratic leaders with increased urgency have pushed progressive voters to unite behind Cathy, their endorsed candidate, despite a splintering of the endorsements of the party's most visible and high-ranking local figures, as Democrats behave like, well, Democrats.

White enjoys the backing of Mayor Helene Schneider, who has sought to anoint him her successor; both have a deep political, if not personal, aversion to Murillo, based on years of City Hall battles over issues from the gang injunction to public employees salaries and benefits.

Conklin, who has the endorsement of former Rep. Lois Capps, expresses bafflement at the extent to which party politics has entered the mayor’s race, in sharp contrast to the nonpartisan tenor of his multiple local campaigns in the 1980s and 90s.

Murillo and her backers, presenting Hotchkiss as a clear and present danger to the environmental values and norms of Santa Barbara, succeeded in the aftermath of the poll in pushing Rep. Salud Carbajal and Assemblymember Monique Limon, both previously neutral, to toe the line and swear their fealty to Cathy (state senator Hannah Beth Jackson backed Murillo early on)..

By now, of course, it’s way too late for the three liberals to “cooperate,” as it's extremely clear that exactly none of them has the slightest interest in abandoning their own campaign.

it’s instructive, however, to review what Cathy, Hal and Bendy said in response to a progressive’s earnest question that night a month ago. Here is a transcription of their remarks, as recorded on the Newsmakers company cell phone.

CATHY MURILLO: “I came out of the gate strong.”

"I respect our democracy and everyone has a right to run for office and you see us up here politely slugging it out.

"I declared my candidacy early and I raised $100,000 by June 30th, that wasn’t easy and I wanted this (in order) to be the most viable candidate. I have the endorsement of the Democratic Party, the Sierra Club, the mayor of Carpinteria is sitting out there…I have the endorsement of the mayor of Goleta.

"So I have come out of the gate strong, I did what I was supposed to do as a good candidate who really wanted to win.

"I totally respect the two people sitting here tonight, let me make that clear."

HAL CONKLIN: “I’ll put my background against anybody.”

"Well, the great thing about democracy is that great people are all asked to run against one other. Just watch what happens in the presidential race…

"I think the best way to put yourself out there is to put the best ideas forward and let people choose where they want to be…

"This isn’t, is not, a partisan race. This is not a matter of who’s going to be the Democrat who wins, or who’s going to be the Republican who wins. It’s going to be who’s the Santa Barbaran who’s got the best idea, and people trust to get the work done.

I"’ll put my background against anybody…I have great respect for the people on the stage and I’m endorsed some of them for office before. …

"So it’s not like I dislike the people that are up here. I just want to put forward the ideas I think will work and let people make a choice, and I’m giving them the opportunity to make that choice."

BENDY WHITE: “I’m a budget hawk.”

"Well, it wasn’t an easy decision for me, obviously. I’m the last one in the race.

"I differ with Cathy on two major areas. And those are: managing our finances and growth.

"I’m tough on, I’m a budget hawk and I’m very concerned about that moving forward. And on development, I start with protecting what we have and feathering in development rather than saying, “oh my goodness, we have a housing crisis, we must build, build, build.

"That story has been going on my whole life. And once upon a time we had proposals for six, was it nine story, buildings, at least six story buildings were happening, proposed, and so I want to protect this place first.

"What I’ve learned over the eight years, first of all I’ve learned as a businessman, and then learned with our budget, is, we need someone who is tough but fair in negotiating with our employees and with managing your money…

"And I think I’d be a strong …I’d do that better than my colleagues."

Bottom line: no deals.

Memo to undecided voters: Seriously? Yo, slackers! Time's up!

Not to seem insensitive.

We recognize that procrastination can be a disease, that it even can lead to heart problems. If you’re not sure whether you’re a chronic procrastinator, take the test now.

We promise to march with you during Procrastination Awareness Week next week. Or the week after that.

In the meantime, here is our incomparable Undecided Voter Kit, our very first post with the link that will take you to our complete, original set of Newsmakers interviews with the five candidates.

Compare and contrast. Don't forget to vote.


Images: Monty Hall, host of "Let's Make a Deal"; Circular firing squad at the (victorygirlsblog); Cathy Murillo; Hal Conklin; Bendy White; Slackers, Ft. Lauderdale (

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