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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Three Takeaways on District 2 State of Play

Gadzooks - There are fewer than 200 shopping days left before the June 5, 2018 primary, and Newsmakers has a vast political landscape to surveil between now and then:

The effort by national Democrats to flip at least seven Republican-held seats in California will be crucial to their bid to win back the House and recapture a shred of power in Washington, and state Senate leader Kevin de Leon’s upstart challenge to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein not only will test her moderate style against his more bombastic approach, but also provide an early measure of how widespread sexual harassment scandals and the politics of gender will play in November.

From where we sit, however, here's hoping the centerpiece local attraction will be a wide-open race to replace retiring Supervisor Janet Wolf.

Thanks to yet another scooplet by the tenacious Kelsey Brugger we now know that Goleta councilmember Roger Aceves plans to sit this one out, leaving newly-re-elected SB city council member Gregg Hart and Goleta Union School District incumbent Susan Epstein as the top ranked early seeds.

Rumor control: Mayor Helene LMAO whispers that she's NOT moving to the 2nd, while Susan Jordan confirms she won't be a candidate but "thanks for thinking of me :-)". (Due to an editing error, an early version of this post omitted the crucial word 'NOT' in describing the political status of Mayor Helene, who is 'NOT' moving and 'NOT' running).

Here are three key takeaways stemming from Janet’s big announcement:

Dem vs. Dem, the Sequel. Two days before the Nov,. 7 election, Newsmakers asked Hal Conklin to name the biggest difference between running for mayor in 2017 and the successful campaign he waged for the same office 25 years ago; without hesitation, he said it was the influence of the Democratic Party endorsement of mayor-elect Cathy Murillo in what purportedly was a non-partisan race. From Hal:

" I don’t remember even asking the Democratic Party what their position was in all the years I was in office...I don’t remember them even endorsing. Maybe they did but if they did, it was so minor it was at the bottom of the page....In this race, the fact that the Democratic Party came out so early and made it all about Cathy being the Democratic leader. I didn’t realize I was running against the Democratic Party but that’s what it turned out to some degree we’re doing."

Conklin was exactly correct that Cathy’s crucial advantage, in competing against him and fellow Dem Bendy White, was the formal backing and concurrent resources from the local Democratic organization. It’s also true, however, that there was considerable unhappiness about the party's move, which led to the splintering of local leadership, with Lois Capps and Das Williams endorsing Conklin and Helene backing Bendy.

The stage now is set for another intraparty rivalry between Hart and Epstein. While Gregg got the endorsement in his council race, it’s worth keeping in mind how most leading Democratic women successfully backed newcomer Kristen Sneddon in the 4th District as she stomped party favorite Jim Scafide; don’t be surprised if gender plays a huge role in this race.

To everything there is a season. Janet didn’t do Gregg any favors with the timing of her retirement announcement:

Hart is still six weeks away from even being sworn into the new term to which he was elected this month – which would make it extremely awkward for him to respond quickly should Epstein come out of the gate hard and fast by announcing her candidacy before the New Year.

The $150,000 he’s sitting on in his campaign fund can buy a lot of messaging between now the 2018 elections, but there would be no getting around the fact that it’s a plain bad look to ask for people’s votes for a new office within a year. Perhaps there was no timing that would have made for an easy Hart pivot, but it’s hard to think of any that could be worse. Maybe he should think about biding his time (again) and go for the state Senate seat that will open up when Hannah Beth’s termed-out in 2020. Unless Das goes for that first. It's not your turn!

Learning the lesson of Helene. When Kelsey asked Susan if she was running for supe, Epstein gave this kissy-poo response:

“This is a time to celebrate Supervisor Wolf and her accomplishments. She has been an inspirational leader,” she said, noting Wolf’s “conviction” and “independent spirit.”

Cough, cough, eye roll, eye roll.

Translation: “No way in the world will you get me to step on Janet’s bye-bye story right after she’s put it out there.”

Epstein’s savvy enough to know that, regardless of whom Wolf endorses as her successor, or whether she just stays out of it, there is no percentage in appearing over eager and overshadowing the politician she’s trying to replace.

Look no further than the example of outgoing Mayor Helene, who proclaimed her candidacy for Congress less than six hours after Rep. Lois Capps announced she wouldn’t seek another term in the spring of 2015. Right off the bat, this put her in the political free fire zone, unnecessarily incurring the rancor and resentment of Team Capps, which only redoubled their determination to elect Salud as Lois’s successor.

Here's hoping the 2nd district contest shapes up as The Political Reporters Relief Act of 2018.

Did we mention we love this stuff?


Images: Text talk; Susan Epstein; Gregg Hart.

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