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WTF?!? What's Behind Epstein's Withdrawal?

Not since Iya Falcone failed to file enough signatures to qualify for the mayor’s race a decade ago has there been a local political episode as bizarre as Susan Epstein’s blindside withdrawal from the campaign for supervisor.

In a move that stunned her closest supporters and advisers, Epstein abruptly announced on Tuesday that she was withdrawing from the 2nd District supe contest – after soliciting more than $100,000 from donors while convincing some of Santa Barbara’s most high profile women politicians to back her candidacy.

The most confounding factor: Epstein, who responded to us only with a brief email, refused to provide even her most loyal and prominent backers an explanation privately for the shocking announcement, beyond repeating the words "for personal reasons.”

“It kind of rocked me,” retiring 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf told Newsmakers, of hearing the decision from Epstein on Monday morning.

“I tried every which way to find out what was the reason, in hopes of lending personal support for whatever it is,” Wolf added. “I said, “we’re your friends, we can get through whatever it is, together.' But she wouldn’t say.”

When the deal went down. Several close associates of Epstein’s said that her decision appeared to be made on her own, and in the space of a few hours over the weekend.

As late as midday Sunday, the now ex-candidate was still dealing with details of the campaign. But around 9 p.m. that night, she left a voicemail message for Wolf. When the supervisor returned the call Monday morning, she was floored to hear the news.

After that, Epstein made a series of calls to several other key supporters and on Tuesday sent out two emails – one to several hundred contributors and the other to the general campaign mailing list; neither provided any substantive explanation for why she was suddenly leaving the race, in which she was strongly positioned as the progressive woman alternative to Democratic establishment favorite Gregg Hart.

“She sounded shaken” when she called, a prominent Democratic leader said of the call from Epstein. Another characterized Epstein’s vague explanation of the reasons for her choice as, “I’m not going to tell you, I’m not going to tell anyone.”*

The announcement, annotated. Many Epstein supporters also were baffled by the tone of her 96-word emailed announcement, first reported by Kelsey Brugger, which read in full:

This is a hard note to write. So many people across our community and beyond have joined our campaign for County Supervisor and offered support in many forms. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm of volunteers and donors.

Unfortunately, I have decided to end the campaign for County Supervisor for personal reasons.

I will pursue other opportunities, and I will continue working to make our community a better place. From the bottom of my heart, I am deeply grateful to all who lent financial support, time, and energy to this campaign.

Thank you,


For starters, there is not a hint of apology in it, even though many Democratic women had rallied around her, breaking with the Democratic Party apparatus; picking sides in what was shaping up as a rough battle between her and Hart in some cases meant political sacrifice.

Also, Epstein does not say whether or not she plans to return the contributions that she received; her campaign already had invested in strategic operations and those who opened their wallets seem to be owed an explanation on that score. (Update: Susan emailed late Tuesday to say, "I've already begun the process of returning the financial contributions to my wonderful supporters").

Finally, Epstein says she plans to “pursue other opportunities” and “continue working to make our community a better place.”

If any of those opportunities happen to be in the political arena, good luck with that.

Images: Susan Epstein; Gregg Hart and Epstein (Paul Wellman, Independent);

*(An early version of this post incorrectly conflated quotes from two sources. This paragraph was revised to make clear the comments came from two people).

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