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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Notebook: Latest on the Das & Laura Show

Take it to the bank: She’s running.

Laura Capps is telling friends and political associates that she has decided definitely to challenge Das Williams in his bid for re-election as county supervisor in Santa Barbara’s First District.

“She’s 100 percent in,” one of multiple sources, who have spoken directly to the SB school board member about her commitment to the race, told Newsmakers.

The Capps backers expect her to make a formal announcement sometime next month, confirming an open secret in political circles.

Das won the endorsement of the Democratic county central committee on July 11, and Laura’s bid to take him out -- amid the roiling controversy over his central role in establishing Santa Barbara County as one of California’s capitals of cannabis cultivation -- is certain to fuel a high-profile intraparty feud, which already has begun raging on social media.

Local Dem party power broker Daraka Larimore-Hall this week trashed Capps’ expected challenge on Facebook as a “vapid political move,” based on “raw NIMBYism,” generating an avalanche of point and counter-point comments that also included criticisms of him and the county party organization for trying to strong arm and dictate who is allowed to run and serve in local government offices.

Game on.

Secret poll revealed. Meanwhile, results of a private poll of likely voters in the First District, commissioned by a handful of Capps supporters who have been urging her to run, suggest that the race at this point is wide open.

Newsmakers has learned that the survey was conducted by Strategies 360 Research, a major politics and communications shop headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Washington D.C. and a dozen Western states.

A political professional who worked on the survey, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss proprietary information candidly, said the poll included 403 likely March 2020 voters.

In industry jargon, the survey is known as a “viability poll,” which captures the shape of the political landscape in advance of the start of a campaign; while details of the data are intriguing for political junkies, they are nugatory as a predictor of the outcome of an election that is more than seven months away, in a contest for which one competitor has yet even to declare her candidacy.

As a practical matter, however, the most crucial number yielded by the private poll is this: 44 percent of those surveyed said they are undecided, when given a choice between Williams and Capps.

With nearly half of the projected electorate undecided at this point, if the polling is accurate, it appears that Capps has a feasible opportunity to accomplish the challenging task of unseating a liberal incumbent in a heavily Democratic district. This means that the outcome will be determined by the respective quality and quantity of the three fundamentals of every political campaign – message, money and organization.

Fun with numbers. In testing a head-to-head matchup between Das and Laura, the polltakers posed the following question, rotating the names of the rivals in interviews with the 403 respondents.

“If the election were held today and the candidates were School Board Member Laura Capps and County Supervisor Das Williams, for whom would you vote?”

The results:

Capps 32 percent

Williams 24 percent

Undecided 44 percent.

In the context of the above caveats, a few other key findings:

1-Capps is less well known in the district than Williams, but is viewed somewhat more favorably. Among those surveyed:

Das’s favorable to unfavorable rating is 38-to-24 percent, with the balance of respondents not having enough information to offer a judgment.

Laura’s favorable-unfavorable is 34-to-13 percent, with 53 percent offering no opinion.

2-Williams would begin the race facing a gender gap among voters.

Among men who expressed an opinion, the two are statistically tied (25 percent Das, 24 percent Laura); among women, the poll showed she holds a 38-to-24 percent edge.

3-The intense controversy and coverage of the marijuana issue currently benefits Capps.

46 percent in the survey said they are dissatisfied "with the way Santa Barbara County has handled commercial marijuana cultivation," with nearly a third saying they are “very dissatisfied.”

33 percent said they are “satisfied” with the county’s performance on the issue.

Interviews were conducted via landline, cell phone and text message between June 28 and July 8, with a July 3-7 break to account for the Independence Day holiday. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.

For the record: If (when) Laura becomes a candidate, she'll have to surrender her seat on the panel on Newsmakers TV, which returns after Labor Day.

News you'll read nowhere else. We caught up with uber consultant Mollie Culver at her favorite Starbucks this week, and she confirmed rumors that she has left the county staff of Supervisor Gregg Hart to take a gig with the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Mollie, who got caught in the free fire zone in the pot wars, because of her previous representation of the cultivation industry during the drafting of the controversial county ordinance, said that issue had nothing to do with her decision.

A longtime activist, advocate and champion on LGBTQ issues, she said that she genuinely and personally fears for the future if Trump is re-elected, and wants to work directly for his defeat.

In Bernie’s California campaign, she’s responsible for political operations on the Central Coast – SB, Ventura and SLO counties – as well as the Central Valley.

“It was an opportunity I just felt I couldn’t pass on,” Mollie said.

Buena suerte, hermana.

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