Newsmakers with JR
Fair Ed's Lawyer Takes On Rep. Adam Schiff
In Santa Barbara, L.A. attorney Eric Early is a familiar figure at school board meetings who represents a group of parents suing over what he calls a “creeping, social-justice-warrior, alt-left takeover” of the district.
Now, the conservative Republican lawyer is going national with the provocative style and rhetoric he’s displayed in local public hearings and courtroom proceedings.
Amid political and cultural warfare raging from Washington to West Hollywood over the impeachment of Donald Trump, Early has embarked on a longshot campaign to oust the president’s chief congressional prosecutor.
“Adam Schiff is a viper,” Early said in a telephone interview, referring to the high-profile leader of the House Democrats’ impeachment effort, who is also the longtime representative of L.A.’s 28th Congressional District.
“I care deeply about this country,” he added. “And I hate Adam Schiff with a passion.”
Not to put too fine a point on it.
A minority view. Early surfaced in Santa Barbara last year, when he began speaking on behalf on a small group of parents, since allied as Fair Education Santa Barbara, unhappy with some of the district’s woke progressive policies.
Most notably, as we've reported, these parents object to big-ticket contracts with Just Communities Central Coast, a lefty nonprofit providing specialized anti-“implicit bias” training for the district.
After the school board approved a $300,000 contract with the organization in 2018, Early’s firm filed suit. A federal judge tossed the lawsuit, but the attorney refiled on behalf of parents in Santa Barbara Superior Court.
Judge Thomas Anderle issued a ruling in October rejecting parts of Fair Education’s suit but allowed a claim against the district and outgoing Superintendent Cary Matsuoka to proceed, which alleges that the disputed contract should have been subject to competitive bidding.
Amid the complex litigation, political arguments in favor and against Just Communities, meanwhile, became a Kabuki theater staple at school board meetings, manifesting some of the most bitter, polarized debates that wrack the country in the Trump Era.
Jarrod Schwartz, the intense and politically wired director of Just Communities, typically speaks during public comment in defense of his group’s aims, methods, and teaching materials (which, at his request, the district has refused to make public), while accusing Fair Education of misrepresenting them.
He is often accompanied by supportive parents, teachers, and other speakers who attest to the transformative effect Just Communities training has had on their lives.
For their part, Fair Education parents and their lawyers play their part by assailing the program, portraying it as “overtly and intentionally anti-Caucasian, anti-male, and anti-Christian,” as Early once put it.
From education to impeachment. At a time when Democrats have consolidated one-party rule in California, Early believes that local controversies like Just Communities demonstrate the practical necessity — and long-game political opportunity — to offer a GOP counter-narrative on real-life issues like public education.
“We have to stop the continuing takeover of our public schools, not only in Santa Barbara, by people who are hellbent on anti-American, pro-socialist, racially divisive, and sexually charged policies,” he told us.
Describing himself as a “Reagan Republican,” Early said that his unlikely campaign against Schiff arises more broadly from his fundamental conservative values, in opposition to Democratic big-government policies.
Early acknowledges that his bid against Schiff, a well-entrenched liberal in a liberal area, is a decidedly uphill crusade: “It’s a very, very tough district,” he said, adding, however, that he gained valuable experience with a 2018 campaign for attorney general, in which he won nearly a million votes despite finishing fourth in a field of four.
Now he hopes to finish second in the top-two March primary and then advance to a one-on-one runoff, painting Schiff as a partisan hack more concerned with gasbagging on cable news than day-to-day local problems.
“Adam Schiff has abandoned our district … on issues like homelessness, severe mental-health problems, and tremendous illegal immigration,” Early said. “It’s time to have somebody representing the district who won’t make up stories and tell lies about our president.”
Maybe he’ll get lucky and score a Trump tweet.
A version of this story appears in this week's Santa Barbara Independent.
Images: Eric Early; Jarrod Schwartz (Paul Wellman/SB Independent); Adam Schiff addresses California Democratic Party Convention last month (Long Beach Press Telegram); Speaker Nancy Pelosi claps back at Donald Trump at State of the Union.