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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Das and Laura Clash Over His Pro-Oil Endorsers

In the increasingly choleric race for First District supervisor, the latest exchange erupted on Wednesday between the Laura Capps and Das Williams campaigns over who is more opposed to the oil industry.

Williams has scheduled a media event on Thursday morning to respond to a Capps attack brochure that landed in mail boxes this week. It answered an earlier hit piece aimed at her, which was prepared by a pro-Das independent expenditure committee and featured support for him from three prominent Republicans who have supported oil companies and interests.

“Why is the chief lobbyist for Plains Oil and Big Oil fueling the slash and burn campaign against Laura Capps to support Das Williams?” the Capps mailer says in big yellow letters, set above photos of the three pro-oil consultants and a photo of hazmat-clad workers cleaning the beach after the Refugio oil spill.

“Once again, my opponent is attacking my character and values - this time in relation to my environmental record, which is sort of absurd,” answered Williams, in an email to supporters inviting them to his event, “and it’s all because some Republicans have been vocal about their support for me. I'm proud of the bipartisan support I have received.”

Less than a week before the March 3 election, the new Capps mailer assailing Williams over oil carries political risks, as well as opportunities. Striving to pull off a big upset, she is aiming to persuade liberal voters who may still be undecided with her campaign argument that Das is a transactional politician unworthy of re-election.

Seeking to broaden her case against Williams beyond his cozy relations with the cannabis industry, by now suggesting he is a tool of oil interests, however, takes the chance of igniting backlash among environmentalists who view Das as a reliable, proven and longtime advocate for their concerns.

Our story to date. For those who came in in the middle of the movie, or fell down drunk on St. Valentine’s Day and just woke up, a quick summary:

  • Around Feb. 10, an independent expenditure committee, organized and operated by political operatives who are allies of Williams, began sending mailers to Republican voters that featured the photographs and words of three pro-oil GOP stalwarts (Chris Collier, who has represented several oil companies, including Plains, the pipeline company at fault in the Refugio spill; Cory Bantilan, longtime Republican operative and chief of staff to Supervisor Steve Lavagnino; Joe Armendariz, director of the drill-baby-drill SB Technology and Industry Association), expressing their support for Williams, along with other comments that bashed Capps; her mother, former Rep. Lois Capps; and former supervisors Janet Wolf and Susan Rose, described as “extreme progressives.”

  • On Feb. 14, Capps held a press conference to denounce the mailer and the committee behind it. Among the speakers was Wolf, who pointed to the three pro-oil consultants on the brochure and first inferred a connection between their support and issues involving oil that could come before the supervisors: “Why would public figures heavily entrenched in the oil industry be so desperate to keep Das in office?” she said.

  • This week, Team Capps sought to build on Wolf’s line of attack, using the Republican endorsements from the pro-Das independent expenditure committee mailer to insinuate (largely via sentence and quote fragments selectively pulled out of coverage of the IE published in Newsmakers) that he might betray environmental interests when the issue of rebuilding the Plains pipeline or other oil projects come before the board of supervisors in the future.

  • On Thursday, Williams is expected to portray Capps' new attack as a desperate, over-the-line effort to tar him over an issue on which he has a record of consistent support for environmental interests. His email announced the plan to trumpet his environmental support Thursday morning in Summerland’s Lookout Park, above an abandoned oil well Williams claims credit for capping, through state funding he obtained when he was in the Legislature.

To recap:

1-Team Das hit Laura.

2-Laura hit Das.

3-Das gripes, “She hit me.”


Images: Laura Capps and Das Williams; Capps mailer attacking Williams; Pro-Das IE mailer attacking Capps.

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