Newsmakers with JR
From SB to DC, 7 Key Questions for the 2020 Election
Welcome to 2020, a new year, new decade, new election season - and a new look for the Newsmakers blog.
First things first: For those struggling through the aftereffects of an excess of Moet & Chandon, we urge a taste of Irn-Bru, Katerfruhstuck, Haejangguk or any of the other fine global hangover cures detailed in this essential New Year’s piece. As for those still passed out: you’re on your own.
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Enough throat-clearing -- on with the show:
At every level of politics, 2020 shapes up as an historic, complex and hugely consequential election year, from the opportunity to rethink policies for SB's public schools, to the challenge of remaking our delegation to Sacramento and the chance to oust The Joker from the White House.
Here's an agenda of seven key questions to help keep track of some of the big stories.
Will Laura and Das outdo Lincoln and Douglas? Any doubt that school board president Laura Capps’s intrepid challenge of Supervisor Das Williams will be the headline attraction in local politics may be swiftly erased by noting that there already are four – 4, count ‘em, 4 – mano-a-mano smackdowns pending between the rivals, with the Independent, the Montecito Journal, the League of Women Voters and Newsmakers TV all organizing events to showcase the rivalry.
Beyond the much-discussed, multiple controversies stemming from the county’s fraught cannabis ordinance, it remains a mystery how many substantive policy differences actually exist between the two progressive tree-huggers, so the choice in the First District could come down to gender and style, matching Laura's feminist sensibilities against Das’s earnest mansplaining.
Santa Barbara vs. Ventura: Compare and Contrast.
Just nine weeks away, the March 3 primary date makes the top-two race for tickets to the November election playoff a sprint, not a marathon, placing a premium on name ID and early money; last we checked, about five minutes ago, former longtime Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett has logged more than $150K in early-reporting required contributions, while the SB mayor holds an edge in both categories over five local rivals.
Because a Santa Barbara denizen has long held the bi-county 37th Assembly District, or its forerunners, the possibility that its occupant might soon hail from VC instead of SB raises a batch of intriguing questions involving political geography, demography and ideology that could surface in the 2020 campaign.
Will there be a backroom deal for a new SB mayor? We’ve previously envisioned a scenario in which Cathy succeeds in capturing a Sacto legislative gig, leaving an opening in the city council's first-among-equals seat for the final quarter of the four-year term she won in 2017.
It would be left to her six remaining colleagues to fill the job, with the charter not offering much in the way of guidance about who would be eligible to succeed her: would a council majority turn to a senior statesman for the task – for our two cents, "Mayor Randy Rowse" has a nice ring to it – or, more likely, plunge into a Lord of the Flies free-for-all among and between each other? We’d pay to cover the latter option.
Will Salud debate Andy? Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal, who doesn’t change his tie without a poll and a couple of focus groups, is among the most risk-averse politicians we’ve encountered in nearly 50 years of doing the Lord’s Work, so it’s a good bet he won’t be inclined to debate Andy Caldwell, North County's sharp-tongued Republican oil, gas and anti-government crusader, who in the primary is angling for the second November ballot spot for the 24th Congressional District.
But c’mon Salud – your once-purple district now gives Dems an 11-point edge over GOP registration (about one-fourth the voters are decline-to-state independents), making your chances of losing re-election slim and none, so what's the harm? Why not provide your constituents a little debate stage entertainment, after forcing us to listen unceasingly to your tedious, plain-vanilla pronouncements and declamations for the past decade?
What direction will SBUSD take? At least two and, depending on the outcome of the Capps-Williams match, possibly three, seats for the five-member Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Unified School District will be on the ballot come November, as incumbents Wendy Sims-Moten and Jackie Reid, who've never won a single vote between them, would have to face voters for the first time ever, after taking office in the face of no opposition in 2016.
In intervening years, there has arisen a loud and persevering coalition of parents, some opposed to the woke policies of lame duck Supe Cary Matsuoka, and others just disenchanted with his public mendacity and ineffectual communications style, which now is likely to spin off some insurgent candidacies, or even a slate of same; coupled with the arrival of a new superintendent come summer, the outcome could spell changes for local public schools.
Will Bloomberg win California? Ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is investing $87 gazillion of his personal fortune in an unconventional Democratic presidential campaign based on ignoring early voting states in favor of bombarding the airwaves of California and other mega-Super Tuesday states, with hopes of catching fire when the nominating process is already two months along.
Bloomberg is already on the air here, as anyone who’s glanced at sports or news over the holidays can attest, but even if he breaks through in California, the question is how big a delegate haul he would make, given the state Democratic Party’s arcane, participation trophy primary rules, which awards delegates to anyone on the ballot winning 15 percent of the vote in a congressional district.
Persuasion or turn out? Some Democratic wannabe Trump-slayers have been campaigning and debating for over a year, but nothing they’ve done has changed a single thing about the shape of the race: two widely-known, late-septuagenarian white dudes, in the persons of the blundering Joe Biden and the braying Bernie Sanders, head the pack.
Sure Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg have had their flavor-of-the-week turns in the spotlight (along with California Junior Senator Kamala Harris, who flamed out as fast as we forecast), but the fundamental intraparty argument, embodied by Biden vs. Bernie, boils down to this: does the path to victory lie in a reassuring moderate appeal to middle-of-the-road folks in the Midwest, or in a hard-left call to the barricades that will balloon the existing party base by boosting turnout numbers among millennials and minorities?
There’s not much riding on who’s right, except the future of the human race.
Oh yeah, Happy New Year!
Images: Not as young as I used to be (theocelot.co.uk); Laura Capps and Das Williams; Steve Bennett; Cathy Murillo; Salud Carbajal; Wendy Sims-Moten and Jackie Reid; Mike Bloomberg (Washington Post); Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders (CNN).