Newsmakers with JR
Notebook: New Turnout #s, Indy vs. Dems, Alvarado Decries Campbell "Slavery" Quotes, Power Rankings
The early and often vote. Turnout within the Santa Barbara Unified School District outpaces that in the county as a whole, a new report of mail-in ballots shows, as 50 percent of those registered within the district already have voted.
Reflecting the public interest and tight political competition in the seven-candidate SB school board race, nearly 60,000 voters within the confines of the SBUSD have returned their ballots -- just shy of the total number cast in a similar board of education contest two years ago.
The latest report from Political Data Inc., shows that half of the 119,097 registered voters in the school district have returned their ballots, compared to 46 percent of 242,825 countywide; both return numbers signficantly exceed the statewide turnout to date of 36 percent of nearly 22 million registered voters.
"In Santa Barbara, people vote as a hobby," one veteran California Democratic strategist noted dryly.
The early votes cast in the district remain heavily Democratic -- 62 percent of the total to date, exceeding the 55 percent portion of all registered voters the party holds -- while Republican ballots lag registration -- 16 percent of early votes, compared to 18 percent of registration - as do No Party Preference independents, with 23 percent of the ballots against 27 percent of their share of the voter roll.
Key question remains: Do the numbers indicate merely that Democrats who always vote, and can't wait to throw down against Trump, are participating sooner than usual, or will the final totals show a significant surge in new voters?
Indy vs DCC. While candidates up and down the ballot proudly boast long lists of endorsers, political professionals understand that, in most races, only a few key endorsements really matter much in moving a voter to make a dispositive choice.
As we've noted, in SB County these days, the top two most sought-after endorsements are those of the local Democratic Party Central Committee and the Santa Barbara Independent.
The two agree far more than they disagree, but the party and the paper diverged in a couple of tightly contested races this time, so political junkies will watch closely whose picks prevail in these contests.
In the SB school board race, the Dems picked appointed incumbent Jackie Reid, who aced the apparatchik questionnaire by taking the party line on issues like the disputed Just Communities contract, while the Indy instead selected school administrator Virginia Alvarez, as a "fresh, dynamic voice," as the endorsers agreed on Laura Capps and Wendy Sims-Moten for the other two seats.
In the Goleta Union school board race, the Dems backed social worker Max Rorty, favored by party insiders like influential school board member Luz Reyes-Martin, but the Indy opted for the "eminently qualified" parent activist Vicki Ben-Yaacov, who's supported by outgoing board member Susan Epstein; incumbent Sholeh Jahangir got the nod from both the Dems and the Indy for the other seat on the ballot.
In the debate over Proposition 21, which would authorize rent control across the state, the Dems took the far-left stance of urging a "Yes" vote, while the Independent went "No," arguing that a strong pro-renter bill passed in Sacramento last year, which caps annual rent increases at 5 percent and provides eviction protections, should be given a chance to work.
Two out of three wins claims bragging rights until the next election.
Alvarado calls out comments. That loud crash you heard was the sound of jaws hitting the floor in progressive precincts, after Newsmakers reported on an email exchange with SB school board wannabe Brian Campbell that included his views on the achievement gap and lagging literacy rates. He wrote:
"Fact: Most Hispanic children cannot read or write at grade level. Fact: this has not improved in the last 4 years.
"Reminiscent of slavery days when the lords of the manor didn't want the slaves to learn how to read. The irony, Just Communities (implicit bias training) “teaching” Hispanic & minority youth that the white conservatives have opppressed (sic) them.
"While the District fails to teach them to read. Slavery is still present today? It is a Democratic endorsed school board that fails to educate the minorities."
Among those we heard from after we published Campbell's comments was Mark Alvarado, longtime community advocate, who campaigned for school board two years ago on a platform of improving outcomes for Latino students, but missed the cut by one spot.
"In fact, the quotes provided by school board candidate Brian Campbell are completely racist. The tone of his comments is filled with bigotry. He is either purposely spewing his prejudicial hyperbole or he is acutely ignorant...
"It’s no secret that all students across the country are struggling to make the grade in English
Language Arts. Academic proficiency in US schools ranks 26th throughout the world. California ranks 21st in the US and Santa Barbara Unified ranks 81st in the state.
"These are not glowing results but surely speaks to the need to improve our schools and support all students. However, as a school board candidate, Campbell chooses to equate Latino academic achievement with slavery. This is a blatant racist position that he has taken to convince voters that he is a candidate of choice. It also speaks directly to African Americans and reveals how insensitive and lost he is towards establishing a credible political platform for school board."
We sent Campbell a copy of Alvarado's response and asked for a reaction. We'll update when we hear back.
Another country heard from. After we wrote about Joe Howell's remarkable fundraising coup in the campaign for the county Board of Education seat he now holds, we received a commentary from businessman Lou Segal, his opponent in the Area 6 contest, who called Joe's campaign fund "insane" and said he decided not to raise money for the race -- mostly because, he said, the board and the Santa Barbara County Education office should be abolished:
This is an agency which should have been put out of its misery a long time ago. It has outlived its usefulness at least 50 years ago. There was once a time (probably 75 years ago) when California was a lot more rural, and schools needed an agency like this one to provide administrative support for them.
Today, there are many companies that can provide payroll and billing services far more efficiently and cheaply than this agency. Yes, they provide some services to a very small group of special ed and court-involved students. They also have a few social welfare programs. There is no reason why the welfare programs can't be folded into the existing county dept of social services....
Perhaps the most outrageous thing is they have a $58 million budget and anywhere from 500 to 800 employees. What all these people do is beyond me. As you know, a county board member can't fire the superintendent and really has no say over most of the important things she does.
There were no injuries.
Who's up, who's down. Less than a week before Election Season ends, here is a totally subjective and data-free perspective on where the seven candidate SB school board race stands, according to odds relayed by our Las Vegas Deputy Bureau Chief Tommy (Big Purple) Parmigiana di Melanzane.
1-Laura Capps. Pugnacious stance towards Fair Ed, plus $50K, sets apart from other libs.
2-Wendy Sims-Moten. Everybody's second choice.
3-Virginia Alvarez. Could be the Kate Ford of this race.
4-Jackie Reid. Not too late for Dem Party to eke out a win.
5-Elrawd MacLearn. Most likely to pull of upset among Impact Ed's slate.
6-Monie de Wit. Low-key grassroots support may confound conventional wisdom.
7-Brian Campbell. If griping about reporters won votes, he'd finish first.
Images: crazydogshirts.com; Political Data Inc.; SB Independent; Mark Alvarado; Lou Segal; Nascar.com