Angel Martinez says his final decision to run for mayor of Santa Barbara followed a contentious private meeting with political consultant Jeremy Lindaman, who told him to stay out of the race because it was “Bendy’s turn” at City Hall.
“It was all done in a threatening tone,” Martinez told “Newsmakers” in an interview about the April meeting, which he said was arranged by council member Jason Dominguez.
“Jeremy said, ‘no one runs for office in this town’” without his approval, Martinez added.
“He told me, ‘you don’t know anybody, you won’t be able to raise any money and it’s not your turn – it’s Bendy’s,” he said in a telephone interview last Friday. .
“I was offended by it – it was offensive and ham-fisted,” Martinez said. “At that point I was on the fence (about running). I went back and met my wife and said, ‘I just decided I’m in.’”
In previous campaigns, Lindaman worked as chief strategist, both for council member Bendy White, now a Martinez mayoral rival, and for Mayor Helene Schneider. Lindaman declined in an email to comment for this story.
White, who had not decided to enter the race at the time of the meeting, also declined comment via email.
Dominguez, who now is supporting White for mayor, confirmed in an interview Sunday that he invited Martinez to meet with Lindaman, at the University Club on Santa Barbara Street, on Earth Day, which fell on Saturday, April 22.
The Third Man. The third person in the meeting, Dominguez acknowledged that Lindaman pointedly questioned the viability of a Martinez candidacy (“Jeremy was talking about strengths and weakness of different candidates”), but said he is certain that the consultant did not tell him “it is Bendy’s turn” to be mayor.
“That’s completely ridiculous,” Dominguez said., “We (he and Lindaman) both hate that argument. We’re not the turn-taking type. If Jeremy had said that, I would have left, or slapped his hand, or something.”
Dominguez also took issue with Martinez’s characterization that there was a “threatening tone” to the discussion: “It was very cordial,” he said.
“Maybe that was the impression (Martinez) took away,” Dominguez added, allowing for Lindaman’s abrasive persona and emotional personality.
Recalling the end of the meeting, Martinez said that after 45 minutes, he had grown angry at Lindaman's behavior – “I’m from the Bronx…and I’m Cuban,” he offered – and so rose and said he had to go.
At that point, he said, Lindaman pointed to his own wrist, to indicate that time was passing: “You’ve got 48 hours to decide to get out,” Martinez said the consultant told him.
“That’s beyond the pale, even for Jeremy,” Dominguez told Newsmakers, calling the allegation “ridiculous,” because Lindaman had no leverage over Martinez.
What it all means. As a political matter, the previously unreported episode offers a rare glimpse of the kind of machinations that, behind-the-scenes, have shaped the current wide-open field for mayor.
Making the story public also serves Martinez’s own interests, by feeding his campaign narrative, which positions him - in a race against three incumbent council members and an ex-mayor - as the sole contender standing apart from insider maneuvering and intrigue at City Hall.
The officially non-partisan, citywide, winner-take-all mayoral contest is defined by a series of complex political crosscurrents involving an array of personal alliances, organizational politics and economic special interests. At this point, a plausible scenario for victory can be constructed for any of the hopefuls -- liberal Democrats White, Cathy Murillo and Hal Conklin, as well as conservative Republican Frank Hotchkiss and Martinez, a seasoned business executive but a political novice running as a registered independent.
The incident also throws a spotlight on Lindaman, a prominent behind-the-scenes political figure whose personal temperament and roster of political and business clients have made him at times both a very influential and a very controversial figure in city politics.
The former chief strategist both for White, during his previous races for council, and for Schneider, Lindaman in the past several years has lowered his profile while stepping back from paid, formal roles in their campaigns, both during White’s current bid and in Schneider’s failed effort for congress last year.
Last week, Noozhawk reported that Lindaman was paid $190,000 in two years for serving as executive director/president of the nonprofit Bellosguardo Foundation.
Schneider in 2014 appointed the majority of the board, to chart the future and administer the Clark Estate, when the 23-acre property is finally transferred, after years of tangled litigation over the estate of the late Huguette Clark.
The article cited IRS documents showing that Lindeman worked approximately 10 hours a week on the project. However, an email circulated by the board’s CPA to its treasurer, after publication of the piece, took responsibility for an error on the filing, saying it should have shown him working 40 hours a week.
“In Part VIII list of officers, directors and trustees, you noted that average number of hours for Jeremy Lindaman showed 10 hours when the actual hours per week are 40 hours,” said the email from the CPA to the treasurer. “This was an inadvertent error. Please accept our sincere apologies for any issues this may have caused.”
Images: Angel Martinez; Jeremy Lindaman (Facebook); Jason Dominguez; the Bellosguardo estate.
Email us at email@example.com or comment on our stories on our Facebook page - SB City Desk. Thanks for reading.