JUBILATING AND TRIBULATING: It’s all over but the wailing and gnashing of teeth. I, for one, will miss it. Not the cacophony of dueling TV commercials per se or the din of direct mailers, but the sense of companionship that election season always brings. Now when the telephone rings, I know it will be just another solicitor hawking yet another line of credit cards, or perhaps time-share opportunities anywhere but lower State Street. In recent weeks, the telephone had been an unending adventure. I had the flu when Bill Clinton chatted with Mr. Kinko’s at the Arlington Theatre last month, so I was thrilled when I got a call from Clinton and heard his tired-and-been-up-all-night-solving-the-problems-of-the-world rasp telling me to be sure to vote for his “good friend John Garamendi” for lieutenant governor. Though I’ve harbored an ill-defined sense of skepticism about Garamendi, I was more than happy to oblige Big Bill.
Then there was Senator Barbara Boxer — though how she got my cell phone number is something my lawyers are working on — urging me to vote for the Democratic candidate running to unseat an entrenched Republican congressional reactionary in some Inland Empire meth-head district. And I can’t tell you how many phone calls I received on behalf of John Chiang, the Democrat running for controller, even though like many people I don’t have any idea what a controller does. My favorite was from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who delivered his shpiel in Spanish so slowly that even a monolingual guero like me could understand it. If they went to all that trouble, the least I could do was vote for the man. I’m just hoping that for my birthday someone gets me one of those automated phone message machines; then I can program it to ask everyone in the state if their refrigerator is running. I was especially heartened to get so many mailers from Pedro Nava, who represents Santa Barbara in the State Assembly. Given that Nava — whose name literally translates to “swimming stone”—is often too busy to take phone calls from reporters, it was nice that he took the time to drop me so many lines, though I’m still wondering exactly what he meant with the flyer emblazoned with the headline “Save Our Troops” with absolutely no explanatory text. Pedro raised about $350,000 and managed to whup the virtually unknown Cristina C. Martin quite handily. Everyone figured he was really preparing to run for the State Senate seat if the ideologically inspired right-winger Tom McClintock had beaten Garamendi for lieutenant governor. Unlike Nava, McClintock is notoriously easy to get on the phone — and can be counted on to quote Winston Churchill and/or Thomas Jefferson within the first 45 seconds — and maybe that’s why he didn’t send me anything in the mail. When asked about his designs on the Senate, Nava replied, “There is no greater honor than to represent the good people of the 35th Assembly District.” I was most impressed how Nava managed to keep a straight face as he said this. Fortunately for all of us, McClintock lost. That’s a good thing. The lieutenant governor has a lot to say about what kind of oil development takes place off our coast, and McClintock is definitely not the guy you want saying it. And I for one look forward to many future chats about Winston Churchill with the senator.
Congressperson Lois Capps was wall-to-wall grins Tuesday night, and her eyes shone like the high beams of an imported German sports car. As a member of the minority party until now, Lois has been down so long it began to look like up to her. Now that the Democrats have swept Congress and are on the verge of taking the Senate, Capps is eager to stand on her head to see what it’s like being the party in power. As you might guess, I’m likewise thrilled by this turn of events, though I’m dispirited that it took a few smarmy, B-minus sex scandals to finally convince a majority of my fellow citizens of the need for regime change. Waging a war under false pretenses and watching New Orleans go down the drain, apparently, were not enough. My real fear, however, is that the Democrats will assume power just in time to get stuck cleaning up the unholy mess the Bush administration created and that the tab will be far more than any of us can pay. In the meantime, it seems being a Republican has become fatally unfashionable. Republican Dr. Dan Secord — who ran the best TV commercials ever aired on behalf of an elected official in Santa Barbara — joined the ranks of the political transvestites, buying ad space on a pseudo-Democratic mailer showing his picture prominently plastered between that of Bill Clinton and Phil Angelides. Nice try, Dan, but no cigar; Secord lost but narrowly.
As far as worst TV ads, it’s a toss-up between Sheriff Jim Anderson’s and those run by the pro-business PAC that attacked the slow-growth majority controlling Goleta City Council. Anderson’s ads looked like a poor man’s spaghetti western, featuring a posse of grim-faced, granite-jawed lawmen speaking ill of Anderson’s opponent — Lompoc Police Chief Bill Brown — but conspicuously little about Anderson’s own strengths. If that had been my only exposure to the race, I would have voted for Brown in a heartbeat, and that’s apparently what happened with thousands of voters. Anderson is the first incumbent sheriff to lose in this county since the signing of the Magna Carta. The pro-biz hit piece on the Goleta slow-growth machine was all contrived luridness, but according to early results it appeared to work, bumping off two of Goleta’s three incumbents. If you thought Goleta politics was crazy already, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Apparently, the Goleta PAC — reportedly including the oil company Venoco, which has a major development slated for Carpinteria — had money to spare, and paid for a mail hit-piece against Carpinteria council candidate and slow-growther Al Clark that went out this weekend, holding Clark responsible for everything bad that’s ever happened in the Carpinteria Valley. But in Carpinteria, where everyone actually knows everyone else, such tactics tend to backfire, and Clark won handily.
Like I said, I will miss the warm sense of connection that election season engenders in all of us. Fortunately, it all starts up again in about 10 days.
— Nick Welsh