With the future tilt of the Santa Barbara City Council completely up for grabs and only three months to go before the election, big money is coming out of the woodwork sooner than ever before and in unprecedented amounts.
In the mayor’s race, City Councilmember Iya Falcone raised a record-setting $61,000 -$23,000 came from unions, including $12,000 from the city Police Officers Association and $5,500 from the firefighters. Rival Helene Schneider, also a councilmember, pulled down $44,000-$7,500 came from Ronnie and Marvin Blitz, longtime supporters of programs for the homeless; $5,000 from garbage conglomerate Allied Waste; and $3,000 from Fernand Sarrat, a former corporate executive who’s pushed for various anti-gang intervention and prevention programs. Chamber of Commerce president Steve Cushman raised $35,000 is his mayoral bid, $15,000 of which he donated himself.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Dale Francisco, who just entered the mayoral contest last week, only reported $15,000 in funds. But look for Texas real estate developer Randall Van Wolfswinkel, who has a home in Montecito, to do what he can to close the gap between Francisco-the only Republican and supporter of the lower building heights initiative in the race-and the others. Van Wolfswinkel donated $25,000 to a new political action committee, Preserve Our Santa Barbara, which is headquartered on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, and has also given to conservative-leaning City Council candidates, specifically $5,000 to anti-alternative transportation activist Michael Self and $3,000 to anti-density slow-growther Frank Hotchkiss. Van Wolfswinkel attended Francisco’s political coming-out party last Tuesday, at which Francisco declared he would take no money from unions or developers. As to whether that pledge applied to Van Wolfswinkel-who has no known development projects in Santa Barbara-Francisco stated, “I have no idea. I refuse to speculate about an offer that hasn’t been made yet.” While no official slate exists, Self and Hotchkiss are expected to work closely with Francisco, whose supporters clearly hope he has the political coattails to help these two conservative council candidates emerge from the pack.
Of the council candidates, real estate entrepreneur and political first-time candidate John Thyne emerged as the top fundraiser, generating $54,000-$20,000 from his brother, a Los Angeles actor, and $10,000 from Ray Mahboob, a downtown real estate mogul whose properties Thyne’s company handles. Next up was Harwood “Bendy” White, a three-term planning commissioner who enjoys support from both sides of the smart-growth versus slow-growth divide, with $23,000 coming from family, friends, planning consultants, building contractors, and developers.
Of the other council candidates who submitted reports, sums range from $17,000 to $10,000, but many deserve an asterisk either because the candidates loaned themselves large amounts or they included a dramatically higher percentage of “in-kind” donations-such as accounting or art services donated pro bono-than usual. Neighborhood activist and second-time candidate Dianne Channing reported raising $17,000, but $6,000 came from herself and a relative. David Pritchett, a member of the city’s Transportation and Circulation Committee, reported $14,000-$9,000 were in-kind and $2,500 came from his wife, journalist Cathy Murillo, a freelancer for this publication.
Incumbent Councilmember Grant House generated a no-loan, no-in-kind $13,000-$600 came from lefty power couple Dick and Mickey Flacks, $500 from conservative businessman Pete Jordano, and another $500 from the Democratic Women. Newcomer Justin Tevis reported $12,500, but $9,700 was in-kind from his treasurer. Michael Self generated $12,400 and donated $5,000. Community activist Olivia Uribe raised $12,200, with Fernand Sarrat donating $2,125 and Del Playa Rentals kicking in $1,000. Second-time candidate Cathie McCammon, long active with the League of Women Voters and Citizens Planning Association, raised nearly $11,000, of which $7,000 she loaned herself. Real estate agent Frank Hotchkiss reported nearly $11,000, with $2,000 of that coming from the Lincoln Club, a Republican PAC.
Of the seven mayoral candidates, Isaac Garrett, Justin Michel, and Bob Hansen did not file statements. Of the council candidates, Bonnie Raisin, Lane Anderson, John Gibbs, Brennon Kaye, and A. Tianna Scozzaro have not formed the requisite committees triggering campaign finance reporting requirements.
But people aren’t the only ones running this November in Santa Barbara. Save El Pueblo Viejo reported raising $26,000 on behalf of Measure B, which would reduce the maximum allowable height limit downtown to 40 feet-down from 60-and 45 feet elsewhere throughout the city. No financial reports were available from the No on B committee, which has formed but began raising money after the June 30 reporting deadline.