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An Election Scarier than Halloween XV

Barney Can’t Wait for This Election to Be Over


TRICKS ARE NO TREAT: Santa Barbara’s $$lection campaign (it can’t end soon enough) is like a marathon of horror movies that keep playing on your TV and you can’t turn them off.

Like Psycho, It Came from Outer Space, and Halloween XV.

Other titles come to mind: The Lady Vanishes (City Councilmember Iya Falcone’s shocking, early departure from the Santa Barbara mayoral race after she failed to turn in enough signatures). Mr. Van Wolfswinkel Builds His Dream Slate (with his half-million-dollar popcorn box). Subtitled: The Man Who Spent Too Much or The Creature from the Black Lagoon of Mailers, or The Mysterious Intruder.

Barney Brantingham

Among those benefiting from Wolfie’s popcorn bucks is The Third Man, mayoral candidate Dale Francisco, seen as behind in the race. (But in these crazy last daze of hit pieces, radio spots, and TV ads, who knows?)

TV stations are happily harvesting Wolfie’s ad loot, as in The Gold Diggers of 2009. Wolfie’s Dallasbucks are bankrolling the ugliest campaign in modern Santa Barbara history, but The Miracle Worker hasn’t been seen around town in the flesh and so far refuses to be interviewed. (Except for a piece in the Daily Sound, in which he knocked over the wall softball questions lobbed at him.) The Sound, BTW, is endorsing Wolfie’s boy, Francisco.

The question is whether Wolfie’s $500,000-and-growing “gangs and graffiti” anti-City Hall campaign can produce a Pocketful of Miracles for his Francisco-Self-Hotchkiss-McCammon slate. Or a backlash.

Sergey Grishin played a game of Russian Roulette with a $50,000 campaign donation to mayoral hopeful Steve Cushman, but will that be enough in Steve’s Chamber pot? That was neutralized by the $47,000 Wolfie’s reportedly spent opposing Chamber of Commerce Prez Cushman. Both are chasing mayoral hopeful Helene Schneider, who doesn’t seem to be saying anything nasty about anyone (Sweet Charity). But Wolfie sent out a mailer with a photo of Schneider, looking gloomy, that accused her of being “at the helm of our city’s [“our”? He lives in Texas] Budget Titanic.”

Oddly, the loudest Gripes of Wrath seem not to be about flesh-and-blood candidates but Measure B, aimed at lowering permitted building heights downtown. A few weeks ago, B seemed a shoo-in, having been put on the ballot by 11,500 voter signatures. But lately, the Big Boys, some with financial irons in the fire, are dumping in money along with Halloweenish fright-night horror stories. And it probably doesn’t do Measure B any good to have Wolfie pushing it. (Guilt by association, etc.)

Volunteers are out knocking on doors on behalf of candidates, shades of I Walked with a Zombie. Overzealous supporters are ripping off campaign posters, la Invasion of the Sign Stealers. Or sneaking around in the darkness, planting signs in illegal places (They Drive By Night).

But when election night comes next Tuesday, November 3, if most voters haven’t cast ballots, the screen will flicker with The Night of the Living Dead. (How can anyone not know there’s an election? Wolfie’s last hit piece to reach my mailbox, in garish red and yellow, measured a full 14½-by-8½ inches.)

Who’s going to win? Heaven Only Knows. Maybe it’s up to Kismet. When the ballots are counted, will Thousands Jeer? But will they have cast ballots? As for the losers, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

As for democracy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

SLEAZE & DESIST: The Santa Barbara League of Women Voters (LOWV) has sent a “cease and desist” letter to Randall Van Wolfswinkel’s people. It points out that their Official Nonpartisan Voters Guide mailer gives the false impression that LWV is supporting the Francisco-Self-McCammon-Hotchkiss slate. In fact, LOWV President Linda Phillips told me, the league neither endorses nor opposes candidates.

The Guide makes no mention of Wolfswinkel’s Preserve Our Santa Barbara, Inc., but I traced it to a Sacramento address and Wolfswinkel’s Preserve Our Santa Barbara. It also endorses Measure B, which LOWV supports-but did not authorize use of its name and logo, Phillips said.

The league feels that campaign finance reform is very important” and has long worked for the cause, Phillips said. “The amount of money being spent raises the bar for everybody, makes everyone spend more money, discourages candidates from running, and turns off the voters, who don’t want to feel they have been bought. People should throw away negative ads. And they should vote.”

TALE OF TWO CITIES: Somehow, Fife Symington, dishonored former Arizona governor, manages to spend enough time in Phoenix to feel eligible to run again, but also spends enough time in Santa Barbara to serve as board chairman of the embattled Botanic Garden.

Until recently, Symington-Arizona governor from 1991-1997, forced from office by scandal, and convicted of bank fraud but then the conviction was reversed-had been taking steps to run for governor again next year. It seemed highly unlikely that AZ voters would have him back, though. Now Symington’s made an abrupt turnabout and instead endorsed his old friend, fellow Republican John Munger.

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Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.

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