Dr. Dan Secord, who lost to Janet Wolf in the 2006 race for the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisor’s 2nd District seat, pulled paperwork on Monday to challenge Wolf in this year’s primary, set for June 8.
The move, however, doesn’t mean anything unless he turns those papers back into the county election’s office by the end of the day on Friday. Secord said he is waiting for the results of a poll being conducted by political consultant John Davies before making a decision. “I need some data,” he said. He told The Independent Monday afternoon that he had been making inquiries for several months into potentially running.
Given the current state of the county’s budget (it is currently facing a deficit of $30-something million), there’s little doubt fiscal focus will be Secord’s rallying cry this time around, as it was the last race. “This election is going to be about the county’s budget, and who has done something with the budget and who hasn’t,” Secord said. “[The supervisors] continue to spend money and build things and give raises. They’ve got to live in the same reality we do.” Secord, echoing much of what he often said in the race four years ago, declared he wants the county to establish a finance committee filled with members knowledgeable on the budget, and that he is better equipped to deal with fiscal issues. “I’m not sure it’s about Janet,” he explained, going after Wolf’s experience, just as he did four years ago. “She was elected with no experience and limited knowledge. She’s probably done what you’d expect. She didn’t cause these problems; she’s just chosen not to grapple with them.”
Wolf responded Monday night, explaining she not only dealt with the budget as a school board member for 12 years in the Goleta Valley School District, but also for the past three years as a supervisor. “If anything, I’ve got more experience than I did three years ago,” she said. “It’s really kind of a silly comment actually.”
Given Wolf’s strong presence on the board and non-controversial time in the position, it seems Secord would have little ammunition to go after Wolf with outside of budgetary issues and a difference in ideology. Though many (including Secord) questioned the experience of Wolf (who now sits as the chair of the board), she has shown herself to be an intelligent addition to the board, and a soft but firm voice who is not afraid to ask tough, probing questions of staff. She has been a staunch opponent of development along the Gaviota Coast and was also was the leading crusader in taking more power away from the CEO’s office and putting it in the hands of the supervisors, a move Secord opposed. “I’m very proud of my record,” she said. “I’m more than happy to have the campaign and discuss my record.”
No doubt in the back of the mind of Secord, a moderate Republican, is the potential opportunity to take advantage of recent national trends that have shown Democratic seats to be vulnerable. Secord, who for awhile was mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor of Santa Barbara, is an alternate on the California Coastal Commission, having served as a commissioner in 2005. He also spent two terms on the Santa Barbara City Council before making his move for the supervisor’s seat.
Secord defeated Wolf (by 51 votes) and two others in the 2006 primary, but didn’t receive 50 percent of the vote, leading to a runoff in November. In that, he lost by 1,619 out of more than 32,000 votes cast in the 2nd District, half of which is in the suburban Goleta Valley, the other in the city of Santa Barbara.
A quiet winter leading up to this week left many to wonder if Wolf would ease her way into reelection. She has held a few fundraisers along the way, ballooning her stockpile of cash by $117,372 in 2009, a show of strength to anyone considering a run. She currently has nearly $70,000 in cash on-hand. While Wolf would have a good head start, Secord has shown an ability to fundraise, even out-raising Wolf in the 2006 campaign $457,000 to $447,700.
Many insiders were surprised to see that no one had jumped into the ring earlier against Wolf, considering two key, strategic reasons: to make the Democratic machine expend a little energy, and because this is the last election prior to the all-important redistricting of the district lines in 2011. Should Wolf go unchallenged, Democrats could focus their attention — and money — on other races in the region, including the 35th Assembly race where either Das Williams or Susan Jordan will be squaring off against Mike Stoker in November, the 33rd Assembly race where Hildy Zacharias is facing an uphill battle to have any chance of winning, or even the County’s 5th District seat, which is opening up with Joe Centeno’s upcoming retirement. As one political insider put it, “No party wants to see the other walk scot free.”
After the 2010 census, the supervisors will be tasked with redrawing the county district lines, a usually mundane, drawn-out task, but one that has great importance in the scheme of things, and could tip the balance to whatever the board majority may be. Should Wolf retain her seat, she — along with 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr and 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal — will sit in the majority. Secord’s more conservative stance would likely align closer to 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray and potentially a conservative winner in the 5th District. The power balance rings especially important in the 3rd District, where there sits the greatest chance of the lines changing — or not changing — dramatically.
So, as Secord waits for numbers to come back, Wolf waits for the clock to strike 5 o’clock Friday to see who she might be facing, if anyone.