ODDS AND ENDS: It was Thursday morning, and The Independent phones were singing like a million fat ladies. It was former assemblymember Pedro Nava on one line and Goleta Councilmember Roger Aceves on the other. They were both demanding corrections, clarifications, and retractions. They weren’t sure whom to get mad at, but you could steam milk from 50 yards with the energy generated by their vexation. It was their collective contention that Independent reporter Ethan Stewart had inserted his foot into their mouths by reporting in a news article that they — both card-carrying Democrats — had endorsed Republican candidate Mike Stoker for State Senate in his long day’s journey into night against his longtime Democratic sparring partner Hannah-Beth Jackson. After reviewing the facts, I’d be willing to grant them a clarification, but only with a lot of asterisks. Aceves, now running unopposed for reelection, insisted he had allowed Stoker to use a laudatory quote describing Stoker’s cooperative prowess with regard to nonprofits, but that he notified Stoker these quotes could not be used to suggest Aceves’s actual endorsement. Likewise Nava acknowledged having allowed Stoker to use complimentary comments Nava made about Stoker’s ability to work both sides of the aisle, but just not in this race. And Nava claimed to be unaware that at least half of Stoker’s campaign literature features blistering quotes Nava had made about Jackson, describing her — among other things — as a hypocrite. Nava also insisted he never endorsed Stoker.
This surprised Stewart, who was positive that Stoker had told him otherwise. After reviewing his interview notes, Stewart found countless instances in which Stoker boasted of having been “supported” by Democrats like Nava and Aceves. When Stewart called Stoker, Stoker was his usual friendly, magnanimous self and assured Stewart such confusion was understandable. Of course it was. Stoker engineered his remarks to convey one thing while giving himself an escape hatch so he could deny ever saying it. Politics, like getting old, ain’t for sissies. And if Nava and Aceves got slimed, they did so with their eyes wide open. Both are longtime political pros who either knew or should have known exactly how Stoker was going to spin their words. They got into bed with Stoker. They took off their clothes. And now they’re indignant anyone might think anything more than heavy petting transpired?
If Congressmember Lois Capps wins what the experts are touting as “the race of her political life” against Republican challenger Abel Maldonado — which she very clearly will — she can thank the dark and brooding former president Richard M. Nixon. It was during Nixon’s venomous presidency that 18-year-olds were ever-so-reluctantly given the vote. The Vietnam War was still in full flower, and even the most moss-backed of reactionaries had a hard time arguing that people who could get killed for their country should not be allowed to cast ballots for those who would send them in harm’s way. For S.B. County — home to UCSB — that forever changed the course of politics, a fact not lost on Capps. Facing newly drawn district lines that for the first time put her within striking distance of a credible Republican challenger, Capps and her machine have aggressively strip-mined the students of Isla Vista, registering roughly 12,000 new voters there alone. That, I am told, gives UCSB ultimate bragging rights — nationally — in terms of new voters registered on a single campus. While UCSB students tend to stay away from the polls in droves during most elections, presidential races are different. President Barack Obama may have lost some of the magical mojo he exhibited four years ago, but Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney represents the clenched congeniality of the new American Taliban, represented with considerably less polish by Republican senate candidates like Missouri’s Todd (Legitimate Rape) Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock, who infamously argued against allowing abortion in the case of rape because the resulting conception, however heinous, was “intended” by God.
I’m hoping that UCSB voters — not to mention those at S.B. City College — will likewise recognize if Governor Jerry Brown’s Golden Goose — Proposition 30 — goes down, so, too, will the number of their course offerings, and their tuitions will go up, up, and up. Capps’s Republican foe — Maldonado — finds himself caught in an unenviable political crossfire between groin and pocketbook, a dangerous place to be. The most charitable thing you can say about his track record on the groin issues is that it’s checkered. While the conservative far right still considers Abel a political spear carrier for perverts, his voting record is not sufficiently unequivocal to credibly differentiate him from the standard bearers of his own party.
Abel, Lois, and their respective proxies have raised a ton of cash so far. It’s worth noting, according to Bloomberg, that the Capps-Maldonado showdown has generated the second-highest number of TV ads in the country, though Abel has a 600-ad advantage at this point. Combined, that translates to 286 a day. Yikes. To make matters worse, Abel’s message — how he will fix what ails the economy — is not helped by indications that the economy seems to be on the mend without his help. It’s true that the City of Guadalupe is so hurting that it’s about to change its name to Guadalupe Beach, assuming voters approve, in hopes of attracting more business. (They would have done better to bribe the county’s most iconic steakhouse — the Far Western Tavern — not to move to Orcutt.) But down south, unemployment has dropped down to 5 percent! In the past 23 months, the City of S.B. has seen 5,800 new jobs, though many, admittedly, are temporary. Car sales are up 25 percent from the previous year; the number of monthly home sales are back to 2004 levels — though clearly the prices are still way down — and bed taxes continue to increase at an intoxicating rate. We ain’t out of the woods, but we are definitely doing better.
In the meantime, don’t ask for whom the fat lady sings; if you don’t get out there and vote, she’ll be singing for thee.