With the filing deadline for candidates running for Santa Barbara mayor and City Council less than a week away, it appears there are almost as many candidates running for mayor as there are for the three open council seats combined. Declared mayoral candidates include current city councilmembers Cathy Murillo and Frank Hotchkiss, who personify the council’s left-right yin and yang. Councilmember Bendy White—who embodies the moderate middle—stated he’s “in the cauldron” of the mayor’s race to “get bang for the buck on sales tax.” Joining White in the middle is former mayor and councilmember Hal Conklin, seeking a City Hall comeback after a 23-year abeyance from the dais. Angel Martinez, former CEO of Deckers, has announced his intentions to run and has reportedly paid for polling already. Maiza Hixson, the progressive-minded art agitator, announced she was pulling out of the mayoral race a week before it officially started and declared her support for Murillo.
With the recent advent of district elections, the mayoral race will be the only at-large contest confronting city voters. Incumbent Councilmember Gregg Hart will be facing opposition from alt-transit champion and former vacation-rental entrepreneur Jack Ucciferri to represent the city’s downtown, District Six. Former fire chief Warner McGrew announced that he will be running for council to represent San Roque, District Five, against Eric Friedman, who worked as administrative assistant to Salud Carbajal when he was county supervisor. And attorney James F. Scafide will be running against Planning Commissioner Jay Higgins for District Four, encompassing much of the Riviera.
City Hall was forced to embrace district elections as settlement to a lawsuit alleging lack of diversity on the council. Of the candidates, Murillo and Martinez have Spanish surnames; Murillo is an American-born Latina and Martinez a Cuban-born immigrant. Four of the candidates are either incumbent city councilmembers about to be termed out or a former councilmember. This year’s election defies easy prognostication, and candidates have a month to turn in the requisite number of registered city voters’ signatures to qualify for this November’s ballot.