SILENCE IS GOLDEN: It’s all over, I suppose,
but the shouting. The June primaries have officially ended, meaning
our telephones, mailboxes, and TV screens can enjoy a few moments
of respite from political solicitations. The big story, as always,
is who didn’t vote. That’s most of us. Presumably the democracy we
are so eager to export to Iraq is the democracy we see fit not to
exercise right here at home. But who needs a lecture?

Locally, the biggest dud was the much heralded county
split vote
. I’ve always thought the county split was an
idiotic idea in search of a problem to make even worse. But after
five-and-a-half long years of huffery and puffery
— not to mention the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars
spent studying the dumb idea to death — I would have enjoyed the
satisfaction of righteously kicking the other side’s ass. But
proponents never bothered to wage any kind campaign. They stayed
home. Little wonder 80 percent of the voters told them to take a
hike. But election night provided no moment of closure for county
split foe Joyce Howerton, the former Lompoc mayor
and longtime community activist. For a while Joyce tried hanging
out at the county building in Santa Maria, where she had hoped to
“smirk, smirk, smirk.” But that proved futile because there was no
one there she could smirk at. So she packed her bags for Penelope’s
Tea and Gift shop in Lompoc, where the Lompoc Police Chief
Bill Brown was tentatively celebrating the fact
that he made the November playoffs against incumbent Sheriff
Jim Anderson. Somehow, it seems suspiciously
metrosexual for a burly, mustachioed cop like
Brown to be hanging out at a tea and gift shop, much less celebrate
there. But Brown is entitled to go wherever he wants. Barring a
dramatic reversal of fortune once all the absentee ballots are
counted, it appears Brown came out of the proverbial nowhere —
Lompoc — to beat out Santa Barbara’s politically powerful former
sheriff Jim Thomas for the honor of dethroning
Anderson this fall. Despite Anderson’s protestations of victory —
with 37 percent he was the top vote-getter — the sheriff finds
himself in seriously hot water. About six weeks ago, his three
challengers all but signed a notarized Anybody-but-Anderson pact,
so angry were they over Anderson’s leadership problems. So expect
challengers Thomas and Butch Arnoldi to be tossing
their support behind Brown.

But the dud award of this election goes to Das
’s campaign for the 2nd District supervisor’s
seat. Williams finished third out of a field of four candidates,
barely beating Just-Say-No neighborhood preservationist Joe
for last place. (Despite his showing, Guzzardi
did twice as well as most handicappers thought he would.) Coming in
first — though only by a smidgen — was Dr. Dan
, the sole Republican in the race, who comes across
as a mix between Father-Knows-Best and Marcus Welby, MD. Facing
Secord in November will be Janet Wolf, a longtime
Goleta resident, former Goleta School Boardmember, and darling of
the Democratic establishment. Williams, now serving his first term
on the Santa Barbara City Council — is as smart, charismatic,
hard-working, and impassioned a political player as Santa Barbara
has seen in many moons. Few political animals anywhere radiate such
comfort in their own skins, yet the TV commercials that Williams
bought and paid for show him as just the opposite — stiff, awkward,
and a little bit weird. Whoever made those commercials should be
sued for malpractice, but as bad as they were, they constituted
only a small portion of his woes. Williams’s main problem was that
he was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. I always
figured Goleta and Noleta were too white-bread and suburban for
such a decidedly urban hep cat like Williams, a former I.V. surfer
dude and progressive activist given to wearing born-again bling. To
his enduring credit, Williams is one of the few lefty enviros who
has actively sought to fuse neighborhood protection, open-space
preservation, and social-justice agendas into one political
package, however unwieldy it may be. In downtown Santa Barbara,
that might sell. But in Goleta and Noleta — where NIMBY
liken affordable-housing advocates to
Nazis and affordable-housing advocates reciprocate
by comparing the NIMBYs to Southern racists
that’s a trickier proposition. There, it’s more like riding two
horses heading in opposite directions at full speed. Little wonder
that both sides in this equation suspected Williams was trying too
hard to be too many things to too many people. Nor did it help
Williams’s case that he seemed to start checking out a 2nd District
race almost within months of taking his seat on the City Council.
That kind of itchy-pants ambition doesn’t sit well
in Santa Barbara, no matter how freaking knowledgeable you might be
on land-use issues.

The final nail was Williams’s effort to unseat fellow
councilmember and Democrat Iya Falcone in last
November’s City Council race by actively supporting and fundraising
for anti-Iya candidate Dianne Channing. Williams
was hardly the only Democrat to find Falcone’s high-handed style
off-putting, but it wasn’t a fight Williams could hope to win and
he didn’t come close. As a result, Iya’s friends in the politically
influential police and firefighters unions have become Das’s
enemies, and the guns-and-hoses power bloc came out strongly for
Janet Wolf, Das’s chief Democratic rival in the 2nd District race.
Likewise, Democratic Congressmember Lois Capps
who’d gotten involved in the Williams-Falcone fracas on Iya’s
behalf — jumped in on Wolf’s behalf as she’s never jumped into a
local primary before. Let’s hope Wolf’s supporters can be as
gracious in their victory as Williams has been in defeat. In the
first place, gloating’s never attractive. Besides, the two sides
need each other if they hope to win in November. Certainly, they
need each other if they hope to have a local Democratic Party
that’s worth a damn. And when Das gets finished licking his wounds,
let’s hope he can get focused on the here-and-now-of council
business. He may not be right for Goleta, but he’s still got a
whole lot to offer in Santa Barbara.

— Nick Welsh


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