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No One Here but Us Dogs

JUBILATING AND TRIBULATING: It’s all over but
the wailing and gnashing of teeth. I, for one, will miss it. Not
the cacophony of dueling TV commercials per se or the din of direct
mailers, but the sense of companionship that election season always
brings. Now when the telephone rings, I know it will be just
another solicitor hawking yet another line of credit cards, or
perhaps time-share opportunities anywhere but lower State Street.
In recent weeks, the telephone had been an unending adventure. I
had the flu when Bill Clinton chatted with Mr.
Kinko’s at the Arlington Theatre last month, so I was thrilled when
I got a call from Clinton and heard his
tired-and-been-up-all-night-solving-the-problems-of-the-world rasp
telling me to be sure to vote for his “good friend John
Garamendi
” for lieutenant governor. Though I’ve harbored
an ill-defined sense of skepticism about Garamendi, I was more than
happy to oblige Big Bill.

Then there was Senator Barbara Boxer — though
how she got my cell phone number is something my lawyers are
working on — urging me to vote for the Democratic candidate running
to unseat an entrenched Republican congressional reactionary in
some Inland Empire meth-head district. And I can’t tell you how
many phone calls I received on behalf of John
Chiang
, the Democrat running for controller, even though
like many people I don’t have any idea what a controller does. My
favorite was from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa
, who delivered his shpiel in Spanish so
slowly that even a monolingual guero like me could understand it.
If they went to all that trouble, the least I could do was vote for
the man. I’m just hoping that for my birthday someone gets me one
of those automated phone message machines; then I can program it to
ask everyone in the state if their refrigerator is running. I was
especially heartened to get so many mailers from Pedro
Nava
, who represents Santa Barbara in the State Assembly.
Given that Nava — whose name literally translates to “swimming
stone”—is often too busy to take phone calls from reporters, it was
nice that he took the time to drop me so many lines, though I’m
still wondering exactly what he meant with the flyer emblazoned
with the headline “Save Our Troops” with absolutely no explanatory
text. Pedro raised about $350,000 and managed to whup the virtually
unknown Cristina C. Martin quite handily. Everyone figured he was
really preparing to run for the State Senate seat if the
ideologically inspired right-winger Tom McClintock
had beaten Garamendi for lieutenant governor. Unlike Nava,
McClintock is notoriously easy to get on the phone — and can be
counted on to quote Winston Churchill and/or
Thomas Jefferson within the first 45 seconds — and
maybe that’s why he didn’t send me anything in the mail. When asked
about his designs on the Senate, Nava replied, “There is no greater
honor than to represent the good people of the 35th Assembly
District.” I was most impressed how Nava managed to keep a straight
face as he said this. Fortunately for all of us, McClintock lost.
That’s a good thing. The lieutenant governor has a lot to say about
what kind of oil development takes place off our coast, and
McClintock is definitely not the guy you want saying it. And I for
one look forward to many future chats about Winston Churchill with
the senator.

Congressperson Lois Capps was wall-to-wall
grins Tuesday night, and her eyes shone like the high beams of an
imported German sports car. As a member of the minority party until
now, Lois has been down so long it began to look like up to her.
Now that the Democrats have swept Congress and are on the verge of
taking the Senate, Capps is eager to stand on her head to see what
it’s like being the party in power. As you might guess, I’m
likewise thrilled by this turn of events, though I’m dispirited
that it took a few smarmy, B-minus sex scandals to finally convince
a majority of my fellow citizens of the need for regime change.
Waging a war under false pretenses and watching New Orleans go down
the drain, apparently, were not enough. My real fear, however, is
that the Democrats will assume power just in time to get stuck
cleaning up the unholy mess the Bush administration created and
that the tab will be far more than any of us can pay. In the
meantime, it seems being a Republican has become fatally
unfashionable. Republican Dr. Dan Secord — who ran
the best TV commercials ever aired on behalf of an elected official
in Santa Barbara — joined the ranks of the political transvestites,
buying ad space on a pseudo-Democratic mailer showing his picture
prominently plastered between that of Bill Clinton and Phil
Angelides
. Nice try, Dan, but no cigar; Secord lost but
narrowly.

As far as worst TV ads, it’s a toss-up between Sheriff
Jim Anderson’s and those run by the pro-business
PAC that attacked the slow-growth majority controlling Goleta City
Council. Anderson’s ads looked like a poor man’s spaghetti western,
featuring a posse of grim-faced, granite-jawed lawmen speaking ill
of Anderson’s opponent — Lompoc Police Chief Bill
Brown
 — but conspicuously little about Anderson’s own
strengths. If that had been my only exposure to the race, I would
have voted for Brown in a heartbeat, and that’s apparently what
happened with thousands of voters. Anderson is the first incumbent
sheriff to lose in this county since the signing of the Magna
Carta. The pro-biz hit piece on the Goleta slow-growth machine was
all contrived luridness, but according to early results it appeared
to work, bumping off two of Goleta’s three incumbents. If you
thought Goleta politics was crazy already, you ain’t seen nothing
yet. Apparently, the Goleta PAC — reportedly including the oil
company Venoco, which has a major development slated for
Carpinteria — had money to spare, and paid for a mail hit-piece
against Carpinteria council candidate and slow-growther Al
Clark
that went out this weekend, holding Clark
responsible for everything bad that’s ever happened in the
Carpinteria Valley. But in Carpinteria, where everyone actually
knows everyone else, such tactics tend to backfire, and Clark won
handily.

Like I said, I will miss the warm sense of connection that
election season engenders in all of us. Fortunately, it all starts
up again in about 10 days.

— Nick Welsh

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