Santa Barbara City Councilmember Iya Falcone officially announced what City Hall insiders had known for years: that she’s running for mayor this November to fill the vacancy created when Marty Blum is termed out of office. At a time when regular city voters are expressing alarm at the state of the economy and gang violence, Falcone-a seven-year council veteran-pledged to pursue a “back to basics” agenda focusing on the economy, infrastructure, and public safety while promising to deliver “proven leadership.” She stressed her toughness, her ability to compromise, and her ability as a decision maker as key attributes she brings to the job.
A moderate Democrat, Falcone was surrounded by a phalanx of high-profile elected officials there to endorse her campaign. While no current councilmembers were present, two former mayors were on hand – Harriett Miller and Hal Conklin – plus two county supervisors – Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf – as well as former county supervisor Naomi Schwartz, senior prosecutor Joyce Dudley, and Goleta Councilmember Michael Bennett.
The presence of elected officials from other jurisdictions underscored Falcone’s claim to work well with others. But the number of county officials in the mix prompted Blum – who enjoys prickly relations with Falcone – to quip, “I heard there’s been a coup; the county is taking over City Hall.”
Falcone has been gearing up for a run against fellow councilmember Helene Schneider, who represents a younger, more progressive wing of the South Coast’s Democratic Party. While Schneider – who has nearly three years remaining on her last term – has yet to officially declare her candidacy, she did send out a Christmas card to many prospective voters this winter, and that was paid for by her mayoral campaign committee. This past week, Falcone also secured the endorsements of the politically influential Police Officers Association and the city firefighters union. Given Falcone’s close relations with the police union, their endorsement was so automatic that Schneider was never afforded the opportunity to make her case before the union board. While the firefighters gave Schneider a full hearing, the union members eventually voted to endorse Falcone.
As of this writing Falcone has not been endorsed by any of her council colleagues. Three have pledged to remain neutral – Grant House, Dale Francisco, and Roger Horton – and two have endorsed Schneider – Blum and Das Williams.) While most of the South Coast Democratic establishment has been girding for what promises to be a slugfest between Falcone and Schneider, the geometry of the race may not be so simple or direct.
Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman is aggressively exploring the possibility of a mayoral run. He’s been given the chamber board’s blessing and said he needs to make sure there are no legal wrinkles that preclude his candidacy before officially announcing. Cushman said he initially toyed with running for council, noting that four of the seven council seats will be up for grabs this November. “Then I started thinking, ‘If you’re going to run, you may as well run for the top spot,'” he said. Cushman said he wants “to give people a choice,” but should he run, it’s likely he would siphon off some of the support that Falcone might have gotten from business interests and more conservative-minded voters. Falcone supporters had discouraged former councilmember Dan Secord, a moderate Republican, from pursuing his interest in the mayoralty, arguing that he would split the vote and give the race to Schneider.