In what was as much a cocktail party as a traditional campaign kickoff, Santa Barbara City Councilmember Helene Schneider announced Monday evening at the Lobero Theatre courtyard that she’s running for mayor. About 100 friends, supporters, and well-wishers-mostly from the liberal-progressive spectrum of Democratic Party circles-showed up to support their candidate. Speaking on behalf of Schneider were Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves, Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, and former mayor Sheila Lodge, who is now a member of the city’s Planning Commission. In keeping with the party-like theme, Schneider stressed Santa Barbara’s unique community spirit rather than specific issues such as gang violence, homelessness, height limits, and budget cuts. “If you can’t have fun campaigning,” Schneider said, “that’s really depressing, because it’s a lot of work.”
She acknowledged that the mayor was just one vote out of seven on the council, but said people look to the mayor for leadership. Her style, she said, was to help bring people together to “find out what we agree on, not just where we disagree.” She picked the Lobero Theatre as a backdrop, she said, because, having opened in 1873, it is the oldest continuously running theater in California. Acknowledging the many challenges now confronting Santa Barbara, Schneider likened City Hall to the theater, concluding, “The show must go on.” Schneider is running against fellow councilmember Iya Falcone, who represents the more traditional centrist wing of the Democratic Party, and who enjoys strong support from the police and firefighters unions. Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman has indicated a strong interest in running for mayor, but only if he can keep his chamber job. And promoter Justin Michael-son of Santa Barbara’s convicted Ponzi scheme embezzler Reed Slatkin-has taken to the Internet to declare himself a candidate as well.