Given the entrenched dysfunction gripping Sacramento, we have our doubts what difference anyone we send there to represent us can actually make. That being acknowledged, we remain hopeful that Democratic candidate Das Williams, a seven-year city councilmember from Santa Barbara, possesses the requisite political chops, youthful idealism, and cold-blooded pragmatism to actually make a dent.
Williams is now vying for his party’s nomination to run for the 35th Assembly District, which is currently occupied by Pedro Nava and runs along the coast from Oxnard to the Santa Ynez Valley. Williams is running against longtime environmental activist Susan Jordan, who boasts an impressive, albeit wonkier, political portfolio in her own right and happens to be Nava’s wife. Initially, the race seemed Jordan’s to lose, but Williams, deploying his considerable experience as a grassroots organizer and calling on political favors, has out-hustled and out-muscled Jordan every step of the way. We’re confident Williams will deploy the same back-breaking work ethic once in Sacramento that he brings to bear on the campaign trail.
During his tenure on the City Council, Williams embodied the fusion of social justice politics — tenant protections and the living wage come to mind — with smart-growth environmentalism. Williams’s support for high-density urban development and alt-transit did not always sit well with traditional slow-growthers, who pushed unsuccessfully for a lower building height limit in Santa Barbara last year over Williams’ strenuous opposition. While not always successful, Williams, to his credit, has sought to mend fences with this camp.
As a legislative player, Williams has been consistently inventive, shrewd, and creative. On matters budgetary, Williams has supported pay raises for cops while figuring out ingenious ways to keep intact programs serving at-risk youth — indirectly threatened by police pay hikes — by robbing Peter to pay Paul. On the campaign trail, Williams has declared education his number one priority, vowing to plug corporate tax loopholes and raise taxes on liquor to keep the budget ax away from the classrooms. To this end, Williams has pledged to wage political warfare against the feckless lassitude of his own party’s leadership, as much as the just-say-no intransigence of Sacramento’s Republican minority.
Naturally, this is precisely what everyone running for elected office says. But given Williams political history, we’re confident he will actually try. As a matter of temperament, Williams is that rare political animal who actually seems suited to the Byzantine challenges Sacramento has to offer. But given his life history — so deeply rooted in the culture, community, and values of the South Coast where he was born and bred — we’re confident Williams will remain connected and accountable to his constituents.