Calling The Santa Barbara Channels’ main television studio spartan only hints at the bare bones setting for Real Talk, a public affairs series on Cox Channel 21 organized and hosted by journalist Jerry Roberts. The community media network’s set used only dark curtains, dramatic lighting, and a circular wooden table with chairs for a genteel round of political combat on May 12.

Vic Cox

With this episode, Roberts focused on the June 8 primary election, and the hot local races for the 35th Assembly District Democratic nominee and for Santa Barbara County’s new district attorney. The latter contest, between deputy DAs Joyce Dudley and Josh Lynn, will produce a final result next month. By contrast, no matter who secures the Democratic Assembly nod, Susan Jordan or Das Williams, she or he will face a Republican challenger in November—probably Mike Stoker, barring an upset by Daniel Goldberg.

Before taping the election discussion, producer Silvia Rodriquez had distributed a news release soliciting email questions for the guests and urging audience participation, a feature she hoped would catch on. (For previous shows, go to the Real Talk Web site.) The small but attentive group in studio asked no questions.

Prior to this fall’s general election, Roberts promised, both parties’ candidates would appear on Real Talk, but for now Democratic rivals Williams and Jordan had the spotlight to themselves. Before the video cameras began recording, the three relaxed with banter and some political repartee. When Jordan asked if she should look into the camera when responding, Roberts grinned and said, “Just look at me (pause) adoringly.”

Williams wisely kept quiet on that topic, but when the conversation turned to why no Republicans would be on the primary election show, he cracked, “Because we’re the only reasonable candidates.”

During the taped program, which is currently online and being cablecast, the opponents demonstrated how similar their positions were. Roberts asked each why his or her qualifications overshadowed the other. A Democratic voter’s choice could fall to Jordan or to Williams depending on the weight given to experience in business and nonprofit management versus a seven-year record of decisions on education and city issues, respectively.

There followed a series of questions on California’s budget crises, the proposed taxation of legalized marijuana, altering the two-thirds vote requirement on state budgets and raising taxes, new offshore oil drilling, effect of term limits, special interests’ influence, and Arizona’s new immigration law. Williams criticized Jordan for including teachers among special interests and Jordan returned the favor over Williams’s support of the slant-drilling deal known as Tranquillon Ridge, but there did not seem a knife’s blade of difference between their stances on the significant issues.

Josh Lynn and Joyce Dudley, two experienced criminal prosecutors, faced a somewhat similar problem in explaining why each of them would make a better DA than their opponent. Dudley, a senior deputy DA, and Lynn, the chief trial deputy, appeared separately at the Real Talk table. (When asked why that was, I was told the District Attorney’s Office had requested the two candidates not debate each other in person during the campaign. I gathered that this approach was felt to help preserve staff morale and the dignity of the office.)

When Roberts brought up the report that Dudley’s plan to challenge incumbent DA Christie Stanley last June caused friction among her coworkers, Dudley replied that she was urged by unnamed officials to run for the county office. At the time, Stanley was ill with the lung cancer that eventually took her life. Dudley said the DA’s Office was faltering under uncertain leadership, and her candidacy was “for the sake of the county.” She added this was a very difficult decision for her, and Stanley was the first person she told.

Lynn led the office for a period of months before Ann Bramsen was officially appointed acting DA.

Both Dudley and Lynn felt that gang suppression efforts were not working in the county generally, though Lompoc was an exception. Neither of them supported the idea that illegal or undocumented immigrants were a major factor in gang growth. For more details on specific issues, such as trying youths as adults, problems with medical marijuana, and others, click here for the complete presentation. It will be cablecast daily through June 8, with the last showing at 4 p.m. on Election Tuesday.

This was Roberts’s 10th Real Talk presentation since launching in 2008, but his fourth foray from a new location. The nonprofit Santa Barbara Channels, which operates public access Channel 17 as well as educational access Channel 21, relocated its studios and offices last year from Santa Barbara to Goleta, hosting a grand reopening in December.

A special “Real Talk” show about the Venoco Paredon Project and a debate between the rivals for the County Supervisors’ 2nd District seat, Janet Wolf and Dan Secord, is set to begin taping on Wednesday, May 26.


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