Republicans in Paradise

Meg Whitman Makes a Surprise Campaign Stop in Santa Barbara

Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and State Assembly hopeful Mike Stoker at Goleta Republican Headquarters
Paul Wellman

“Are you looking forward to being First Dude?” called out self-described “Republican artist” Meg MacKenzie to Griffith Harsh as he walked by her on the patio of Paradise Café.

“First Doctor,” replied Harsh, a reasonable answer considering that it doesn’t take four years of medical school to become a dude. It’s also probably good policy to keep the distinctions between his wife, gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, and Sarah Palin as clear cut as possible.

Husband and wife made surprise campaign stops in Santa Barbara yesterday to glad hand with loyal supporters, and maybe pick up a check or two. They visited Paradise Café to chat with followers — but not to address the media — before hitting Goleta Republican Headquarters.

Whitman’s audience included local Republican candidates and party operators, but there were plenty of ordinary citizens with real problems they feel the candidate can solve.

Henry Delgado, an architect who lives in Goleta, was on the scene sporting a yellow “Don’t tread on me” pin as well as a pin in the shape of a tea kettle covered in stars and stripes, badges of his Tea Party affiliation. “I lost one country already,” he said, referring to his native Cuba. “I feel like I am losing another one.” His discontent is connected to the economy. The “last couple years have been awful [for business],” he said.

Suzanne Perkins, co-owner with her husband of a real estate company, shudders at the thought of Jerry Brown becoming governor. “He’s a complete socialist,” she says. Her hyperbolic rhetoric, however, is tempered by valid concerns. She feels as if California’s stringent regulations hem in her business. And she worries that the enactment of the health reform bill will force her to lay off employees.

Around the time Harsh was begging off “First Dude” responsibilities, Whitman was giving a hug to Lori Boehm, the Central Coast Region Director for MEGawomen, a volunteer Whitman campaign organization. Boehm, who lives in Camarillo, attended the event with her son Nick, also a Whitman supporter. Boehm acquired a degree in special education when she found that the public school district could not dedicate proper resources to Nick, who was born three months premature with cerebral palsy. She helped Nick graduate from Camarillo High School and go on to attend both SBCC and UCSB.

Boehm feels like Whitman will follow through on her campaign promise to divert resources away from administrators and direct them to teachers. “What Whitman said [about education] resonated with me,” Boehm recalled as the impetus for her signing up to volunteer two years ago.

As for Nick, he said, “I like the fact that Whitman’s new and that she hasn’t been working in public office before.” Many of the supporters present thought that Whitman’s business experience would come in handy should she win the election.

Donna Williams of Carpinteria said that “Governor Moonbeam”—a sobriquet conferred upon Jerry Brown by Chicago columnist Mike Royko in 1976, referring to his appeal to the more eccentric residents of California—has no idea how to create a job or, for that matter, to get one. “California is not a monarchy,” she exclaimed.

As Whitman and Harsh made their way inside the restaurant, the patio began to clear out. Anne Edmonston, a local Republican stalwart, was still beaming at having had the chance to shake Whitman’s hand. Asked what she said to Whitman, Edmonston replied, “I just thanked her for coming.”


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