This November’s City Council race will mark the first time in over a decade that homeless activist and City Hall gadfly “Protest” Bob Hansen has opted not to run. Hansen has played the role of court jester in previous races, and without his involvement, candidates’ forums may be more to the point, but lacking a degree of comic relief.
Otherwise, ten candidates qualified for the November ballot. That’s down from the 15 who initially took out papers indicating an interest in running. Cathy Murillo formally kicked off her candidacy Saturday in somewhat unusual fashion, holding the event at a private home on the Mesa rather than in front of City Hall, where many candidates traditionally declare. Murillo is one of three candidates backed early on by the Democratic Central Committee as part of a concerted effort “to take back City Hall” from the conservative majority now in control. Running with Murillo are Iya Falcone — a former councilmember and old school moderate Democrat strongly tied to the public safety unions — and planning commissioner Deborah Schwartz, whose mother and former county supervisor Naomi Schwartz has been a major force within Democratic and environmental circles for decades.
The Democrats are challenging incumbents Dale Francisco, Michael Self, and Randy Rowse, who’ve been more focused on getting more cops, spending less, and preserving Santa Barbara’s small town feel than in promoting affordable housing and alternative transportation projects. While the incumbents — one Republican and two decline-to-states — have taken the challengers to task for their blatant appeal to political partisanship in what’s nominally a non-partisan contest, they have selected a campaign consultant — Chris Collier — strongly connected to the Republican Party in general and to State Senator Tony Strickland, an arch-conservative on fiscal matters.
Also running are two of the founding members of the Milpas Community Association, Sharon Byrne and Sebastian Aldana. In the past, Byrne and Aldana have stood with the incumbents calling for greater enforcement of transient-related crime and against medical marijuana dispensaries. Because of this, there’s concern among the incumbents that Byrne and Aldana could cost them votes. Also running is Cruzito Cruz — a Latino rights advocate and artist — and Jerry Mateo, a massage therapist most famous around City Hall for giving hugs.