The “No on Measure P” campaign continues to outpace the “Yes” team on the fundraising front, with the most recent donations bringing the respective war chests to $5.8 million and $352,000. Return donors to the “No” side in the latest filing period included Pacific Coast Energy Company ($78,517 in the first half of October, $235,553 election-wide) and ERG Operating Company ($90,893 recently, $181,786 overall). The biggest financial opponent to Measure P has been Californians for Energy Independence, a statewide political committee that has netted upward of $7.7 million from larger and regional oil companies to defeat this initiative in Santa Barbara County, as well as a similar one on the San Benito County ballot.
Proponents of the measure — which would ban new cyclic steam injection, acidizing, and fracking projects in the county’s unincorporated areas — have given an outpouring of small donations. In the most recent filings, larger donations have come from Santa Barbara–based life coach Lamara Heartwell ($30,000), Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard ($5,000), and Goleta Water Board vice president Lauren Hanson, who has donated $3,040 overall. Other bigger checks for “Yes” have come from the Consumer Advocates for Safe Food and Water Watch ($32,100), the Center for Biological Diversity ($10,000), Water Guardian volunteer Katie Davis ($13,482), and Assemblymember Das Williams ($7,598).
With Election Day now mere days away, both camps are hoping to boost voter turnout in a midterm election with few other galvanizing issues. According to County Elections, 197,067 registered by the 10/20 deadline, and almost 27 percent, or 33,321 of the 124,435 absentee ballots, were returned as of Tuesday; of those, 13,378 came from registered Democrats, 13,219 from Republicans, and 5,533 from those with no party preference. The last two midterm elections attracted turnout percentages in the high 60s.
Williams reiterated recent media reports that the battle over Measure P could go down as one of the most expensive county initiatives in the country and that fighting against that level of fundraising “comes down to the grass roots.” Jim Byrne, spokesperson for the “No” side, addressed the animosity, saying, “I’m sure the industry would love to be spending their money elsewhere.”
The $7.7 million amassed by Californians for Energy Independence is almost as much as Governor Jerry Brown has received this year for his reelection bid ($7.8 million) and more than Brown’s challenger, Neel Kashkari, has raised ($6.9 million). It also far surpasses the combined donations in this year’s 24th District Congressional race between Representative Lois Capps ($2 million) and Chris Mitchum ($396,000).