Bill Clinton takes time for selfies and waves to the crowd while leaving at the Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara (March 22, 2016)
Paul Wellman

Former President Bill Clinton got up close and personal with about 25 elected officials and community leaders in the low-ceilinged basement of the Canary Hotel early Tuesday afternoon, rallying the troops in a conversational way on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton, now the putative front-runner in the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Clinton spoke without notes for about 15 minutes, waxing wonkish on the matter of student loans, extolling the virtues of debt-free graduation — as espoused by his wife — as opposed to the tuition-free education advocated by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic rival. No media was allowed in the room, but participants said Clinton expressed himself personally, animatedly, and with extemporaneous ease.

Bill Clinton at the Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara (March 22, 2016)
Cathy Murillo

To the extent Clinton broached the subject of Donald Trump, Republican front-runner, it was to take exception to Trump’s response to the terrorist attack on Brussels by ISIS, in which the New York billionaire reportedly called for the United States to withdraw from NATO. Clinton sought to underscore the importance of California’s primary results — traditionally dismissed as all but irrelevant by seasoned pundits because of its June date. Clinton reminded the crowd that it wasn’t until the California primary in 1992 that he finally sewed up his party’s nomination. Clinton gave a warm shout-out to California’s Latino voters, commenting that if Texas Latinos turned out in the same relative numbers as California’s, Texas would be a Democratic state.

Tuesday’s meet and greet was free of charge for those elected and community leaders invited by Laura Burton Capps, a mover and shaker within local and national party circles. Burton Capps worked for the Clinton White House as an assistant to Clinton adviser — and now television talk-show host — George Stephanopoulos from the age of 22 to 24. Her office was right next to Clinton’s. She was also his speechwriter during the next two years. Clinton didn’t take any questions from those assembled, but he made time to talk briefly with each person there, while posing for photographs.

County Supervisor Janet Wolf, for example, asked Clinton’s is thoughts on prison reform. “I brought it up, and he talked a lot about it,” Wolf said. “It’s a subject he knows a lot about and is very passionate about.” State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson reportedly suggested that Hillary Clinton advocate a federal wage-equity bill for women, much like the bill Jackson won approval for in Sacramento. State Assemblymember Das Williams was on hand with his recently born daughter, who braved the room’s hot-house temperatures without audible gripe. While no presidential kiss was bestowed, Williams and his daughter did secure a photographic keepsake of the event.

Bill Clinton leaving at the Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara (March 22, 2016)
Paul Wellman

Clinton is scheduled for a high-stakes fundraiser later this evening at the Hope Ranch home of former county supervisor Susan Rose. To get in the door, guests must donate $1,000 a piece. To have their photographs taken, the price is $2,700 a pop, the maximum allowed in the primary under federal election rules. According to federal campaign finance reports, Clinton had received 624 individual donations from Santa Barbara donors prior to Tuesday’s evening fundraiser, raising $155,819. Sanders, by contrast, had received 1,763 individual donations to the tune of $128,000.


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