Four days after losing the June 7 primary election, Karen Jones, the most conservative 3rd District supervisorial candidate, called Joan Hartmann, her former Democratic rival, up to a stage, raised her arm, and offered her full support in the November election.
It was the day of Jones Fest, a well-known music festival in the Santa Ynez Valley held every year in Jones’s front yard. Two hundred people, young and old, trickled in and out, listening to all kinds of music. At Jones’s announcement, the crowd cheered, and the two women embraced and danced to Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
“She is an ethical person,” Jones said of Hartmann, who secured 42 percent of the vote, according to the latest tallies. “Joan and I disagree on how to solve problems and what the role of government is, but Joan and I do not disagree on moral obligations.”
As a practical matter, Jones’s endorsement functions as a jab at Bruce Porter, a retired U.S. Army Corp of Engineers colonel backed by the Santa Barbara Republican Party. He won 36 percent of the vote and will face Hartmann in the November runoff.
In public, the unrestrained Jones and the meticulous Hartmann appear complete opposites. Jones, 57, could pass for a hippie, as she put it, but she certainly isn’t one. Her long brown hair has thin streaks of gray. She wears bright colors. When her daughter turned 18, Jones dropped her off at the Lightning in a Bottle arts and music festival to help her come out of her shell. She volunteers at a nearby thrift shop, promotes music, and is good friends with country singer Kinky Friedman.
At the same time, she protested Obamacare outside Representative Lois Capps’s office. She organized events for the Tea Party but rejects the label. As a kid, Jones grew up as a Goldwater Girl in Bakersfield, where her young parents were heavily involved in the Republican Party. Her mom registered voters while Jones played at party headquarters; her dad talked politics with a reporter over nightcaps, as she eavesdropped.
Hartmann was also a Goldwater Girl — her mother was conservative — but she turned liberal once she was old enough to vote. In college, Hartmann traveled to Harvard to protest physicist William Shockley’s pronouncement that blacks were genetically inferior to whites. These days, the 65-year-old does not exactly come across as an activist, but with Hartmann’s extensive background in academia and environmental law, no one questions Hartmann’s progressive credentials.
So Jones’s endorsement, on the surface, is perplexing. But Jones made it no secret she entered the race to attack Porter. She relentlessly railed on him during the debates. Jones’s dislike of Porter — a Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District boardmember — heightened after his support of Measure L, a $20 million school facilities bond measure, which failed in 2012.
“I pay too much attention to things,” Jones said last month, pulling out photocopies of fundraising papers from the Measure L committee, Citizens to Improve Santa Ynez High Schools. The fact that all of its major donors were legal and architectural firms was evidence of corruption, she claimed. “That is right out of Bakersfield political machine.”
For his part, Porter expressed disappointment Jones backed Hartmann, reasoning that if he and Jones sat down, they would agree on “90 to 95 percent” of things. “I continue to be surprised,” he said of Jones’s attacks.
As for the Measure L committee, Porter conceded such donations — specifically $7,500 from SIM Architects Inc. and $6,000 from the San Francisco law firm Jones Hall — “seem a bit unseemly” but are “certainly not illegal.” Though he actively supported the bond measure, Porter said he was not on the committee as “it would not be proper for any school boardmember to be part of [it].”
Hartmann hosted her own post-election party in June, which Jones attended to again offer her support. “I’ve come to like her very much,” Hartmann said. “I would value her advice.”
As for her own candidacy, Jones expressed satisfaction with the nearly 1,200 votes she received, especially considering she did not accept donations. “I got the most votes per dollar spent,” she said, “one dollar per vote.”