Who Will Run for Santa Barbara County 2nd District?

Janet Wolf’s Decision to Step Down Leaves an Opening

Councilmember Gregg Hart (left) and Goleta school board member Susan Epstein (right)
Paul Wellman (file)

Santa Barbara County 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf announced Thursday she will not seek reelection, and the race to replace her is up in the air. But one thing is clear: Goleta City Councilmember Roger Aceves, who challenged Wolf in 2014, is out. That leaves two Democratic candidates well known to be interested: Santa Barbara City Councilmember Gregg Hart and Goleta school boardmember Susan Epstein.

The primary election is only seven months away. Should several candidates decide to run, the race will likely be decided next November. For the race to be decided in June, a candidate must win 50 percent of the vote plus one vote. Santa Barbara County’s 2nd district includes the Eastern Goleta Valley, Hope Ranch, More Mesa, and some parts of the City of Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Independent called Hart and Epstein on Thursday morning to get their comments.

“I am taking some time to consider how I can best serve the community,” Hart said, adding he has lived in the 2nd District most of his life except while he attended UC Santa Barbara. “People are talking to me about different things.”

Just eight days ago, Hart was reelected to the City Council. He raised a whopping $144,000 even though his first-time challenger, Jack Ucciferri, brought in just $4,000. Hart won’t even be sworn in again until January. Ucciferri wasted little time in posting Thursday on Facebook: “Very coincidental timing!” Ucciferri also took exception to the Independent’s characterization of his “key issue” that Hart would soon be running for higher office. To be fair, Ucciferri also heavily campaigned on the issue of fighting Cox Cable’s broadband internet monopoly.

Jack Ucciferri, who lost to Councilmember Gregg Hart just eight days ago, said of Janet Wolf's announcement: “Very coincidental timing!”
Paul Wellman (file)

Epstein similarly did not confirm or deny her plans. “This is a time to celebrate Supervisor Wolf and her accomplishments. She has been an inspirational leader,” she said, noting Wolf’s “conviction” and “independent spirit.” Epstein said she has known Wolf since the supervisor encouraged her to run for the school board more than 13 years ago.

Santa Barbara’s political etiquette manual would advise candidates looking for Wolf’s endorsement not to confirm their plans to run on the same day Wolf announced her decision to step down. Plus, there is always State Senate 2020 to think about.


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