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Intrigue Already Growing Over District 6 Vacancy

Appointment Will Fill Hart's Empty Seat

Gregg Hart on election night last June
Paul Wellman (file)

With Gregg Hart’s departure from the Santa Barbara City Council after his election to the county board of supervisors, the city’s elected governing body now finds itself operating without a full deck once again. For the first six months of this year, the council stumbled along with only six members ​— ​a full council has seven. In that instance, the vacancy was created when councilmember Cathy Murillo was elected mayor and it took seven months before Oscar Gutierrez, her successor representing the Westside district, was elected and sworn in. During that time, the council ​— ​riven by personality disputes as much as ideological differences ​— ​found itself occasionally stalemated on key policy issues.

The current vacancy for District 6 ​— ​which ranges from Oak Park to Haley Street along the downtown corridor ​— ​will be resolved much sooner via council appointment on February 12, 2019, as opposed to special election. The appointment process already promises to be exceedingly competitive, with at least two prominent political progressives getting ready for a showdown and several other lesser-known personalities also considering a run. Gina Fischer ​— ​a well-known campaign operative who has worked on behalf of many Democratic and women’s issues ​— ​has made clear her intentions to run for more than eight months now. Fischer works for 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann but said she would step down to serve.

Competing for the council appointment is former councilmember Grant House, who served eight years on the council ​— ​term limits forced him off four years ago ​— ​and eight years before that on the Planning Commission. Both House and Fischer command loyal supporters, and for the Democratic Party, it could prove a tough choice. Also mentioned as possible contenders are Stephanie Armstrong, second in command at the Chamber of Commerce; Frank Peters, a onetime Orange County businessperson and born-again cycling advocate; and Brittany Heaton, a county public-works employee who chairs the Neighborhood Advisory Council. Applications for the appointment are due January 9, 2019. The selection is slated to take place February 12.

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