This story first appeared at Newsmakers with Jerry Roberts on September 22, 2019.
Monique Limón’s decision to give up her Assembly seat to run for the State Senate, announced over the weekend, resolves the biggest unanswered question about Santa Barbara politics in 2020, six months before California’s March 3 primary election.
Limón, a second-term state lawmaker reelected last November, drove insiders, ambitious strivers, hungry campaign consultants, geezer gossipmongers, and assorted hacks and flacks nuts with a half-year Hamlet act about whether to stay put or move on, during which time much of the local political world was effectively frozen in place.
Limón kept her own counsel throughout, even after she blew by a self-imposed 60-day deadline for announcing her plans. She routinely warned annoying reporters not to believe the rumor of the week: “Until you hear it from me, don’t believe it,” she kept saying.
While being pushed, pulled, and leaned on behind the scenes, virtually from the day after her reelection, Limón, to her credit, focused on work in the Capitol. During a strong legislative session, she passed a model bill to reform the usurious payday loan industry and another that jumpstarts state action to require public access to closed-off Hollister Ranch beaches.
Now she’s a prohibitive frontrunner to replace termed-out Hannah-Beth Jackson.
Here are five political takeaways:
1. Cathy overplayed her hand. Mayor Cathy Murillo publicly floated a big trial balloon about running for Senate a few weeks ago, apparently based on bad information that Monique was going to stay put; Cathy’s zeppelin now lies in a crumpled heap on the ground.
Our 27 percent mayor did not return Cap Letters’ calls or texts inquiring of her latest intentions, although friends say she is weighing her chances for the Assembly seat Monique is vacating.
2. Jason’s two-track strategy. Since last spring, S.B. Councilmember Jason Dominguez has quietly but openly sought support for a 2020 campaign for the Legislature while simultaneously seeking reelection to his Eastside City Council seat this year.
Mysteriously, neither Alejandra Gutierrez nor Cruzito Cruz, Jason’s two council opponents, have made much of a fuss so far about the have-his-cake-and-eat-it strategy. Look for Jason, who sounds confident of reelection, to make an announcement shortly after the November 3 balloting.
3. The District 37 race is wide open. Beyond Jason, look for SBCC Trustee Jonathan Abboud, who represents I.V., to announce for Assembly. An acolyte of local Dem influencer Daraka Larimore-Hall, Abboud in recent days has been dropping hints on his Facebook page like this: Big (personal) political announcement coming soon (sic).
The campaign could get crowded: Cathy, for starters, would make things verrry interesting for the Dems, not to mention Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett or Elsa Granados, executive director of Standing Together to End Sexual Assault, both of whom, we hear, have expressed interest.
4. Magical Thinkers Disappointed. Again. Some conflict-averse Dem libs recently pushed a scenario in which Monique would run for reelection and Das Williams would slide over to run for Senate, thus avoiding the politically awkward Dem-on-Dem matchup for 1st District Supervisor between him and school boardmember Laura Capps.
The day before Limón’s announcement, Das told us there was “zero chance” of that happening, and there’s no doubt he’s ready to go to the mattresses against Laura. Latest data point: Darcel Elliott, his longtime operative and wingperson, is taking a leave from working for Das at the county to get his reelect campaign humming.
5. A win for Beth. Senator Jackson had cajoled and wheedled Monique to run for the 19th Senate District seat, viewing the identity of her successor as part of her own legacy. In Limón, Jackson sees a virtual mirror image of her politics and style.
A fascinating, data-set report on political polarization in the Legislature, recently published by Cal Matters, ranked every lawmaker on a 0-100 scale, from most liberal to most conservative; Limón got a super-lib score of 3.7 in the Assembly, while Jackson set the pace for lefties in the Senate with a perfect score of zero.
You could look it up.