Brian Campbell, Starshine Roshell, and Elrawd MacLearn | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (Left photo), Courtesy (Middle and Right)

WAR OF WORDS:  You almost have to feel sorry for conservative school board candidates Brian Campbell and Elrawd MacLearn; they had no idea what kind of a woodchipper they fell into last week. That’s when they got into it with Starshine Roshell, free-floating-bright-light-about-town and columnist whose column appears in the Independent.  Or maybe more precisely, when Roshell got into it with them.

Roshell, it just so happens, is a strong supporter of Santa Barbara Unified school board president Laura Capps, now running for reelection. Very much opposed to Capps, and pretty much everything she stands for, are Campbell and MacLearn, who take a dim view of the new sex ed curriculum just approved by the whole school board — not to mention the district’s ethnic studies program. They are clamoring instead for a curriculum that stresses more abstinence and parental involvement.

What really bugged Starshine — who long ago ascended to the one-name status befitting all Santa Barbara celebrities — was the emergence of a new pseudo super PAC known as Impact Education, which has been spending significant amounts money on behalf of Campbell and MacLearn, not to mention other conservatives in other school district races.

Only now — way late — has any of the money raised by Impact Education turned up on the county’s Elections Division website. Why it was so late is unclear. Impact Education blames county Elections czar Joe Holland for not having his act together. Holland has yet to respond. MacLearn, to his credit, actually listed a $5,000 check from the group in his financial reports, but said at the time he had no idea who he/she/it/they were, even though their donation constituted nearly half his total receipts. When you’re running for office, all gift horses must be looked in the mouth.

Campbell, as of deadline, still hadn’t reported having received any campaign donations to county elections officials, telling Independent reporter Delaney Smith that he hadn’t been doing any fundraising, so he had nothing to report. He also told her he had no idea who or what Impact Education was. Yard signs with Campbell’s name on them have been sprouting up all over the South Coast like mushrooms after a rainstorm. Are we supposed to believe that just happened magically?

Campbell has a sweet, rakish grin and, despite our past disagreement over the homeless hordes he alleged had overrun the Mesa, he can be a charming guy. But Campbell’s explanation over campaign donations raises the broader question: Can he really be so clueless? When someone wants to oversee one of the most vital of all county functions — the education of 13,000 students — that’s a troubling question.  

Santa Barbarans, as a rule, like to know who’s buttering the bread of candidates. And when the school board has emerged as the de facto front lines where all cultural battles — race, sex, and gender — are being waged, this information is especially germane.

Starshine weighed in with a bazooka blast on Facebook, accusing everyone involved of being part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. “DON’T BE FOOLED,” she inveighed. “‘Impact Education,’ ‘Fair Education,’ and their school board candidates Brian Campbell & Elrawd MacLearn are far right-wing. They oppose our sex ed & ethnic studies curricula, actively support Trump — and lack the integrity to say so in their propaganda. They are using literacy as their Trojan horse.”

Starshine, usually a bit more understated in her writing, was looking for an Adam’s apple to hit. Naturally, Campbell et al. were more than a little bent. Starshine, they objected, is part of the media. And the media is supposed to be neutral. Phones were ringing off the hook. The inviolable separation between church and state had been violated.

Caught in the middle of all this chatter was Delaney Smith, perhaps the most pathologically dedicated education reporter the Santa Barbara Independent has ever had. Smith writes about education as if the fate of the Western World rests on her words; yes, she has her opinions, but she takes excruciating pains to check them at the door.

Smith is a reporter, not a columnist.

Starshine Roshell, by contrast, is a columnist. Her job is to be opinionated. More to the point, she is a freelance columnist — writing in the free market of ideas.  

While many columnists in Santa Barbara — luddites like myself, for example — have been slow to appreciate the opportunities offered by the World Wide Web, Roshell was quick to seize upon their potential. She created a vast network of contacts, friends, and associates. When she wondered if some phenomenon — like having to defecate while shopping at Target — had achieved the status of being “a thing,” she’d throw it out to her milky way of friends.

But unlike reporters, Roshell the columnist and Roshell the person never pretended to be separate entities. Consequently, when Roshell the person got pissed that no filings from Impact Education had appeared yet, she availed herself of the network cultivated by Roshell the writer. 

Anyone running for office should know this. It’s really basic. Like knowing where your campaign donations come from. Something else they should have known: Don’t mess with Starshine. She is the one, after all, who single-handedly brought Target to Santa Barbara.

And not to belabor the obvious, but the only reason I managed to win Best Columnist this year—the first time ever in the history of eternity — is because Starshine threw the vote, sending out a Facebook blast to her minions to cast their ballots for me.

See what I mean? Every vote counts.


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