Ed St. George at City Council. (November 19, 2019) | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee is taking developer Ed St. George to task for what the organization called “egregious and sexist” comments he made about City Councilmember Meagan Harmon and her political ambitions. 

During a recent podcast interview with journalist Josh Molina, St. George, a frequent critic of Santa Barbara’s elected leaders and City Hall staff, suggested Harmon, now running for reelection to District 6, was overextending herself by serving on both the council and soon the California Coastal Commission while also working as an attorney and raising young children. As talented and well-liked as Harmon is, St. George said, referring to her as “the girl we all had a crush on in high school,” she ought to take a five- to seven-year “pause” from politics to focus on her family.

In a prepared statement of solidarity, the Committee lamented that St. George was “given a platform to share offensive and sexist viewpoints” and “condescendingly urge” Harmon to step aside. “Women belong at every table where decisions are being made,” the statement reads, “and it is not up to men to be the arbiters of a woman’s personal decisions or ambitions. … Misogyny, in any form, has no home in Santa Barbara County. And no, the women of Santa Barbara will not take a pause.” The statement has since been signed by dozens of government and community leaders, both men and women.

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In response, St. George took a defensive tone, referencing comments made at one time by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that being a full-time mother prepared her well for politics and explaining that his suggestion for a hiatus had nothing to do with Harmon’s gender. “I encourage everyone to have a healthy and balanced life that includes time with their family,” he said, “and if that offends people, they can certainly do otherwise, and I wish them luck in finding happiness.” Some members of the Committee have since privately wondered if St. George would give the same advice to Barrett Reed, a new father and fellow developer also running for council. 

George also went after the Committee itself, criticizing it for not speaking out when Mayor Cathy Murillo compared approaching Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez with an endorsement request to “asking your wife for a favor” and “waiting until she’s in a good mood.” He also wondered why the organization wasn’t commenting on the pending sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female city employee against former finance director Bob Samario.

Harmon herself stayed mostly out of the fray, instead expressing her pride in being part of Santa Barbara’s legacy of “strong, feminist leadership.” On the council, she said, she “fights for working families because I understand the challenges they face trying to make it in our community. As a woman and a working mom, I understand it because I live it.”

Harmon made her statement while at the same time trying to wrangle her daughter. “Oh, the irony,” she said.

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