This story first appeared at Newsmakers with JR on May 11, 2022.
The League of Women Voters cancelled a face-off featuring County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido and rival Christy Lozano on the eve of the event Wednesday, after the challenger objected to the group’s rules for its election forums.
“Unless both candidates agree to these terms, the League cannot hold the Forum, according to the League’s policies,” the nonpartisan organization stated on its web site and social media. “Please be assured that all candidates who participate in our Forums are required to abide by the same policies and procedures.”
Revae Moran, vice president for voter service of the League’s Santa Barbara chapter, told Newsmakers that Lozano, a veteran Physical Education teacher, did not sign a required, pre-forum Release Form in time; among other things, it prohibits candidates from criticizing each other directly and bans the candidates’ use in their campaigns of any excerpts from a video recording of the event.
Lozano also wanted the League to provide her the questions to be asked in advance, which also contravenes the League’s policies, Moran said, adding that Salcido had agreed to the conditions.
Scheduled via Zoom, the event was to be recorded by TVSB and played on their public access channel multiple times before the June 7 election.
“It’s really a shame,” Moran told us. “We put a lot of effort into this.”
What Christy says. As a practical matter, the planned League event was one of the few – perhaps the only? – opportunity for voters to make a side-by-side comparison of the candidates; as a political matter, the cancellation seems a more baleful development for Lozano, who is attempting the difficult task of ousting a well-funded incumbent as a newcomer who is at a disadvantage in resources to communicate a message to the public via paid media advertising.
In comments emailed to Newsmakers, Lozano sought to blame the League for scrapping the forum.
“I did not drop out of the…forum,” she said. “I was surprised that the (League) cancelled the event and was unwilling to address my concerns with any sort of healthy discussion.”
Lozano stated that she was not provided a copy of the release form “until after they publicized the event.” After seeing it, she added, she emailed Moran “back and forth with questions and clarification regarding the release form….and they suddenly gave me a 45 minute deadline and then cancelled the event.”
Christy acknowledged, however, that she strongly objects to the League’s prohibition on direct criticism and confrontations between the candidates, a long-standing rule for League events, which reads:
“I will not, in any way, make reference to other candidates or to another candidate’s qualifications, character, or activities – either positively or negatively.”
“They were requiring restrictions on my ability to fully explain the problems in our county board of education, and my solutions,” Lozano complained to us.
Bottom line. Lozano attached copies of her email exchange with Moran to the message she sent our way
The crux of the conflict may be found in one of Lozano’s emails, which referred to the forum as a “debate,” a word that the League specifically, steadfastly and consistently abjures in describing its genteel style of campaign event.
“I wanted to make it clear that this is not a debate in which we have the candidates address each other and respond to each other’s statements,” Moran said in one of her responses.
“The purpose of the Forum is for you to talk about your qualifications, and experience as they relate to the position you are seeking – not to challenge your opponent’s qualifications and experience,” she added. “You certainly can talk about the policies and activities the incumbent has implemented and the outcomes of those policies and activities.
“However, rather than focusing on her, we would like you to talk about the actions you would take and the topics on which you would focus as County Superintendent of Schools,” Moran wrote.