The Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County endorsed Salud Carbajal earlier this month rather than his key Democratic challenger Helene Schneider, causing tension in the county party’s biggest club. It’s no secret that 1st District Supervisor Carbajal boasts an impressive list of endorsements and has raised more than double what Santa Barbara Mayor Schneider has. But the Democratic Women endorsement is a significant loss for the mayor — not only because she’s a woman but also because some of her key supporters sit on the board.
The vote reportedly came down to one person. Sixty percent of the 18 boardmembers, including one representative from UCSB Campus Democrats, was needed for an official endorsement. On October 11, Carbajal, Schneider, and Bill Ostrander, who is known as the campaign finance reform candidate, completed a questionnaire and gave a 45-minute interview during which they answered the exact same questions, spanning a broad array of national and local topics.
On October 15, the elections committee reported to the boardmembers, who also were able to attend the interview. They reportedly focused on positive qualities of each candidate. On fundamental issues, Carbajal and Schneider hold similar positions: Both are pro-choice, strong environmentalists, and support comprehensive immigration reform.
Ultimately, some boardmembers reportedly argued Carbajal already appears likely to win one of the top two spots in June given his deep pockets and numerous endorsements. The highway-widening project, which Schneider has vocally opposed as proposed — arguing, among many other reasons, that it would congest street traffic — came up briefly. The mayor’s position has isolated her over the years from some area Dems.
It’s not the first time Democratic Women of Santa Barbara has voted for a man. Two years ago, the club endorsed David Landecker, Gregg Hart, and Bendy White for Santa Barbara City Council instead of Megan Diaz Alley, who lacked political experience.
“Our main thing is that we always try to support the best candidate there is,” said Democratic Women President Gail Teton-Landis. “We have supported men, and we have supported women, and we have endorsed both Helene and Salud before.” Teton-Landis declined to comment on the group’s internal conversations.
In terms of women backers, Carbajal’s key endorsements include Congressmember Lois Capps, District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, among many others.
One of Schneider biggest endorsements is State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who cited her time working for Planned Parenthood and serving as president to the Women’s Political Committee as a boon to her candidacy. “Given that the U.S. Congress has been rolling back the clock on women’s rights, it is critical that we send a champion of women’s equality and a longtime advocate to Congress to continue to fight for equal pay, to end sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking,” Jackson said in a statement. Over the summer, Schneider suffered a blow when the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee did not have enough votes to endorse her; they took no position because they did not have enough votes to endorse Carbajal either.
For her part, Schneider said quite a few women endorsed her campaign, including Barbie Deutsch, who is the former president of the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara and who decided to publicly endorse Schneider the day Democratic Women announced they supported Carbajal. Schneider also noted just 19 percent of congressmembers are women. “That means something to people,” she said. Schneider pointed out her polling data — conducted by Lake Research Partners — showed her 8 percentage points ahead of Carbajal.
At the close of the latest reporting period last week, Carbajal had raised $1,038,906; Schneider had raised just $370,645. But Schneider said she has enough to get her message out. “I think right now this race is very competitive,” she said.
But Emily’s List — a political action committee with the sole mission of supporting Democratic pro-choice women — has yet to support Schneider. Many have expressed surprise that Emily’s List has yet to jump into the race given Schneider’s strong record on women rights. They do not endorse men. Emily’s List spokesperson Rachel Thomas said Emily’s List is committed to keeping the 24th Congressional District seat in the hands of a pro-choice Democratic woman. “ … We are excited about Helene’s candidacy,” Thomas said. “Helene has been an outstanding champion for women and families in California, and we have no doubt she would continue that work in Congress. We are looking at this race closely.”
Thus far, Emily’s List has endorsed eight women running for a House seat and six running for Senate. In 2014, Emily’s List endorsed 32 House candidates and six for Senate. Schneider has been in communications with Emily’s List, and she took exception to the idea it’s unusual they haven’t supported her. “It’s not even 2016 yet,” she said.
In practical terms, the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara endorsed now — more than seven months before the primary election in June — because the state party’s pre-endorsement process takes place in January. About 100 people are expected to vote in the process, but a list of exactly who will not be finalized until December 3.
Democratic Women of Santa Barbara will send 12 delegates, a number based on club membership size. (The position of the roughly 500 club members on Schneider and Carbajal as a whole is unclear.) Federal and state elected officials also appoint five to six people to vote in the pre-endorsement process. If one candidate secures 70 percent or more of the vote, he or she likely receives the endorsement.
Republicans Justin Fareed and Katcho Achadjian are also in the race for the 24th District. At the end of the October campaign finance reporting period, Fareed raised $432,062 total, with $374,266 cash on hand. Achadjian has raised a total of $258,537, with $208,106 cash on hand.