The candidates who put themselves and their names on the line in Tuesday’s primary by now have proffered speeches of triumph or endured the agonies of defeat. Now it’s time to open the envelopes and recognize some key players whose names were not on the ballot but who, for better or for worse, performed crucial roles in shaping the results:
The Richard Daley Political Boss Award
Winner: Cathy Murillo. Desperate to elect an acolyte, or at least an ally, to the remainder of her council term in District 3, Mayor Cathy pushed, pulled, tugged, heaved, and dragged Oscar Gutierrez into the winner’s circle. She paved the way for his Democratic endorsement, filled up his campaign treasury, and even walked the Westside door-to-door alone when Big O was otherwise occupied, and it all paid off with a big win for her handpicked novice — although channeling her inner Ward Heeler also meant our 28 percent alcaldesa squandered political capital that might better have been spent on building up her cred as leader of the entire city instead of just playing to her political base.
Loser: Jason Dominguez. Chastened Jason, Cathy’s chief City Hall rival, went all in for Michael Vidal, Oscar’s strongest foe, providing his endorsement, walking precincts, and even recording a robocall in the final stretch for the indefatigable financial consultant. In the end, it was for naught, and now Dominguez will be left trying to cash loser’s tickets at the winner’s window, although he still gets points for having the cojones to show up at the Democratic victory party, where Oscar was being feted and where Jason audaciously posed for pictures next to Cathy.
The Dick Tuck Political Operative Award
Winner: Mary Rose. The veteran Dem strategist got blindsided and lost her biggest client of the campaign season when Susan Epstein stunned the world by abruptly quitting the race to succeed Supervisor Janet Wolf, but she soldiered on to steer a couple of Tuesday night’s world beaters, including Oscar, to the winner’s circle. Her generalship also shone through in Betsy Shaffer’s stomping of Jen Christensen in the Auditor-Controller’s race, which surprised many prognosticators (we name no names), and though her guy Brian Olmstead failed to force Sheriff Bill Brown into a runoff, that had mostly to do with Deputy Brian having no rationale for his candidacy that Actual Voters cared about.
Loser: Brett Foreman. A Bay Area software maven and UCSB bro of Vidal’s, Foreman showed up to manage the campaign gratis, and to show the rubes how it’s done, boasting online that he was “looking at data, leveraging modern marketing methodologies, and avoiding legacy campaign technologies in ways (the establishment’s candidates) don’t.” Vidal, to his credit, worked hard walking door-to-door, but he also wasted time arguing with people on Facebook, proving anew the Angel Martinez Principle: In Santa Barbara politics, a field operation beats social media every time.
The JFK ‘Image Is Everything’ Award
Winner: Austin Stukins. Two years ago, Republican congressional wannabe Justin Fareed often seemed to simmer with anger and routinely wear a scowl as he snarled at reporters while delivering campaign bromides in a tone that sounded as if he were ordering voters to eat their peas. Under the tutelage of new manager Stukins, Young Justin has undergone a political makeover, and his presentations during several KEYT interviews at his victory party were marked by sunniness and a smile.
Loser: Salud’s Media Posse. On Election Day, Democratic incumbent Rep. Salud Carbajal showed up at Dem campaign headquarters at 5 a.m. to wish the foot soldiers well before hopping on a plane back to D.C., and ended a long day by capturing a creditworthy 53 percent of the vote. As returns came in, he could be excused for not being on the scene, but there was no excuse for the hostage video his handlers served up to KEYT for his reaction comments, a prerecorded, blurry recitation of bromides about bipartisanship that looked like it was made while he was locked in a mop closet; it terrified voters up and down the Central Coast, as Salud’s head loomed the shape and size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon that seemed on the verge of popping through the screen.
Only 145 days until the next election!