Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

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Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

In a private email, SB mayoral candidate Deborah Schwartz told key supporters over the weekend that Supervisor and local Democratic honcho Das Williams urged her to drop out the race and back incumbent Cathy Murillo -- then asked if the party could "offer" her something in return.

Schwartz, writing to board members of the independent Democratic Women's club, which has endorsed her, portrayed Williams' bid to get her to throw her support behind the party-endorsed Murillo as part of a broader, "ugly" and "shameful" effort to vilify challengers in the campaigns for mayor and two council seats.
 
"I decided that the unbecoming, un-Democratic tactics and behavior coming out of a core group within the (Democratic County Committee) needs to be called out now," Schwartz wrote, adding that she is "beyond disheartened" that this unnamed "core group" is "aggressively waging negative campaigning against legitimate non-incumbent challengers" and "in mail pieces represents themselves and their endorsees as the 'real Democrats.'”
 
As a political matter, Schwartz's comments, coming one week before Election Day, suddenly surface long-festering indignation and resentment among some Democratic candidates, insiders and activists at the tight control and demands for total loyalty exercised by a small group of leaders of the local party.
 
Going public is a gutsy move, albeit one that risks political payback. Depending on the results of next Tuesday's election - and whether or not the party succeeds in pushing Murillo, especially, along with endorsed incumbent city council members Meagan Harmon and Kristen Sneddon to victory - Schwartz's airing of her concerns could represent the first step in shaking up the Democratic organization, which dominates local politics, or ensure retribution against her.
 
In the email, Schwartz said, in effect, that party leadership has lost its way by putting power ahead of principle, and yearned for a return to "a 'big tent' (party) where true values of diversity and inclusivity were priorities," which she recalled from her youth and early years in politics.

What Das says

Williams, in a text message, acknowledged meeting with Schwartz about the mayor's race, but took issue with her characterization of the conversation.

"I was not heavy-handed," Das said."You may remember that I helped get her on the Planning Commission and worked very hard for her (previous unsuccessful bid for) election to City Council.

"I heard she was being approached by some of her supporters to drop out of the race because she was so low in the polls," Williams said in explaining why he approached Schwartz. "So I told her that if that did come to pass that I would do my best to give her credit and repair relationships."
 
Willians also responded specifically to comments Schwartz made about the matter in a Newsmakers interview; she told us Williams offered a "quid pro quo" if she would drop out and back Cathy, describing the offer as "shameful," "desperate" and "undemocratic."
 
Das replied: "That is so far from what happened."
 
The plot thickens. After Newsmakers texted its request for comment to Williams, he sent a screen shot of our text to Schwartz, protesting that she was going to the media rather than keeping her concerns in-house among party leaders, Deborah told us on Monday evening.

She said she responded by calling Das and castigating him for failing to call out, as a de facto leader of the party, what she sees as reprehensible behavior by some Dem insiders and their allies. Among her concerns:

  • "Slanderous" attacks on Nina Johnson, the longtime City Hall staffer who is challenging Harmon in District 6, which she said have included formal complaints by party apparatchiks about errors in her campaign finance reports, picketing at an open event she held to meet voters and an effort to get Dem Women to withdraw its earlier endorsement of Johnson for being "anti-Democratic."

  • "Outrageous" comments by former party chair Daraka Larimore-Hall on the SB Talks podcast, in which he insulted Schwartz, Sneddon and school board member Laura Capps -- all Democrats -- in addition to demeaning mayoral candidate James Joyce III - a loyal Democrat -- for having challenged party-endorsed candidates at various times.

  • A "threatening Google text message" that she, Schwartz, has received, which she connected to the "desperation" of some party leaders about Murillo losing, and which she said she has forwarded to the Santa Barbara Police Department: "I am watching my safety," she said.

Schwartz also noted that even if, hypothetically, she did drop out and endorse Murillo, her backers would not follow her, given that her entire campaign has been premised on the need for change in culture and operations of City Hall under the mayor's leadership.

"My supporters would never vote for Cathy Murillo," she said.

So there's that.

Power Rankings

Seven days is an eternity in politics (although, to be sure, it's a, um, shorter eternity in an all-mail election in which many ballots already have been cast. But we digress), and things can change quickly - but one week out, here is our totally unscientific, fact-free view of where things stand, according to the book maintained by Las Vegas bureau correspondent Tony (Little Tuna) Tagliatelle.

1-Randy Rowse. The sudden outbreak of Democratic in-fighting and sturm und drang underscores his campaign message about the corrosive effect partisanship has had on City Hall, and the latest e-blast by Dem chair Darcel Elliott, linking him by not-very-sly innuendo to Donald Trump, highlights the desperation with which Team Cathy views his campaign.

2-Cathy Murillo. In a low-information local election, don't underestimate the importance and effectiveness of the squadrons of volunteer precinct walkers the Dem Party turns out every weekend for its candidates, and don't forget that campaigning door-to-door is what Happy Cathy does best, certainly far better than governing.

3-James Joyce. The collegiate track man has all the momentum in the race as it heads to the final stretch but from where we're watching up in the nosebleed seats, it looks like he waited too long to turn on the burners, and simply has too much ground to make up. Whatever happens, however, he's established himself as a player on the local political scene.

4-Deborah Schwartz. Deborah thought the mayors race would be all about policy, not power-brokering. She declined to identify by name any of the Democratic Party "core group" she says created a toxic political atmosphere, but here's a wild guess at who would lead off such a list: Das, Darcel and Daraka.

5-Mark Whitehurst. Nice full-page ad in his own newspaper.

6-Matt Kilrain. Leads the field in appearances in police reports.

Don't forget to vote.

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Byzantium Oct 26, 2021 03:02 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Driving around town one sees far more Randy Rowse signs than any other candidate. Some streets are nothing but a sea of his turquoise-colored signs. Always healthy to see residents making their case public for the candidate they think will serve the city best. And yes, other signs are also seen, but the overwhelming public display is for Rowse. Good job, Randy. One could hear a collective sigh of relief when Randy tossed his hat in the ring. More than ever, we need to get back to the basics of running the city for its residents. And yes, for taxpayers to see value in return for what they are asked to invest in it every year. No more squandering Measure C monies. We need to finally get our roads and sidewalks fixed and the police station built. That is where our trust was placed when Measure C was passed. Just do it.

allears Oct 26, 2021 06:59 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

No question Randy Rowse is a good guy. Paradise Cafe was the best and I miss it.

Meanwhile, on council for all those years, RR did some good things, but either did not realize how essential ongoing construction of housing is, or he didn't have the fortitude needed to unite the community to get it. If he had, I think we would be in a far better place now.
In this race, certainly, he would be an improvement over the current situation and I will support him if he wins, but I think that other choices are better to bring us together and to move us forward in a new way.
Agree about the changes needed at the Dem Party level! Absolutely!

Byzantium Oct 26, 2021 02:48 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Joyce is pure machine. The local revolving door farm club moving up the political machine party ladder. Get rid of all of them - break their lock on the slow and steady decline of this city. No more Hannah-Beth Jackson wannabes, no more family legacy entitlements like Capps, Sneddon and Schwartz, no more new faces already sold out to machine political agendas like Limon and Harmon, no more tired old faces with failed track records like Das Williams and Gregg Hart. Can we finally breathe the fresh air of people running who are not 100% dependent upon pleasing their national political party's desire to take over every single public office and have them parrot only the national political party agenda? Look for those who have rolled up their sleeved locally and proven by stint of public service their care about the city and not their next political career move.

lovesbalot Oct 26, 2021 02:04 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

This is another reason why I am going with James Joyce. Above board, congenial, inclusive, and a good listener with policy experience working for former Senator Hanna Beth Jackson.. When asked at a recent event how he felt about his competition he said that he focuses on his efforts and does not get distracted.. like an athlete near the finish line. I appreciated his refreshing response and calm confidence.

Downtown Girl Oct 26, 2021 08:53 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Congratulations - sounds like you've caught the financial smear smallpox DCC passed along through their "blanket gifts." Downtown business owners want change. Downtown residents want change. DCC sets a magnifying glass to contributions that are similar across the board - they just know how to play the legal complaint game better than a first-time opponent to an appointed incumbent. Take a clear look at all contributions before making a decision.

a-1635298883 Oct 26, 2021 06:41 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Allears--really, you want us to praise money grubbing capitalists that buy their way to further enrichment??? SB's natural geography is what is stunning. Developers did not enhance that. Individuals who stood in the way of developers deserve credit to a degree. For example the creation of Alice Keck apartment where a high rise condo was to be constructed. Or the denial of condominium plans for a multi story couple of buildings on the upper east. Or the proposal to build a freeway along the northerly mountains to facilitate traffic flow. Etc.

allears Oct 26, 2021 05:51 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Please question the legality of all contributions. Illegal contributions are not unique to anyone group and can come from anywhere - even unions, or a political party, or a property owner, or a business, or a private citizen, or a developer. We could fix this if we could get the money out of our politics and spent more time with each other listening and speaking directly - not through costly mailers, tv adds, and signs.

We all have our "interests". All are important to make up the unique character of our community. Every candidate got $ from groups who felt the candidate was aligned with their special interest.

I ask you to keep in mind that without developers, Santa Barbara would not be the stunning city between the mountains and the ocean that we are so proud of and that we tour around with our vacationing friends. Every beautiful structure in Santa Barbara had to be thoughtfully developed and constructed by teams of very skilled people - many of whom are your neighbors and probably your friends.

a-1635372526 Oct 27, 2021 03:08 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Murillo embodies dirty campaigning. Her tactics: whisper campaigns that their opponent can't win, or is a racist Republican Trump supporter. Everyone be afraid of those conservatives if you don't vote for Cathy! Boo! They pull yard signs of other candidates. She threatened the Chamber when they didn't endorse her (again). Don't be surprised if they're gathering ballots at apartment buildings where former voters moved out and didn't change their registration.

Byzantium Oct 26, 2021 12:08 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Telling the truth should never be politically "risky". How damning is that admission on its own face? Good for you Deborah for making this party machine attack public. You have labored in the trenches and don't deserve being undercut by your own chosen political party. Along with former city councilman Randy Rowse, who actually has the most balanced public and private resume for this top city job, you two make a good case why it is long overdue to take partisan politics out of our local non-partisan races. National party politics simply do not belong at the local level or on our local school boards. Proof for this has just been presented. Why would one national political party want to strong-arm a local race? What prizes do these national party honchos have to dangle as rewards, for their ham-handed attempt to skew local voter outcomes?

a-1635294990 Oct 26, 2021 05:36 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Under the California Constitution these local seats ARE non-partisan. It is the local Democratic Party Central Committee that has continually waged war by maligning good, smart capable candidates and 'clearing the field' to make these races hyper-partisan. Welcome to the sausage-making at the local Dem Central Committee! Where 2-3 people, one of whom is Das, and his employee Darcel, and their best friend Lee Heller, decide your future!

allears Oct 26, 2021 04:45 PM
Deborah Says Das Pressed Her to Quit the Race, Calls Dem Party Tactics Shameful

Thank you and I agree. These races should be non partisan.
Elected officials should publicly remain neutral and not endorse anyone. Their job is to work with and represent the people and the issues specific to their districts. They should be coordinated - with leadership from the Mayor and others on council - to find consensus and to do the best for all. Sadly, what we are witnessing is not democratic and it is resulting in friction and division. This is not a good path. We need change.

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