Six Degrees of Disputation: SB’s Half-Dozen Candidates for Mayor Square Off

By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

For the first time in the 2021 race, the six candidates for mayor of Santa Barbara appeared in the same campaign forum on Friday, in what one contender termed the “political equivalent of speed dating.”

You can watch the event, featuring Mayor Cathy Murillo and the five challengers to her re-election responding to questions about politics and policy, via YouTube below or by clicking through this link (the audio version is here),

The fast-paced affair, co-sponsored by Newsmakers, the “Santa Barbara Talks” podcast and TV Santa Barbara, offers voters the chance for an extended first impression of the rivals, while considering, comparing and contrasting their top-line ideas on topics critical to our future: the state of the city; homelessness; economic development and State Street; housing; equity; and governance, amid the recent turmoil and turnover at City Hall.

The candidates were beamed via Zoom into TVSB’s studio, where co-moderators Jerry Roberts and Josh Molina channeled their inner air traffic controller skills while posing several dozen questions, with the candidates providing less-is-more, one minute answers, before each delivered a two-minute closing statement.

Besides Murillo, small business owner James Joyce III, small businessman Matt Kilrain, downtown business owner Randy Rowse, city Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz and Publisher Mark Whitehurst joined the encounter.

So: 78 minutes, six candidates, two moderators, six topics, 36 camera switches between candidates and zero technical mishaps from the control room, ably managed by director J.P Montalvo, assistant director Ellie Stayner and Hap Freund, our producer.

No word yet on a partridge in the pear tree.

We’ll be back later in the week with observations, analysis and context about the kickoff event for the final nine weeks of the campaign, but for now, invite you to review it unencumbered by our perspective and commentary. For a follow-up story, please email us your comments, insights and impressions:

Don’t forget to vote.


Written by Jerry Roberts

“Newsmakers” is a multimedia journalism platform that focuses on politics, media and public affairs in Santa Barbara. Learn more at

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  1. Murillo: “ luckily our libraries are back open…”. Great, I’ll go take my 4th grader down there to try and check out a book if we can wade through your homeless residents living in and around the building we taxpayers fund. Don’t even get me started Cathy.

  2. I found it interesting how Cathy claimed credit for things as leadership that were caused by incompetence and inadequacy – hers:
    1. Civilian Oversight System- a demand of Black Lives Matter to rectify problems of unjust policing in communities of color.
    2. State St promenade – because the state’s Alcohol Board of Control allowed licensees to expand their serving area outdoors to allow social distancing…which required going into sidewalks and streets to stay open. I think Paul Casey made most of that happen.
    3. “Built a more equitable Santa Barbara.” Uhhhh…is there a shred of evidence of that?
    4. Helped bring more affordable housing downtown. WHERE? Not the Mark. Not the development at the Public Market. Allowing VRBO / Airbnb took older existing affordable housing stock off the market, and made more homeless.
    5. Helped small businesses recover – any business that got city help, chime in here. Paycheck Protection Act was from the federal Small Business Administration.
    6. City is a national leader to fight climate change. Hmmmm. *Scratches head. Did Santa Barbara lead the dialogue at the World Economic Forum at Davos? Sign the Paris accord? Hmmm.

  3. I agree with this post. Cathy has been a failure. The figures do not lie. Our city is failing. Cathy, please go away. You really are not very good at this leadership stuff. Can you just go back to being a elementary school theater teacher? In many ways that was the same job. Pretending you’re in charge while wrangling spoiled children and putting on a 2 bit show once every few months… – – – – – – – – – – – – —————————————– – – – – – – – – – – – – – How a woman with zero executive experience, zero leadership experience, zero personality became mayor is the real problem. She was never equipped for the job. So how does such a person end up in leadership roles? Follow the money and you’ll find the real reasons. (hint) The real reason is the powers-that-be prefer a “useful idiot” at the helm.

  4. I’m pretty sure in the one of the last interviews with Randy posted here on EdHat he said he used to register as a Democrat before dropping is party affiliation as he was disgusted by partisan politics (amen to that!). But by all means keep voting blue no matter who, it’s worked great for us so far…

    “When I first got on council, I was along with Frank Hotchkiss, Michael Self and Dale Francisco… And there was a lot of push from the parties to go a certain way or another.
    “And I always was kind of insulted by that because I thought the political parties have business outside of the city. They have agendas outside of the city. They have purposes that are self-driving. And I always thought it was damaging to city business from either side of the coin.
    “Particularly now it’s so dominantly Democrat that you get things that come up and all of a sudden we’re talking about Medicare for All as an agenda item, I went, well, ‘that’s a great item to talk about in some circles, city councils is not one of those circles…’

  6. The government has no business getting involved in existing private contracts between individuals so he was right on that one. I do completely agree how out of touch and hypocritical City Council was imploring, then demanding, then forcing landlords to provide rent breaks while at the same time refusing to do so themselves. Not surprising though, just as the state felt weed tax revenue was “essential”, the city felt their rental revenue was “essential”, the common citizen was the only group our local and state governments determined income was not “essential”.

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