Sunday, February 18 , 2018, 8:01 pm | Fair 55º


Letter to the Editor: Money Skews Local Politics

Money alone shouldn't determine the viability of a campaign and, thus, participation in a candidate forum

Politics as usual will no longer suffice in Santa Barbara. The Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association and Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on Wednesday allowed only those candidates who raised more than $5,000 for the filing period, which ended in July. My candidacy is viable by any measure, including how well my team did in raising monetary contributions, particularly when compared with the candidates who were allowed to participate.

One of the participants in the GSBLRA and SBRCC candidate forum was recently convicted of violating the terms of his DUI conviction, but is still considered viable because he raised $54,000, primarily from three donors. In contrast, my team reported 38 cash contributions, 14 of which were $100 of more. That shows broad support, and I am unaware of any candidate who had a greater number of donors during the first filing period.

Another candidate allowed to participate raised the bulk of his donations from his wife. Another eligible candidate surpassed the $5,000 mark with a donation from a Texas developer. One more eligible candidate made the cut only because she wrote herself a check. I don’t think I’m being cynical when I say that they are all political insiders who were familiar with the rule of needing $5,000 to be included in some of the key candidate forums.

I am a newcomer to politics. I asked friends, family, co-workers and Santa Barbara locals to support my candidacy and ended up receiving $2,594 in cash and significantly more than that through in-kind donations. If my in-kind contributions had been counted, I would have been well over the $5,000 mark.

People from all walks of life have been very enthusiastic in offering their support to my candidacy, for which I am humbled and grateful. My campaign is true grassroots — unlike the competition, whose contributions have come primarily from special-interests groups that buy political influence with their large sacks of money or from wealthy family members.

Since the first filing period, my campaign has gained a lot of momentum and established legitimacy. I have more than doubled my monetary contributions, surpassing the GSBLRA and SBRCC benchmark of $5,000, and expanded my campaign team into a solid core that dwarfs any of the competition, evidenced by our presence at the candidate forums. I also have received a major endorsement and have been pounding the pavement meeting voters with zeal equal or greater than any of my opponents.

There are other barometers for measuring the viability of one’s candidacy. An area where Team Tevis has a noticeable competitive advantage is the social-media networking world. For example, I have more than 1,000 Facebook friends, with a significant portion of them living in the Santa Barbara area. My Facebook group, “Tevis for Santa Barbara City Council,” has about 450 members. This is in contrast to Frank Hotchkiss, who has a similar group for his candidacy, but with only 28 members.

I have a YouTube video from a rally at Rep. Lois Capps’ office with nearly 1,400 views, and another speech from Tax Day on local politics with more than 600 views. My campaign is on the cutting edge when it comes to the new world of technology, where people organize and share information on the Internet. My message is being spread much quicker than that of my opponents.

Again, this campaign is as real as it gets. People are fed up with the way politicians have been elected in the past, and this election promises to break precedents, where a grassroots newcomer without special interests backing his campaign has a legitimate shot at winning. I don’t intend to waste anyone’s time, especially my own. I would not be devoting the amount of time and energy I have to this campaign if I didn’t feel confident in my team’s ability to win in November.

I disagree with the GSBLRA and SBRCC’s assertion that excluding me was not disparaging to me as a candidate. These lobbyist groups facilitated one of the largest public candidate forums before the election. They signaled to the voting public that I don’t have a shot at winning. If they wanted to give the public an opportunity to meet a top contender for the Santa Barbara City Council, they should have allowed me to present my positions on the issues.

My policy position papers have been published repeatedly by local media. I have the time, resources, money and, most importantly, the most energized volunteer base of any of the candidates. Team Tevis extends from working professionals to students on the UCSB and SBCC campuses. All I’m asking for is a fair shot, and to be recognized as a viable candidate by the local lobbyist groups that have already placed their big money on the politically favored candidates.

However, big money early on doesn’t necessarily translate into victory, which clearly has been demonstrated by the withdrawal of candidates Iya Falcone and Olivia Uribe. Team Tevis continues to pick up steam, and the GSBLRA and SBRCC candidate forum did a disservice to myself, the voting public and their own forum by not allowing full participation.

This is America, and everyone has a chance to live the dream. No lobbyist group is going to preclude my campaign team from getting a chance at that dream, especially not after all the hard work.

Justin Tevis
Santa Barbara City Council candidate

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >