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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 4:37 pm | Fair with Haze 64º


Numbers Game Raises the Stakes as Santa Barbara’s Election Nears

There's no denying that past elections have favored the big spenders, and recent campaign statements show who's in the money and who's not

Santa Barbara’s upcoming election is all about the numbers.

The unprecedented mail-in-only election is in the final stretch, with just one week left until ballots are due.

There have been concerns about low voter turnout, ballot delivery issues and high amounts of campaign funds spent as Election Day draws closer. 

With five candidates for mayor and 13 vying for three or possibly four seats on the City Council, it’s simple: The biggest vote-getters will be elected.

The Money

In the latest campaign statement filing period, it became clear just how much money the candidates and issues are raising and spending — and it’s a lot compared with past years.

Some have condemned the amount being spent, but there’s no denying the pattern in the past few elections: Whoever spends the most, wins.

It has happened in the past two city elections, and perhaps big spenders are banking on it happening again.

In the 2007 city election, the three City Council candidates who raised the most money won seats. Das Williams raised the most, with $83,744, and received the most votes. Helene Schneider won her seat after raising about $58,600, and Dale Francisco placed third with $41,786.

During the last mayoral election in 2005, in which Mayor Marty Blum won her second term after raising more than other candidates, City Council candidates were elected in nearly the exact order of their campaign contributions.

Though Iya Falcone raised the most, with $89,063, Roger Horton came in with the most votes. Falcone received the second seat, and Grant House the third. The rest of the candidates, three of whom did fundraising, placed as they raised.

Looking at statements from past elections, the amounts pale in comparison with this election’s spending.

Texas developer Randall Van Wolfswinkel is by far the biggest spender in the race, having spent more than $500,000, most of which toward political action committee Preserve Our Santa Barbara.

He contributed $33,350 to Save El Pueblo Viejo, the driving force behind Measure B, and tens of thousands of dollars in support and opposition of various candidates for office. SEPV has raised $75,129, and the No on B Coalition has raised $86,966, with $10,000 donations coming from the Victoria Street Partners LLC and Peter Sperling, a co-founder of CallWave.

In comparison, 2007’s Measure A, an initiative to change city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, was defeated after thousands were spent by people and organizations on each side. While the money is a drop in the bucket compared with Measure B, the Santa Barbara City Firefighters for Better Government PAC spent more than $36,000 to oppose the measure.

The 2009 Campaign Statements

Candidates have been raising masses of money as well, with mayoral candidates Steve Cushman and Schneider leading the pack.

Cushman has raised $128,913, with $50,000 coming from businessman Sergey Grishin. Schneider has raised more than $127,000 with smaller donations, including $8,500 from Service Employees International Union Local 620 and about $16,000 from local police officer and firefighters unions.

Francisco has raised more than $85,000, including a $30,000 loan to himself.

Mayoral candidates Isaac Garrett and Bob Hansen haven’t raised the $1,000 required to file campaign statements.

For the City Council race, the big money is with John Thyne and incumbent House. Thyne has raised $95,832, leaving the rest far behind. House’s $76,503 includes $47,000 from this filing period alone.

The other candidates’ reported fundraising sums to date are: Dianne Channing, $47,703; Frank Hotchkiss, $41,079; Cathie McCammon, $27,149; David Pritchett, $36,638; Michael Self, $37,154; Justin Tevis, $20,734; and Harwood “Bendy” White, $56,816.

Candidates Lane Anderson, Cruzito Cruz, John Gibbs and Bonnie Raisin did not file campaign statements for the most recent period.

» Highest amount spent by a mayoral candidate: 2005 — $52,126 (Blum); 2009 — $128,913 (Cushman)

» Highest amount spent by a City Council candidate: 2005 — $89,063 (Falcone); 2007 — $83,744 (Williams); 2009 — $95,832 (Thyne)

The Ballots

The threat of low turnout and missing ballots also have been issues this election. The City Clerk’s Office said it has received about 9,500 ballots as of the end of Monday, with about 1,000 coming in that day alone.

Voters who registered before Oct. 19 and live in Santa Barbara — not unincorporated areas — should turn in their ballots by 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Residents are advised to mail ballots by Friday to ensure they arrive in time to be counted.

Voters who need a new ballot, didn’t receive one or have other questions or concerns should contact the City Clerk’s Office.

The Information

Various candidate forums have been held during the past few months, but voters may have to turn to secondhand sources for information as the election gets closer.

The city’s voter Web site and SmartVoter offer voting and candidate information. For nonpartisan candidate and measure information, including profiles and questionnaires, go to Noozhawk’s Politics section.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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