Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 8:53 am | Fog/Mist 62º


Local News

4th Candidate in Santa Barbara City Council Race Not Your Typical Contender

Elizabeth Hunter may have been largely absent from campaign trail so far, but 22-year-old SBCC student vows to make the most of District 3 election

Santa Barbara City College student Elizabeth Hunter is not the typical City Council candidate, and to this point has not run a typical campaign as she seeks the District 3 seat in the June 5 election. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo) Click to view larger
Santa Barbara City College student Elizabeth Hunter is not the typical City Council candidate, and to this point has not run a typical campaign as she seeks the District 3 seat in the June 5 election. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

If elusiveness were a positive political attribute, Elizabeth Hunter would undoubtedly be the front-runner in the race for the Santa Barbara City Council’s District 3 seat.

She’s got that down.

After weeks of mystery and intrigue, however, there are signs that the 22-year-old Santa Barbara City College student may be emerging from the shadows and finding her stride — with a little more than a month to go before the June 5 election.

She spent spring break snowboarding in Mammoth and studying rocks in Death Valley, but Hunter has finally agreed to media interviews, and plans to participate in three upcoming forums, and a community access television discussion.

She’s all in.

And to the doubters who have cast her candidacy as a joke, she’s got news for them, too.

“I don’t think anyone would go through this process if they weren’t serious about it,” Hunter told Noozhawk. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t fully invested. I want to represent my community.”

Hunter is one of four candidates battling for the Westside vacancy. She, Oscar Gutierrez, Ken Rivas and Michael Vidal are looking to win the seat formerly held by now-Mayor Cathy Murillo.

So far, the other three candidates have jabbed and poked at each other over who is the real Westsider. Hunter has a stake to that claim, too. She was born in Santa Barbara and has lived her whole life at her family’s Westside home.

On the issues, she said she’s most concerned about gentrification of the neighborhoods, and longtime families getting displaced in favor of expensive rental housing. She supports renters’ rights and would be in favor of a just-cause eviction ordinance.

Her candidacy is also novel: She’s young, white and female, running in a district that is majority-minority, created after an expensive lawsuit forced the city to move to district elections for council seats from at-large voting.

Hunter’s candidacy has turned heads, so much so that she said people have asked her to drop out of the race, fearing that she’s a spoiler candidate.

“I’m doing this,” she said. “People can have their opinions of me. I’m not going to please everybody.”

Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar, a longtime political science professor at SBCC, said Hunter could find an audience.

“I think this may be a year where female candidates might make themselves heard,” he said. “The other three candidates are all male, and so she may have a voice that would be interesting to the voters.

“Her platform is middle of the road: fiscal responsibility but also low-income housing.”

Hunter has a strong support team, led by her father, John, a personal injury attorney, who has been dutifully campaigning on his daughter’s behalf.

She is also realistic about her campaign. She’s taking 12 units at SBCC this semester and 12 next semester. She doesn’t have classes on Tuesdays, so her schedule won’t conflict with City Council meetings. She’s in her third year at SBCC and eventually plans to transfer to UC Santa Barbara, so if she’s elected, she will serve out her full term.

Hunter describes herself as an environmentalist, a perspective she wants to bring to the City Council.

“I have been passionate about politics for a long time,” said Hunter, who registered to vote when she was 18.

She’s certified in both regular and advanced permaculture, and designed swales and put plants in the ground at SBCC near the Garvin Theatre. She’s taken part in ecological restoration projects on Santa Cruz Island.

In many ways, she’s a typical Santa Barbara resident, taking regular hikes in the foothills, listening to classic rock music from The Doors, or low-fidelity hip hop.

And since she’s 22, she occasional Ubers to the Funk Zone to have a drink with her friends, avoiding parties or the Isla Vista scene. A lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, she’s loves baseball and watches as many games as she can.

Most of time recently has been spent studying, getting ready for the end of the semester.

“I have this ginormous research paper due,” she said.

Hunter said she plans to run a serious campaign and, win or lose on Election Day, she knows she will have no regrets. Many people, she said, go their whole lives thinking about running, but never pull the trigger.

A registered Democrat, Hunter won’t name, at least not now, who those people are who told her not to run, or that she should run “later.”

“When’s later,” she asked.”Why not right now? People have the right to decide and they have the right to be part of the political process.”

She said if she doesn’t win, it won’t be her last time running.

“I am definitely someone who pushes the envelope,” she said. “I know I can do this.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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