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Harwood ‘Bendy’ White Joins Crowded Field of Santa Barbara Mayoral Candidates

City councilman hopes his decades of community service will help fuel a victory against 4 other candidates

Moderate Democrat Harwood ‘Bendy’ White is joining a crowded field of candidates vying to be Santa Barbara’s next major. Click to view larger
Moderate Democrat Harwood ‘Bendy’ White is joining a crowded field of candidates vying to be Santa Barbara’s next major. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Adding another dimension to what promises to be a politically explosive 2017 election, moderate Democrat Harwood “Bendy” White has decided to run for mayor, joining a crowded field and tangling a contest full of eclectic characters.

White likes to straddle the middle and enjoys the powerful position of swing vote on a council that is ensnared in community debates over high-density housing, vacation rental conversions, and the decline of State Street.

All three issues are likely to play a pivotal role in the mayor’s race, and White hopes to bring his slow-growth, preservationist, living-within-your-means sensibilities to the mayor’s seat.

“I offer a different perspective, a deeper perspective,” White said. “I am hoping I can help redirect the conversation around growth to better serve our city’s needs.”

To win, however, he will have to execute a perfect political game plan. The field, for the first time in decades, is competitive, and no single candidate has a clear, easy path to victory.

In addition to White, in the race are:

» Frank Hotchkiss, a Realtor, and incumbent councilman is popular among conservatives who want the city to reduce the number of homeless people downtown and take a more fiscally conservative approach to policy matters.

»  Hal Conklin, a former council member and mayor, who is highly regarded in Santa Barbara’s arts community and for his moderate approach to fiscal matters

»  Angel Martinez, the former CEO of Deckers, who has never held political office, but plans to run an aggressive campaign targeted at cracking down on the homeless and reviving retail on State Street.

»  Cathy Murillo, a socially liberal housing advocate, who will likely enjoy robust support from the local Democrat Party and Bernie Sanders-like progressives who vote.

Current Mayor Helene Schneider will be leaving the council at the end of this year due to term limits.

Hotchkiss and Martinez likely will battle each other over votes, in a competition of who has a better plan for State Street and the homeless.

Conklin and White should take votes from each other, as both are cut from the same slow-growth Santa Barbara mold.

White also faces a stiff battle with Murillo, who is much further to the left politically than he is, a fact that will help and hurt her, depending on what the voter turnout is in November.

White, a backer of the 1-percent sales tax increase to go before voters in November, said he plans to focus his campaign on infrastructure and redirecting the conversation about housing.

He knows that the field is crowded, but that he feels he’s the right man for the job, a socially liberal and fiscally conservative candidate.

“I love this community,” White said. “While I am a lifelong Democrat, I am known as a fiscal hawk. I hope that my broad range of support helps me, rather than gets diluted.”

White filed his semi-annual fundraising statement on Wednesday, and reported a cash-balance of $7,238. His decision to pull papers to run a week ago was not a Machiavellian strategy to swoop in at the last minute as the final candidate to declare.

“I thought I was done with my city service,” said White, who has served two terms on the City Council, two terms on the Planning Commission and the Water Commission. “But I was getting a lot of calls from people who said I should get into the race.”

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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