Candidates for the Third District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors — Joan Hartmann, Karen Jones and Bruce Porter — attend a forum in Goleta.
Candidates running to represent the Third District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors answer questions at a League of Women Voters forum in Goleta on Thursday. From left are incumbent Supervisor Joan Hartmann, Karen Jones and Bruce Porter. Candidate Jessica Alvarez Parfrey didn’t attend. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Three of the four hopefuls to represent the Third District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors made a push for their campaigns during a debate in Goleta on Thursday.

Incumbent Supervisor Joan Hartmann alongside Karen Jones, a Santa Ynez Community Services District board member, and small-business owner and Army veteran Bruce Porter appeared onstage at the candidate forum ahead of the March 3 primary election. Jessica Alvarez Parfrey didn’t attend. Her job title listed on the ballot is community organizer.

The top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will face off in a November runoff unless a candidate receives 50.1 percent of the vote in the March election. 

Hartmann, Jones and Porter are familiar faces for the district after appearing on the 2016 primary ballot. 

Hartmann, a former planning commissioner, secured the Third District county supervisor seat held by Doreen Farr, who retired.

At Thursday’s gathering, the candidates were mindful of the two-minute time limit on answers.

The candidates were asked about climate change, cannabis, emergency preparedness, land uses, the drought in California and other pressing topics. They also touted their lengthy résumés and their experience when making their cases to voters at the event.

Sparks flew when they were asked about supporting or opposing local campaign contribution limits.

Porter started his answer with, “I do,” later adding, “Right now, we have no cap in this county.”

“In the 2016 elections, both Mrs. (Joan) Hartmann and I had to raise huge amounts of money in order to campaign against each other,” he said. “To be honest, it’s too much, it’s overbearing, and I do not think it’s good for the community.”

Hartmann went second, saying, “I’m willing to consider it … my opponent up here has created nonprofits, and he gets those funded by his donors, and there’s no way to track that money.”

Moderator Claire VanBlaricum interrupted.

The League of Women Voters debate rules do not allow interrogation or personal attacks of other candidates on the stage.

The moderator’s gentle attempts — “Nothing personal, please”— didn’t completely work.

“You said nothing on character, but this goes to the issue and your question,” Hartmann said. “If you open campaign finance to this dark money that you cannot trace and isn’t transparent, that is a disservice to everyone.”

Jones answered last: “I welcome this question because I’m the only one sitting up here clean.”

The debate moderator cut Jones off when she began talking about her opponents.

“To the issue,” Jones said. “It’s dangerous, but what is safe is transparency. … I don’t believe money is the answer here. … If you put me in the top two, it would be exciting because you would have voted against campaign spending.”

The candidates weren’t allowed rebuttals at the event, held at the Goleta Valley Community Center.

In response to a question about the supervisor role in the Third District, Jones said that local government has the “most impact” on residents who live in the area, adding, “I think local government is the most important government in my life because it’s the government in which I have access to participate.”

Porter said the supervisor is like a “mayor of unincorporated areas.” He urged for a municipal or citizen advisory council for each distinct area. Porter said he will help to maintain the area’s individual character and help areas thrive at the local level.

When Hartmann replied, she stressed trust in government locally. She spoke of partnerships between local government and organizations, and she said the goals and “issues of communities is important.”

“When you have organizations,” Hartmann said, “you can talk with them, and that is the best way, and most satisfying thing about being a supervisor.” 

Click here to watch the League of Women Voters debate online

The Third District includes UCSB, Isla Vista, western Goleta, the Gaviota Coast, the Santa Ynez Valley, Mission Hills, Vandenberg Village, Casmalia, Tanglewood and Guadalupe. The seat represents the largest geographic swath of the county.

The Santa Barbara County Elections Office has started mailing ballots for the March primary election

Feb. 18 is the last day to register to vote in the March election, and Feb. 25 is the final day that county officials will accept applications for a vote-by-mail ballot.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.