Susan Epstein delivered a shock to the Santa Barbara County political world on Tuesday by announcing that she was ending her campaign for the Second District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. (Contributed photo)

Susan Epstein delivered a shock to the Santa Barbara County political world on Tuesday, abruptly backing out of the race for the Second District seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

Her decision to step aside, coming just days after kicking off a full-fledge campaign, creates a wide-open path for the only other declared candidate, Gregg Hart, who won re-election in November to the Santa Barbara City Council.

Epstein stunned her supporters when she sent out a mass email on Tuesday titled “Ending Our Campaign.”

No one had a clue.

“Unfortunately, I have decided to end the campaign for county supervisor for personal reasons,” Epstein wrote.

Epstein, who was endorsed by incumbent supervisor Janet Wolf, state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, former Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and four Goleta City Council members, including the mayor, gave no specifics on the reason for her decision to step aside.

“This is a hard note to write,” Epstein said. “So many people across our community and beyond have joined our campaign for county supervisor and offered support in many forms. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm of volunteers and donors.”

Epstein would have been the institutional underdog in the race, battling Hart, who won the endorsement of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party.  

“I was stunned to hear the news,” said Gail Teton-Landis, chair of the county Democratic Party. “I hope she and her family are fine. I hope she will continue to be active in the community.”

Epstein, a Goleta Union School District board member, represented potentially the greatest challenge to Hart, who is a member of the Santa Barbara City Council, a former California Coastal Commission member, and current deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.

Epstein supporters claimed no knowledge of her decision and dismay over the announcement.

“I am surprised by the news because her campaign was off to such a strong start with momentum building,” said Laura Capps, Santa Barbara Unified School District board member and an early Epstein endorser. “I have no doubt she’ll continue to serve our community.”

Another supporter, Kristen Sneddon, a newly elected member of the Santa Barbara City Council, said she doesn’t know why Epstein backed out.

“I hate to see her drop out,” Sneddon said. “I don’t know the reasons why, but it must be substantial. Ideally, there would be enough time for another progressive candidate to come forward. Competition is healthy in the democratic process.”

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

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at