Endorsements: It’s All About the Money

By Jeff Giordano   |   November 16, 2021
Kristen Sneddon was elected to Santa Barbara City Council in 2017 despite not being endorsed by the DCC

Bravery takes on many forms, some literal and some a bit more theoretical. But nuance aside, there is bravery in challenging the status quo, the “machine.” And believe you me, our local Democratic Central Committee (DCC) is a machine. Allow me to explain:

Local party endorsements spring from the DCC, yet, because Santa Barbara is a news desert, you might be surprised to learn that endorsements sometimes occur even before true-blue-Democrats enter the race — witness Kristen Sneddon in 2017 and Kate Ford in 2018. Therefore, the Montecito Journal did a great service in shining a light on the dirty business of the DCC (an organization that professes “transparency and openness”). What the MJ failed to highlight, however, was why endorsements matter — money.

You see, with endorsements come lockstep funding from the Mission Indians (yes, even in a city race) and various factions of organized labor. When Laura Capps challenged Das Williams for First District Supervisor, he raised, including PAC money, nearly $1 million. Capps raised less than half this amount. Given the disparity, the only real surprise was that Capps came as close as she did to winning.

Thanks to the MJ, this week’s city election demonstrated the bent nature of Santa Barbara politics. Williams’ failed attempt at a backroom deal, godfather-inspired demands for party loyalty by former DCC officials and then, of course, there is the money. Behind her DCC endorsement, Cathy Murillo raised nearly $230,000, much of it from the likes of the California Teamsters, Cement Mason Local, Council of Laborers, United Domestic Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Union of Operating Engineers and, of course, the DCC themselves. The bottom line: Endorsed local candidates rarely need our individual help.

Democratic challenger James Joyce, on the other hand, raised less than $75,000 and while he didn’t win, he did have an amazing second-place showing against a very well-known and well-funded field.

The good news is that in this instance, local party hacks did not sway the electorate. That said, there remains significant work to be done and hopefully our new mayor, Randy Rowse, who ran as a “no-party preference,” will at least try to make some positive changes, including: Campaign Finance Reform (we have a $4,900 state-imposed individual contribution limit while SF is $500, Ventura is $750 and Los Angeles is $1,500) and the overhaul of our entire city election process.

Let’s be honest, it’s silly that our current mayor was elected with just 27% of the vote. Rank Choice Voting would eliminate voter splitting, cost less, and be much fairer. It’s the reason why it is used in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Leandro, to name just a few.

Randy has a solid reputation, meaningful endorsements, and a self-avowed nonpartisan local focus (bravo!). I’m just hoping that he can use this victory to bring much needed and often talked about change to a system that screams for reform. Hope really does spring eternal…


You might also be interested in...