1st District Supervisor candidates trade words for second time in two weeks
By CHRISTIAN WHITTLE
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Laura Capps continued her criticism of a PAC she says supports Das Williams in the race for 1st District Supervisor on Thursday, accusing the group and Mr. Williams of being in the pocket of “Big Oil” in a press release issued early in the day.
Mr. Williams denied the allegations shortly after.
“In their desperation, they seem to have entered fantasyland,” he told the News-Press.
With the vote for supervisor just five days away, the PAC in question has become a focal point of the race, triggering heated back-and-forths for the second time in two weeks.
On Thursday, Ms. Capps continued her criticism of the PAC and Mr. Williams, accusing the group of receiving support from the oil industry.
Ms. Capps said the PAC and Mr. Williams share “the same campaign treasurer and a lead spokesman who happens to work full time for the Board of Supervisors,” and that the “peculiar alliance” is concerning due to the several proposed drilling projects before the county in the coming weeks, including at Cat Canyon and the lingering controversy over the Plains Pipeline.
“Getting heaps of support from the cannabis industry makes sense, given Das allowed their lobbyists to dictate much of the ordinance, and the money he continues to take from them despite his pledge not to…but now big oil? What does the industry think they will get from Das?” said Lindsay Bubar, senior strategist for the Capps campaign.
In April of 2018, the Board of Supervisors determined an application from Plains Pipeline for the replacement of their existing — and currently shut down Lines 901 and 903 — pipeline system to be complete. They subsequently initiated a 30-day public comment period in February 2019 that concluded on March 15.
The board is also in the process of reviewing a proposed project by AERA Energy to re-establish oil production in an existing oil field by implementing a thermal enhanced oil recovery process instead of hydraulic fracking. Project plans include construction and restoration of approximately 72 well pads, construction and restoration of over nine miles of field-access roads, and drilling of up to 296 wells, according to the County Department of Planning and Development.
“The question today is: Will Das be clear about where he stands on these upcoming oil projects including Cat Canyon and the Plains Pipeline?”
Mr. Williams denied the accusations.
In a press conference Thursday morning, Mr. Williams said that he has a proven record that reflects lifelong values including a commitment to the environment and lowering green-house gas emissions.
“It is because of this record that I’m supported by organizations like the Sierra Club, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, the Central Coast League of Conservation Voters, our local Carpinteria and County firefighters behind me, and deputy sheriff’s, CAUSE Action Fund, and many others.”
In her press release, Ms. Capps included statements of support from several national environmental leaders, including former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator John Kerry, who said that Ms. Capps is committed to making Santa Barbara County more sustainable and safer in the face of extreme climate events.
“I know enough never to tell a Californian how to vote, but I’m proud to tell you why Laura has my strong support and I hope she will have yours too,” said Mr. Kerry in Ms. Capps’ press release.
Ms. Capps also shared support from Khalid Pitts, former National Political Director of the Sierra Club, who said she “represents the best of what the Sierra Club has looked for in an elected official — honesty, transparency and an unwavering long-term commitment to the environment.”
However, the Santa Barbara Sierra Club Group’s Chair Katie Davis said the organization was surprised Ms. Capps chose to run against “enviro-standard bearer Das Williams”.
She spoke in support of Mr. Williams at his press conference, and said the Santa Barbara board had voted unanimously to support his campaign.
“I have never thought that I would see the day when Das Williams would be attacked as in the pocket of big oil,” laughed Ms. Davis.
Big oil is targeting the county, but Ms. Capps’ accusations pull resources away from Joan Hartmann’s race in the County’s 3rd District where the real battle is being held, said Ms. Davis.
“It’s her right to run, and there are legitimate issues to debate, but oil is not one of them. It is a lie. It’s simply a lie to say Das is not on our side when it comes to oil and can be bought by the oil industry,” siad Ms. Davis.
When reached by the News-Press on Thursday night, Ms. Capps was quick to point to Mr. Williams’ campaign advertising as a reason to question the “establishment.”
“The more than half a million dollars that Das has spent on advertising relies on endorsements from organizations that didn’t even give anyone else the chance to participate in their process before rushing to endorse him,” Ms. Capps said. “That’s the power of the establishment — yet it is not fair to the voters who see these endorsements and trust that these entities did their homework. Not so. When I see something that’s not fair — a process, policy or practice that lacks integrity — I speak up and try to change it. That’s why I am running for Supervisor.”
Ms. Capps also said Mr. Williams is supported by Joe Armendariz, who serves as director of energy and special projects for Santa Barbara Technology and Industry Association, and Cory Bantilan, a current full-time employee of the Board of Supervisors and one of the three creators of the PAC.
Ms. Capps said that Mr. Bantilan is strongly in support of restarting the pipeline that caused the Refugio spill, and quoted him saying “They have the right to pump that resource until it’s gone.”
Mr. Bantilan said it was “rather desperate” to attack a relative nobody like himself, and said Ms. Capps has been distorting Mr. Williams’ record for months and now is trying to do it to him.
“For the record, no one has taken a dime from the oil industry,” Mr. Bantilan told the News-Press.
“In the quote attributed to me, I was referring to existing and permitted onshore facilities. To use an out-of-place and out-of-context quote to attack Das is indicative of the underhanded tactics employed by the Capps campaign.”
While the PAC was created by Mollie Culver, Tyler Gibson and Mr. Bantilan, Ms. Capps indicated that she believed that Mr. Williams was aware of the campaign and she called for him to denounce it.
“Das may try to distance himself from this PAC and the special interest money he has received, but the truth is, he does actually have the power to denounce this support and give back the special interest money he has received,” read Ms. Capps’ press release.
Mr. Williams said he considered it a badge of honor and a sign of character to have support from those who used to be his adversaries.
“I do have some Republican supporters. It’s very bizarre — I think it’s a very bizarre thing to be attacked for having bipartisan support in a time when that is more critical than ever,” said Mr. Williams. “This is Santa Barbara, not Washington, D.C., and we value working across the aisle, we value civility, and we value delivering results for our community.”
Mr. Williams said he hoped those thinking of running for office would not look at the current “level of acrimony” as the example leaders should set.
“This community had civility. It had an ability to stick to the issues, and we should do our best to return to that,” said Mr. Williams.
The District 1 race will be decided on March 3.