As March 3 approaches, the race for 1st District Supervisor in Santa Barbara County is turning into an all-out war of words.
On the heels of a PAC — a political action committee — distributing mailers that are critical of her campaign, candidate Laura Capps held a rushed press conference on Friday morning in front of the County Administration Building in Santa Barbara.
Flanked by her mother, former Congresswoman Lois Capps, and former Supervisor Janet Wolf, Laura Capps didn’t waste time in going on her opponent, Das Williams.
“When I decided to run, my supporters told me, ‘We love you in this position, but don’t do it, it’s going to be too bruising.’ My opponent is known for this kind of thing. So I knew this day would come,” Ms. Capps told a contingent of supporters. “This is the type of dirty politics that people are tired of.”
While the PAC was created by Mollie Culver, Tyler Gibson and Cory Bantilan, Ms. Capps indicated that she believed that Mr. Williams was aware of the campaign and she called for him to denounce it.
Mr. Williams didn’t go as far as to do that, but did speak to the heated nature of the race in a statement to the News-Press.
“The last few weeks of a heated election can be stressful. It is unfortunate that my opponent has felt that she needs to concentrate on attacking me and running a negative campaign,” Mr. Williams said. “I am proud of my record of helping pass laws that have protected our coast from oil drilling, expanded renewable energy, strengthened our gun laws, and worked to make real tangible progress on issues like homelessness and emergency preparedness. I ask all my supporters and the community that we keep a focus on the issues and do not engage in toxic attacks. Our local politics was once civil and respectful and we should do all we can to promote and revive that ethic.”
Mr. Bantilan was outspoken about the reason he helped create the PAC — something he referred to as Ms. Capps’ “hypocrisy.”
“This is a classic misdirection ploy by the Capps campaign to avoid talking about her thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Washington D.C.. I got involved because I am tired of hearing Laura misrepresent the facts about Das and his record. He can be accurately described in different ways but unethical is certainly not one of them,” said Mr. Bantilan, a former Republican.
“One of the behaviors I dislike most is hypocrisy and her campaign is displaying it on a regular basis. Laura desperately wants to focus on cannabis and ignore the real issues in the first district, but if you want to talk about pot, talk about the pot calling the kettle black which describes her campaign. She claims to have created a so called ‘ethics plan’ as though it is some big achievement. The fact is it doesn’t actually exist and if it did, she would currently be violating every aspect of it herself.”
Ms. Capps has been critical of Mr. Williams for campaign donations from the cannabis industry, saying that it has created ethical issues, as Mr. Williams was responsible for setting the county’s cannabis cultivation ordinance.
Ms. Capps believes that the $62,000 in campaign contributions influenced the direction and enactment of the law, while Mr. Williams has consistently denied that he was swayed in any way by the funds.
Mr. Bantilan pointed to the campaign contributions that Ms. Capps has accepted as grounds to his “hypocrisy” claims.
“Contrary to what Laura preaches as good ethics, her campaign has accepted at least 41 contributions over $1,000, including more than $30,000 from a single wealthy donor. She has accepted thousands from donors with land use appeals before the Board of Supervisors, and she will also violate her own expenditure limit,” Mr. Bantilan said.
“Beyond that, Laura has set a new record for collecting the most out of state contributions in a Board of Supervisors race. In total there have been at least 135 donations to her campaign from outside California for $39,190, and 278 donations outside of Santa Barbara County to the tune of $96,309.
“From the D.C. area alone, Laura has accepted 86 contributions for $25,500. What gives her the right to try and limit the voice of local businesses while accepting thousands from Washington, D.C. insiders?”
Ms. Capps has proposed a campaign finance reform law that would limit contributions to just $1,000, as well as bar groups and individuals that have projects before the Board of Supervisors from being able to donate.
Mr. Williams has said that he would stop accepting funds from the cannabis industry, although Ms. Capps believes that the PAC was a roundabout way for him to still spread his message.
According to Ms. Capps, both Ms. Culver and Mr. Gibson were lobbyists as the cannabis ordinance was being written. Ms. Culver is a representative for the Cannabis Business Council.
“We aren’t going to win despite this PAC attack; we’re going to win because of it,” Ms. Capps said.
“People don’t like this type of thing. The only reason to have a PAC is to hide something.… This PAC has given (Williams) a way to continue to benefit from cannabis money while trying to claim otherwise.”
As for the PAC itself, emotions ran high as Ms. Capps said that she, Ms. Wolf and another former Supervisor, Susan Rose, were the subject of “attacks,” being labeled as “extreme progressives.” Another ad also mentions Lois Capps, stating that “Liberal Laura Capps makes her mom, Lois, look like a moderate.”
Mr. Bantilan was quick to dismiss the idea that they were “attacks.”
“I think they mistook merely mentioning people’s name for attacking them. There was no personal attack,” Mr. Bantilan said.
The District 1 race will be decided on March 3.