Private meeting stirs public criticism of Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara mayoral candidate Deborah Schwartz is criticizing the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County Central Committee following a conversation she had with County Supervisor Das Williams at the end of September.
The meeting between Ms. Schwartz, who also chairs the city Planning Commission, and Supervisor Williams didn’t initially stir any ill feelings between the two, Mr. Williams told the News-Press.
But now, he’s reading lengthy articles in local news sources accusing him of pressuring Ms. Schwartz to withdraw — which he says is not true.
He said he asked if she was considering dropping out, and the two discussed the possibility that an abundance of Democratic candidates may lead to the election of Randy Rowse.
Ms. Schwartz is not considering withdrawing.
She didn’t intend to talk about the meeting. Rumors circulated, and reporters approached her.
“I didn’t go looking to expose this. It was the media,” she told the News-Press. “And I thought it was time to share this information and express my disheartenment that has occurred by his core group.”
She assumed Mr. Williams approached her on behalf of the Democratic Central Committee. His chief of staff, Darcél Elliott, is the chair of the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County.
Ms. Elliott told the News-Press she was aware of the meeting but didn’t have a hand in it.
Mr. Williams told the News-Press a well-known supporter of Ms. Schwartz asked him to have the conversation.
“I think (the supporter) is concerned about Deborah’s future prospects if she came in fourth, which is what it’s looking like right now, and dividing up the vote and a conservative getting elected because of that,” Mr. Williams said.
Ms. Schwartz doesn’t believe any of her supporters would vote for Mayor Cathy Murillo, who is endorsed by Das Williams and the Democratic Party.
“Ever since I announced that I was running back in December, I have been spotlighting issues with current city leadership, specifically the mayor,” she said. “Why would any of my supporters throw in the towel this late in the race?”
When she ran for City Council years ago, Mr. Williams made calls “nearly every day,” he said, calling for her campaign. The local Democratic Party supported her.
Mr. Williams said a withdrawal may repair relationships to the levels they were at 10 years ago.
But Ms. Schwartz told him she believes the local party has changed a lot.
“The Democratic party that I grew up with and my parents participated in … was one where we respected and embraced true diversity of views and opinions and allowed people to express themselves without degrading them,” she said.
Her mom, Naomi Schwartz, served three terms as a Santa Barbara County supervisor, was appointed to the California Coastal Commission and worked for state Sen. Gary Hart.
Ms. Schwartz feels like the Central Committee expects candidates to mirror all its policy points.
She did not receive an endorsement from the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County but was endorsed by the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County.
Ms. Elliott said she has worked with mayoral candidate James Joyce and Ms. Schwartz. Both were interviewed for the party’s endorsement, but Mayor Murillo secured the party’s favor.
“It’s hard to run against an incumbent if you haven’t been in elected office before. You have values, and you can say you’re going to do things, but having a voting record that actually shows you doing those things is totally different,” Ms. Elliott told the News-Press. “At the end of the day, that was just really hard to overcome.”
Ms. Schwartz said the party has attacked Democratic challengers in order to support incumbents.
Ms. Elliott said she only criticized campaign contributions from large landlords but never the candidates themselves.
She said the party would still consider supporting Ms. Schwartz in the future.
Ms. Schwartz said she’s not concerned about future endorsements from the party after this election cycle.
“Whatever happens, I am optimistic that I’ll find my way through new doors. I don’t know what those will be,” she said.
Around a week ago, she received a threatening message from a Google Voice number that police were unable to track.
The Santa Barbara Police Department advised Ms. Schwartz to be careful and call 9-1-1 if she receives direct threats.
Ms. Elliott ran for office in 2018 and took out a restraining order after receiving threatening messages.
The city of Santa Barbara election is Nov. 2.