Monday, November 03, 2008

After Tuesday, You Will Get Your Mailbox Back

On the eve of the election, no one seems to know what the outcome is likely to be in the race for the 19th State Senate District between Santa Barbara's Hannah-Beth Jackson and Tony Strickland of Ventura.

A week ago Sunday I was in the audience for a political panel down in L.A. Before things got underway, Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a part-time resident of Carpinteria and a political analyst for KNBC Channel 4 in L.A., asked me who I thought would win. My response was, "I was going to ask you that!"

Jim Brulte, the former Republican Leader of the State Senate, who was on the panel, told me that if this were a gubernatorial election rather a presidential election year, he would pick Strickland as the winner, but with Obama at the top of the ticket for the Democrats, the seat could go to Jackson.

In other words, it's a toss-up.

Wendy McCaw's News-Press has been carpet-bombing Jackson on its opinion pages throughout the campaign. But curiously, it only formally endorsed her opponent Strickland for the seat last Tuesday. That's a mere seven days prior to the election and of course by then, many voters had already made up their minds, if they hadn't indeed already cast their absentee ballots.

That editorial endorsing Strickland might have been a tough one for editorial page editor Travis Armstrong to write. Armstrong is openly gay and Strickland, a conservative Republican, is on record as being in favor of Proposition 8, the proposition that would forbid same-sex marriage. (For what it's worth, Strickland's wife, Assembly Member Audra Strickland is listed on the Prop 8 website as endorsing passage of the ballot initiative .)

Perhaps that explains why the endorsement read more like a press release from the Strickland campaign rather than any kind of thoughtful consideration of where the candidates stood on the issues and why they were endorsing Strickland over Jackson.

If the Senate District consisted solely of Santa Barbara, Jackson would probably be the favorite, but the strangely drawn district boundaries mean that the candidates are also running in Ventura and parts of L.A. Counties. Voters in the district have twice elected the staunchly conservative Tom McClintock. But Jackson should get a big boost by being endorsed by the L.A. Times which wrote that it "wholeheartedly" backs her.

The influence of the Times can't be discounted, and to counter that Strickland is playing up the News-Press' attacks on Jackson as ones coming from her "hometown" newspaper. Those of us here in Santa Barbara know what a News-Press endorsement in recent years is worth (according to the Santa Barbara Independent, between November 2003 and November 2006, voters have followed the News-Press' endorsements only about 33% of the time) but whether voters elsewhere are hip to that is doubtful.

It also must be galling to Strickland, who hails from Moorpark, that the largest newspaper in his county, the Ventura County Star, has endorsed Jackson citing "her superior record of achievement in the Assembly and her ideas for moving the state forward."

Given what's gone on in this election you'd probably think it's a safe bet that a Wendy McCaw owned News-Press has never endorsed Jackson. But if you were to have put money on that you'd be wrong.

Back on October 22, 2000, a mere two days after McCaw took over ownership of the paper, the News-Press endorsed Jackson for a second term in the State Assembly.

That's right, before they were against her they were for her.

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Local video producer David Pritchett has won a $1,000 prize from the No On Propostion 4 campaign, also called the Campaign for Teen Safety, for his short-form video, entitled "Proposition 4: What Part of NO Don't They Understand."

The three-minute video was produced by Pritchett for his video show
Off-Leash Public Affairs
, which can be seen on the Santa Barbara Channels, channel 17.