Thursday, July 30, 2009

News-Press Finally Gets A Candidate It Can Get Behind

It's official! The Dale Francisco/News-Press love fest is on.

The day after he announced that he is in the race to become Santa Barbara's next mayor, the News-Press gave Dale Francisco the above-the-fold, front page story complete with two photos, an interview on News-Press Radio, an embedded video clip on the home page and an editorial in the opinion section saying that other candidates should follow his example in refusing to accept any campaign contributions from unions.

Now, that's a courageous sacrifice on his part. Francisco proclaiming that he won't accept money from public employee unions is like me saying I won't be accepting any dinner invitations from Scarlett Johansson.

So with Francisco announcing a mere three months prior to the election that he's a candidate while the rest of the field has been campaigning and raising money for months, the question is, "what took him so long?"

Here's my hypothesis: I say the News-Press drafted him to run. Or at the very least, Francisco secured from them a pledge of their support before jumping into the race.

The News-Press seemed a little too well prepared to cover Francisco's announcement which had been a well-kept secret.

For one thing, they sent city editor Scott Steepleton to cover the event. It is believed to be one of the few times he's been lured out of the newsroom to report on a press conference that didn't include the promise of a complimentary buffet for the media.

Another clue: While many thought Iya Falcone was the paper's presumptive favorite up until now, given the fact that the News-Press never passed up an opportunity to lambaste her rival Helene Schneider, nevertheless the News-Press never fully embraced Falcone and even seemed to be careful to keep her at a distance, perhaps in anticipation that Francisco could be persuaded to run.

Yes, that thud you heard yesterday afternoon coming from the vicinity of De la Guerra Plaza was the sound of Falcone being thrown under the News-Press bus.

Recent history would suggest that even with the News-Press behind him, Francisco is facing an uphill battle. For starters, he's about as conservative as politicians get around here, having contributed money to the effort to pass Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriage. And you'd have to go a long way back in history to find a Santa Barbara mayor who could have been described as a "conservative."

And what about Francisco's base of support? Personally I find it a little scary. Sort of like the Sarah Palin fanboys and girls. In KEYT's story on Francisco's announcement that ran on Tuesday night, reporter John Palminteri interviewed an enthusiastic Francisco supporter who cited as one of the candidate's virtues the fact that he's a, "100 percent citizen." Oh great, one of those types who is perpetuating the false rumor that President Obama wasn't born in the USA.

I'll give the "birthers" the benefit of the doubt and assume they're morons and not out and out bigots. But based on the letters to the editor, the News-Press readership these days, like the paper's owner Wendy McCaw, seems to consist of naysayers, NIMBY's and haters. Let's hope that their enthusiasm for Francisco is not based on the hope that he's a kindred spirit.

I've met Francisco before and he seems like a very nice guy. And in his interview yesterday with Travis Armstrong he certainly sounded very reasonable in his thinking and measured in his responses to questions. I can only hope that he will rise above the rhetoric of some of his supporters, and of the News-Press.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and