When school board member Laura Capps learned in an L.A. Times article that Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams took $62,000 from the cannabis industry while crafting the county’s first recreational cannabis ordinance, she decided to run against him.
“You don’t take money, when you’re entrusted by the people to do what’s right on behalf of all the people, from the very interests that stand to gain millions,” Capps said at a January debate at the Music Academy of the West, hosted by KCRW and the Montecito Journal. “That’s an ethics line.”
Capps, who won her school board seat unopposed, is running for supervisor on the platform of campaign finance, calling for donation limits, quarterly reporting, and bans on donations from people who have business in front of the board, like oil companies and cannabis growers.
Carpinteria residents are particularly interested in cannabis because they’re upset about the skunky smell wafting from the greenhouses and the industry’s financial contributions to both politicians and local schools.
Williams said the money he received did not influence his political decisions.
“You have to create a situation where you permit the best, and shut down people that can’t play by the rules,” he said. “That’s what we’ve attempted to do.”
At recent debates, Williams defended himself and deflected blame when pushed on his cannabis decisions. Political analyst Jerry Roberts said that could hurt him.
“I think a lot of people see him as a condescending mansplainer,” said Roberts. “He has an arrogant way about him. I think a lot of Democratic women are put off by that.”
Roberts said the race will ultimately come down to money, message and organization.
“[Williams] started out with $250,000 in the bank,” said Roberts. "I think he's got an advantage there. He has an advantage organizationally because he has the Democratic party endorsement. So it's really going to come down to message. Will [Capps’] message resonate, particularly with women? That's going to be a key block to look at.”
The first district includes a large portion of the city of Santa Barbara, as well as Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria. The primary is March 3, 2020.