What Will 2015 Santa Barbara Council Election Mean for Business?

What will the election of private practice attorney and now Councilman-elect Jason Dominguez mean for the business community in Santa Barbara? Probably not much, despite his endorsement from many business people.

The first Santa Barbara City Council district election in four decades ended Nov. 4 with landslide wins for two incumbents and the election of Eastside resident Dominguez, a registered Democrat, who was endorsed by many Republicans, Realtors and the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

Dominguez also was endorsed by former Mayor Sheila Lodge, hardly a conservative. His resume includes working for the California Rural Assistance League, which champions the rights of farmworkers and the poor.

Don’t be surprised if some Republicans take issue with the stands Dominguez may take on many social issues. As a former prosecutor in Los Angeles, he will be tough on crime. That’s where he may show more conservative stripes.

Dominguez was elected to the county Democratic Central committee in 2004. He supports nonprofits, including one of his own, and other causes that some in the GOP don’t like.

The Chamber of Commerce endorsement of second-time council candidate Sharon Byrne, Milpas Community Association executive director, did not bring the magic to her as it appears to have for Dominguez, who tallied more votes that all his challengers combined. Some key business owners did not like the way she tried to push an Eastside business improvement district.

Byrne received about half as many votes as Westside incumbent Cathy Murillo, who is disliked by Republicans and some business people because of her support to and from labor unions and other social causes such as Planned Parenthood.

However, union support for one of Dominguez’s challengers, Andria Martinez Cohen, only brought her a third-place finish behind Jacqueline Inda, who probably posted the more campaign lawn signs on the Eastside than all of the other candidates in that district.

Inda also is disliked by Republicans, some business people and even some Latinos because of some previous disagreements with them. She has been involved in a campaign for an alternative Eastside business improvement district along with real estate agent Miguel Avila.

At a Republican-backed love-in at the University Club in September, current Councilman Frank Hotchkiss said, “I don’t want to be sitting across the (council) table from Jacqueline Inda and Cathy Murillo next year.” He got half his wish.

That September event anointed Dominguez and Bryne as the GOP’s favorites along with restaurant owner and incumbent Councilman Randy Rouse, who tallied more votes to win in his district than Dominguez and Murillo combined in their respective voting zones. Rouse also had the chamber’s endorsement, but hardly needed it because his district challengers were unknowns with no strong endorsements and even fewer campaign funds.

It appears Republicans backed Dominguez because he was the lesser of evils, meaning Inda Martinez Cohen were just too far left for them.

So, it appears once again that the power of incumbency and the size of campaign war chests win out again. According to the current public records, Dominguez also outspent his challengers. But, will his next four years on the council please the GOP? Hard to say.