As recently elected 35th District State Assemblyman Das Williams plans his move to Sacramento and leaves a lifetime of local involvement, fellow Santa Barbara City Council members are questioning who will take his seat.
Williams grew up in Isla Vista from the time he was enrolled in the fourth grade and, as a young adult, attended Santa Barbara City College before transferring to UC Berkeley. Williams beat opponent Mike Stoker for the assembly seat with approximately 52 percent of the vote in this month’s election.
For the past six years, Williams has served on the Santa Barbara City Council to increase energy efficiency, provide more middle-class housing and helping pass the city’s Land Usage Ordinance. Now that Williams is scheduled to depart, the remaining council members have raised questions as to who will take his place.
Because the decision will not be made within 90 days of a general election, the council itself must vote in the new appointee.
According to Williams, moderate candidates will be more likely to gain the four votes required for approval.
“…There are a bunch of applicants,” Williams said. “Basically, I would support anyone who would push for affordable middle-class housing downtown, but they would also have to be able to gain support from the conservative side.”
Currently, liberal council members Helene Schneider, Harwood “Bendy” White, Grant House and Williams hold a four-three majority over more conservative council members Dale Francisco, Michael Self and Frank Hotchkiss. Depending on the replacement, the political balance could shift away from the currently liberal majority.
In order to come to an agreement, both sides are looking beyond political affiliation to past experiences that would be applicable for the position.
Santa Barbara mayor Helene Schneider said she is seeking candidates who can address the city’s budgeting concerns.
“I am keeping a very open mind and want to see what applicants look like,” Schneider said. “I am really looking for someone who cares about the welfare of the city, maybe some fiscal background as well.”
Regardless of the impending decision, Williams said the council’s composition will change in upcoming years.
“Right now there is a balance on the council, but it will change in the next election,” Williams said. “In the next election there will be three seats up for grabs.”
However, Williams added that he is confident the council will continue to have a Democratic majority. “It will go back to a Democratic majority, no doubt about it, unless the Democrats do something bad to mess it up,” Williams said.