The Santa Barbara County Democratic Party announced its endorsements for the 2012 Santa Barbara City Council elections this week to jump-start the candidates’ campaign plans.

The County Democrats endorsed former two-term councilmember Iya Falcone, former KCSB radio news director Cathy Murillo and Santa Barbara Planning Commission member Deborah Schwartz. The party selected its representatives earlier than in previous years in an effort to increase their chances of winning the three seats on the November ballot.

According to Democratic Party of Santa Barbara Chair Daraka Larimore-Hall, the organization chose individuals that represent a wide range of constituents’ views and opinions.

“It’s a team of candidates who really represent the broad base that our party has in this community,” Larimore-Hall said. “Each one brings an important skill set to the table, and I think they will be very complementary of one another.”

Historically, the Santa Barbara City Council has represented the predominantly liberal perspectives of its constituents. However, the political majority changed to a 3-3 split of conservative and liberal members last November after former Councilmember Das Williams was elected to the California State Assembly. The appointment of Councilmember Randy Rowse to replace Williams for the remainder of his term shifted the council to a 4-3 conservative majority consisting of Councilmembers Dale Francisco, Michael Self and Frank Hotchkiss.

The county’s Democratic Party hopes to win the open seats of incumbents Francisco and Self as well as Rowse’s appointed position next year to return the council to a liberal majority.

Murillo said she will focus on grassroots campaigning and meet voters in person to discuss her platform and values.

“My campaign is going to have a serious ground effort,” Murillo said. “I will be going door-to-door to engage people and let them know that I care about their values. I care about our working class neighborhoods, at-risk youth, affordable housing and keeping Santa Barbara a small town.”

Larimore-Hall said the candidates’ various leadership skills and strengths will help unite the currently divided council.

“In Iya Falcone, you have a tough negotiator with experience in solving budget problems during a bad economy,” Larimore-Hall said. “In Cathy Murillo, you have a very important advocate for working families, for the poor, for public transit and young people, and in Deborah Schwartz, you have someone with a good eye for planning. Those are the skills we need more than a right-wing ideologue.”