A Look Into Bruce Porter’s Campaign for Third District Supervisor of Santa Barbara County

Photo by Graeme Jackson

Jade Martinez-Pogue
National Beat Reporter

Independent candidate Bruce Porter is running for the Third District supervisor seat in the 2020 primary elections, which will take place March 3. This will be his second time running for this position, and he hopes to redeem his campaign and beat incumbent Joan Hartmann.

“The overarching platform that I have is that I’d like to protect and enhance the character of everyone in the 17 communities that make up the Third District,” Porter said in an interview conducted with The Bottom Line and KCSB.

Porter is a West Point graduate and served in the Army Corp of Engineers for 25 years, a quality that he hopes will give him an extra edge in the upcoming election. By thinking “open-mindedly” and “independently,” Porter says he is learning from the people who live in Third District communities about how he can best fulfill their needs.

The 2016 election cycle was Porter’s first time running and he admitted to being a novice in the campaign game. “To be honest, I lost because of Isla Vista,” Porter said. “I did not understand the issues that were down here and I didn’t spend enough time engaging with students.”

After learning from the mistakes of his last campaign, Porter says that he has spent the last four years getting to know each community better. He’s visited Isla Vista countless times to talk to the people, listen to their problems, and offer solutions.

In the final leg of this year’s campaign season, however, Porter became entangled in a fraudulent voter registration organization, Rock the Vote SB. In December 2019, the organization was issued a cease-and-desist notice for encouraging members of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara to engage in illegal and false voting tactics. In January, the executive director of the organization, Robin Howe, issued a press statement which alleged that Porter was involved with the organization.

While Porter did admit to The Bottom Line that he recognized the need for a true non-partisan voter registration effort in Isla Vista, he says that he found a greater passion in his effort to help connect students better to the community. Because he attached more importance to this issue, he decided to focus attention on that and step down from creating a non-partisan voter registration campaign.

“I talked to Robin Howe that one time and after that I stepped away. Whatever happened after that, he would have to address,” Porter said.

According to Porter, the student that exposed Rock the Vote SB’s fraudulence filed a complaint against Porter with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission about the situation. The commission completed an investigation into the issue of Porter’s involvement and found that the allegations had no factual basis. 

Despite being embroiled in the drama that surrounded the allegation, Porter says that he has continued to observe the communities under Third County jurisdiction to understand where improvements need to be made. Commenting that Isla Vista is the largest community out of the 17, Porter claims that he wants to focus on achieving true self-governance for the area. He believes that the Isla Vista Community Services District already does many things for the community of Isla Vista, but pointed out how the larger county currently still has full governance over it. 

“The character of every community is different, but the regulations that the county has for [every community] all are exactly the same,” he said. “But that makes no sense.”

Noting the differences between quiet communities like Santa Ynez and the lively character of Isla Vista, he believes that rules and regulations should be tailored to the individual communities under their jurisdiction. Some main projects that Porter would focus on if elected are investing in Isla Vista to increase sidewalks, roads, and lighting within the community. Specifically, Porter would like to see more blue safety lights spread throughout Isla Vista, not just on campus.

Porter also hopes to address the issue with food insecurity within the community if elected. “I want to give a shout-out to the food bank that’s run by A.S. [Associated Students] on campus. I think they do a wonderful job,” he said. “But it doesn’t serve everybody in Isla Vista.”

There is no access to a food bank for long-term Isla Vista residents or for Santa Barbara City College students, and Porter would like to fix that. He suggested using the new cannabis cultivation revenues that flooded the county this year to invest in infrastructure to build a new food bank in Isla Vista that would be accessible to all Isla Vista residents.

Porter has suggestions for tackling the homelessness crisis in the community as well. He believes that the homelessness issue in Isla Vista stems from UCSB admitting more students than it can fit in the community. The number of acceptances each year keeps increasing, but the amount of living space has stayed the same.

“We have to work on the demand side to make sure UCSB doesn’t grow in an unsustainable way,” said Porter. On the supply side, he believes that, simply speaking, new housing has to be built.

“We’re going to have to be innovative and thoughtful about the way we do that,” he said. 

In light of the multitude of blazing fires that the greater Santa Barbara area has experienced in the past few years, Porter says he wants to collaborate with the American Red Cross, the city of Goleta, and UCSB to craft a detailed plan for disaster preparedness in Isla Vista. The plan won’t focus specifically on fires, but also other natural disasters that the area is prone to.

“It’s way beyond wildfires; our community here really is threatened by potential tsunamis and earthquakes,” he said. “Wildfires are what we think of first because that’s what happened most recently.”

Porter hopes that his independent-leaning values and ideals will be what Isla Vista wants out of their district supervisor. By learning from the people who live here, Porter promises to stay open-minded and think directly about problem solving. “I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I’m an engineer,” he said.