Santa Barbara City Councilman Das Williams has opened an exploratory committee that will allow him to begin raising money to run for the 35th Assembly District next spring.
The decision means that a contested primary is now highly likely, with Susan Jordan, wife of incumbent Assemblyman Pedro Nava, already a declared candidate.
One reason Williams -- who had previously said he would put aside his aspirations and support Jordan "for the greater good of the community" -- decided to change course is a split among Santa Barbara environmentalists over a controversial offshore oil deal. I write about the dynamics of that situation in tomorrow's column in VenturaCountyStar.com. The bottom line is that the fallout from the failure of the offshore oil deal has caused some who previously supported Jordan to reconsider.
If Williams runs, it could set up a very interesting primary, based on these factors:
-- Williams was an aide to former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, and there is no love lost between Jackson and Nava. Having those two in different camps would create a battle of Democratic heavyweights in the region.
-- The fact that Nava is a sitting legislator will probably give Jordan a huge leg up in the ability to raise money from Sacramento-based interest groups, which typically take great care not to step on the toes of legislative incumbents.
-- With two Santa Barbarans in the race, it could create an opportunity for a candidate from Ventura County, such as Ventura City Councilman Bill Fulton.