Even as the underdog candidate in the supervisor’s race, Bob Lamonica says he can't lose. Photo by Chip Scheuer
By every possible definition of the term, Bob Lamonica is the underdog in this year’s supervisor race. His opponent, Ryan Coonerty, has secured just about every possible endorsement, and is trouncing him in fundraising. Most people, it’s safe to say, consider Coonerty’s victory a foregone conclusion.
Despite all that, how sure is Bob Lamonica that he’ll win?
“Even if I lose I win,” tech marketer Lamonica says. “I get to present issues I think are really important, and I get to challenge what I think has fundamentally been established to the community unethically. Somebody had to do it.”
The 63-year-old Lamonica is referring to Coonerty’s early announcement for third district county supervisor race. Most people would call the former Santa Cruz mayor’s move political strategy, but Lamonica prefers the word “unethical.” He believes there will be a big backlash over Coonerty’s decision to announce his bid for his father Neal Coonerty’s seat 10 months in advance.
“I do believe that’s going to some degree haunt Ryan Coonerty whatever the outcome of this is,” he says.
Coonerty doesn’t agree. He says he’d get flack either way—if he had waited longer to declare, he says, some people would have criticized him for jumping in late. And he thinks it’s actually fairer to those who want to challenge him in the race.
“It’s given people time to decide whether they wanted to run or not,” he says.
This isn’t Lamonica’s first shot at elected office. He ran unsuccessfully for East Palo Alto City Council in 1990, and became active in mid-1990s efforts to recall then-District-Attorney Art Danner. He also helped organize the Hemp Expos at the Santa Cruz Civic around the turn of the century and became politically re-energized in 2010 over the arrest of DIY Parade organizer Wes Modes. The case highlighted what he calls “abuse of power” by the D.A. and law enforcement—something he plans to highlight in the campaign. But, he says, that doesn’t make him a “protest candidate.”
“I’m empowering. I’m not protesting. I’m inspiring,” he says. “There’s a difference.”
So far fundraising is one-sided, to put it charitably. Within the first filing period that ended Dec. 31, Coonerty had raised more than $35,000, while Lamonica’s only reported contributions is $1500 from himself. (Big wave surfer Ken “Skindog” Collins filed a statement of intent to run, but did not return requests for comment about whether he plans to do so.)
When it comes to the issues in the race, Lamonica chastises Coonerty for not taking strong positions on his website, a site that Coonerty calls a “rough draft”—adding he plans to update it soon. Coonerty will run on a four-pronged platform of promoting environmental improvements, public safety, jobs and “customer service at the county.”
Lamonica, on his site, has a tab called “Issues and Positions,” where he runs through his positions on the environment, needle exchange and desalination. Those expecting Lamonica to run on a liberal activist platform might be surprised:
· He dislikes the exemption for Santa Cruz County in last fall’s logging bill, arguing it’s hypocritical and that Santa Cruzans use wood and should also be able to mill.
· He criticizes what he calls Santa Cruz’s “lackadaisical tolerance,” and would shut down Santa Cruz’s needle exchange program, which he calls “entitling drug users”—even though the program took in more needles than it distributed between May and July, and research has shown such exchanges reduce littering. “It doesn’t make sense anymore. We’re not talking about rainbow gathering types and Deadhead types,” Lamonica says. “We’re talking about junkies. We’re talking about intravenous needles here.”
· The former Right to Vote on Desal activist now says desalination can’t be ruled out, and that all water options should be on the table.
Endorsements can be key for someone trying to challenge a rising political star, but Lamonica can’t point to many so far. He notes he has been endorsed by Santa Cruz County Manufactured/Mobile Homeowners Association, a group he helped found two years ago to raise awareness about preserving rent control, and for which he served as president. John Mulhern, a member of its board, says the commission liked Lamonica’s commitment on protecting affordable housing.
“As far as his position on other issues, that’s not something we weighed,” Mulhern says. “People who know Bob appreciate his directness. He doesn’t pull any punches. If you read his website, you’ll see he’s very candid.”
Many of Lamonica’s positions seem to come more from personal experience and anecdotal evidence than hard research and studies. Lamonica says he trusts his instincts, and his instincts tell him he has a good shot in the June 3 primary election.
“I’m comfortable with whatever the outcome. You have to be—politics,” Lamonica says. “But I’m in it to win.”