(KSBW/KSBY) - Four candidates are vying for the State Senate seat in District 17, including Maria Cadenas, John Laird, John Nevill and Vicki Nohrden. State Senator Bill Monning will term out of the seat next January.
The district encompasses the area from San Jose and Ben Lomond, along the coast, down to Nipomo and the Santa Lucia Wilderness.
State Senator Bill Monning will term out of the seat next January, and there’s plenty of competition to fill his position.
For Maria Cadenas, people and the planet are her first priorities. Those are the first words she said when describing why she’s running for State Senate.
“I'm running for the people who are being left behind, for women, for people of color, for immigrants, I'm running for the workers who are working 2-3 jobs and can't make it. I'm running for the California we want to build,” Cadenas said.
Cadenas is the Executive Director of non-profit Santa Cruz Community Ventures, which is working to lead the way in creating college savings accounts for every newborn in Santa Cruz County.
She has previously worked as an associate director of the ACLU in Wisconsin and has worked to develop housing units for LGBTQ youth aging out of foster care.
Cadenas was spurred to run by her then-10-year-old daughter’s concern about climate change. “We were having a chat one night and she said, we've gotta stop using plastic. We have to save the earth. And she was 10. And it hit me in that moment, we're asking so much of our children, making them carry this weight,” Cadenas explained. That’s why, if elected State Senator, she would prioritize the environment. “This is a very critical time and juncture in our history. This is not about what do we conserve in environmentally structure or what do we build in housing they’re all interconnected and we have to approach legislation that way,” Cadenas said.
Next on her list of priorities is housing. “When we’re looking at housing, really focusing density walkable communities as part of the climate component that is part of it. and we just need to build more across all income levels, we need to increase more affordable housing in general,” she said.
Cadenas also wants to tackle education and health care if elected.
“We have to look at a plan that takes away the high deductibles that we currently have and everybody should have access to it. Everybody should have access to it, but especially for rural communities. We need to increase the Medicare, MediCal reimbursement rates so we have specialists coming to our area. Our communities are having to drive to San Francisco, San Jose to get a cardiologist, oncologist, we need to have them here locally,” Cadenas explained.
True to her interconnected approach to issues, she says pay equity needs to be an underlying issue in each of these goals at the state level.
John Laird is also running to represent District 17 in the State Senate. He served on the Santa Cruz City Council and as mayor in the 1980s, as well as an Assemblymember for the 27th District for three terms, between 2002-2008. Most recently, Laird served as Secretary for Natural Resources under former Governor Jerry Brown. For Laird, climate comes first. “So we have infrastructure near the ocean, we have housing near the ocean, we have the three airports in the San Francisco Bay Area that would all be threatened by minimum sea-level rise. We're really going to have to arm ourselves on that side. But we really have to lower emissions. California has taken the lead, I was a co-author of AB 32 that basically said we would return in 2020 to the level of emissions we had in 1990. We have met that goal, but now we have to go to the next goal, and we have to do it with some urgency because we’re nearing the tipping point,” Laird explained.
Another area Laird wants to see urgency, is in addressing the housing crisis. “In the urban areas, we can't do single-family zoning. We're gonna have to make sure there's multi-unit buildings built at a record clip near transit in the real urbanized areas. So the state can play a big part in that. What we're really missing is affordable housing at the middle and lower-income levels, that's gonna require state resources, the state's gonna have to step in to help with that to make that possible and I look forward to being instrumental in that,” Laird said.
Laird also wants to protect healthcare, specifically preserving Obamacare and realigning existing funding to provide care for Californians. He is adamant about making higher education affordable, and attracting the next generation of teachers.
The top two vote-getters will run against each other in November.
For profiles on John Nevill and Vicki Nohrden, click here.