As current 37th District Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, gears up for a Senate run, seven candidates have thrown their hats in the ring in the pursuit of the Assembly seat.
Six Democrats will be on the March 3 ballot, including Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo and former Santa Barbara City Councilman Jason Dominguez. Santa Barbara City College Trustee Jonathan Abboud is vying for the seat, as well longtime Executive Director of the local nonprofit Standing Together To End Sexual Assault Elsa Granados. Also on the ballot are teacher and attorney Stephen Bloom, of Ventura, and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett. Santa Barbara resident Charles Cole is the lone Republican in the race.
The top two vote getters will advance to a runoff in the November election. The 37th District includes southern Santa Barbara County, the Santa Ynez Valley and a large portion of Ventura County.
Here are the candidates:
Mr. Abboud has served as a Trustee for the SBCC board since 2014. The 27-year-old said he wants to champion public education and fight for government that puts people first, not corporations.
Mr. Abboud’s parents moved to the United States from Lebanon in the 1980s. He was raised in Los Angeles and attended “an underfunded school,” before transferring to a public school – which he says awakened him politically.
“I believe your zip code shouldn’t determine your future,” Mr. Abboud stated on his campaign website.
Mr. Abboud earned a B. A. and Master of Technology Management at UCSB, where he was also elected as Associated Students President. He also helped create the lsla Vista Community Services District, where he now serves as general manager.
“As your State Assemblymember, I will use my experience as an education policymaker, community organizer, and local government executive to build community support to accomplish our agenda in Sacramento,” Mr. Abboud told the News-Press in an email. “I will work to secure education as a lifelong right; invest taxpayer funds wisely in new infrastructure, including housing; and fight climate change with a green new deal ending all new oil drilling permits, investing in clean energy, public transportation, clean water systems, and good jobs.”
Mr. Bennett has spent decades working to protect the local environment from profiteers. He co-authored the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources initiatives to protect open spaces from Los Angeles-style urban sprawl, and also passed laws to prevent future oil operations on the South Coast.
As a supervisor in Ventura, Mr. Bennett sought to bring fiscal discipline and balanced budgets to the county through securing funds to boost firefighting efforts and open a homeless shelter, according to his campaign website.
He served as an economics teacher at Nordhoff High School in Ojai and has 20 years of experience in local education.
“He is committed to increasing funding for our public schools –- specifically more money going into the classroom, and not the bureaucracy,” his campaign website states.
Ms. Bennett, 69, has an honors degree in Economics from Brown University. He received his masters in Education from Butler University.
“He is an independent local leader who stands up to powerful special interests, and wrote one of the strongest campaign reform laws taking big money out of local politics,” according to his campaign website.
Mr. Blum served as a Trustee for the Ventura County Community College District for 12 years and five on the California Community College League’s State Board. He also was the teacher’s union president for the Ventura Unified School District and spent time on the Gold Coast Insurance Trust Board of Directors.
Mr. Blum, 64, taught high school for 25 years in Ventura County and is currently teaching education law at California Lutheran and as a state-appointed attorney representing mentally ill clients.
“I am approaching this election in a different manner. There is too much negativity and too much money involved in our elections. I am running a positive, no negative campaign. I am not accepting more than $100 in campaign donations from individuals or groups,” Mr. Blum said on his campaign website.
Mr. Blum received a B.A. in History from California Lutheran University in 1977, where he also obtained his teaching credential in 1979. He received a master’s degree in Education from the same university in 1990. He received his Juris Doctorate from the Ventura School of Law in 2005, according to his resume.
“If elected, my goal would be to help create more opportunities for more people to achieve the California Dream,” he said.
The lone Republican who has thrown his hat into the ring, Mr. Cole’s campaign is based around change.
“Government is out of control, inefficient and misdirected,” his campaign website states.
The 22-year-old Santa Barbara native who now lives in Montecito has a background in business accounting, contracting and statistics, which he said makes it clear that the state has serious economic and policy problems.
“Problems I believe can be solved with conservative business principles, and not solved with socialist, free everything, high tax policies,” he said.
Mr. Cole is a Santa Barbara High graduate, where he participated in the school’s MAD Academy. He attended Santa Barbara City College as a high school student and attended one additional year at SBCC and “ultimately found the PC culture not conducive to learning,” according to his campaign website.
Mr. Cole said he hopes to address state freeways, preserve Proposition 13 — which reduces property tax rates on homes, protect private health care choices, and limit government oversight.
“Socialist policies got us here and will not solve anything,” Mr. Cole said on his campaign website. “We can’t vote for the same leftists/socialists and expect a different or better result. Its time for a change.”
Mr. Dominguez recently served a four-year term on the Santa Barbara City Council, representing the city’s Eastside district.
The 51-year-old teaches International Law at The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law and serves as the CEO and Founder of a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to low-income families and youth leadership training, according to his campaign website.
Mr. Dominguez previously served as a prosecutor for seven years, working as a Santa Barbara Deputy County Counsel, a Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and Deputy City Attorney, and as a United Nations Legal Officer at the Hague, where he assisted with the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes and genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
Ms. Granados has led the local nonprofit Standing Together to End Sexual Assault for the past 22 years. She has spent her adult life addressing sexual assault and domestic violence, while also advocating for civil rights and working-class families and under-represented communities.
Ms. Granados, 57, was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, watching her mother work long days for low pay. She said this taught her the value of hard work and advocating for those who need it most.
“I have a unique mix of qualifications and advocacy work that give me a strong skill set that I will bring with me to Sacramento,” Ms. Granados told the News-Press in an email. “I have a strong background in public policy and have worked on legislation at many levels of government.”
She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz and later her master’s in Public Administration at San Francisco State University.
“During my three and a half decades as a public servant, I have worked with some of the most disadvantaged members of our communities. I will continue to work to address inequities. Additionally, I am fiscally responsible and will make sure that tax-payer dollars are being spent in the manner intended.”
Ms. Murillo was elected to the City Council in 2011, and in January 2018 was sworn in as the 50th Mayor of Santa Barbara.
She is the first Latina ever elected to the council and has secured funds and a site for a new police station, updated the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, passed a Just Cause Eviction ordinance and has played a key role as the city aims to revitalize its downtown.
In 2013, the 59-year-old created the Pro-Youth Movement in response to a gang injunction proposed by the city, which was eventually rejected by the courts. She also organized a Women’s Summit following the Supreme Court hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and is currently working with the local Building Trades council for the city’s working-class communities.
Ms. Murillo previously worked at UCSB as the News and Public Affairs Director for KCSB Radio, taught broadcast journalism to college students and formerly was the news editor for the Santa Barbara Independent and published news clips for the Los Angeles Times, Ventura County Edition, and Ventura County Star. She has a B.A. in Dramatic Art for UCSB.
“What sets me apart from my opponents is my strong vision for California: a state that is climate resilient with healthy air and water for all residents. A state that offers economic opportunity for all, with well-paying jobs in safe working conditions. A state with responsive community-focused law enforcement practices. A state of well-educated residents who benefit from affordable health care, housing, and child care services. A state with well-maintained infrastructure that supports business and commerce and high quality of life,” Ms. Murillo told the News-Press in an email.