Former supervisor and EPA official seeks 37th District seat
Mike Stoker, a former Santa Barbara County supervisor and Environmental Protection Agency official, launched a bid for state Assembly Friday.
He announced his candidacy outside on the steps of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse with his wife Debi and Brooks Firestone by his side.
During a News-Press interview before the announcement, Mr. Stoker said he had planned to enjoy retirement. But he said he had been approached by Republican leaders in the area who “strongly urged” him to consider the Assembly seat.
He added that his wife made a convincing argument: “People that complain about what the government is doing really don’t have a right to complain unless they do whatever it is to make a change.”
So Mr. Stoker decided to jump into the 37th district race.
The seat is newly opened following the 2020 Census and redistricting. Assemblymember Steve Bennett, D-Ventura, has been drawn into the 38th District.
“California is worth fighting for and worth saving,” Mr. Stoker, 66, told the News-Press.
Mr. Stoker was a member of the Santa Barbara County County Board of Supervisors from 1986-1994, served as chairman of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board from 1995-2000 and worked as the California deputy secretary of state from 2000-2002.
Mr. Stoker previously led the EPA’s Region 9, which covers California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and the Pacific islands, during the Trump administration. He was dismissed from his duties after less than two years and was subsequently appointed by the White House to serve as the U.S. representative on the Western Interstate Nuclear Energy Board.
Mr. Stoker said he believes his record underscores he is a pro-business candidate who supports the environment. He said he opposes COVID-19 mandates and regulations that could be detrimental to businesses.
A self-described “libertarian Republican,” Mr. Stoker also touted support he’s already received from law enforcement and vowed not to back any so-called “defund the police” proposals in the California Legislature should he get elected.
During the News-Press interview, Mr. Stoker came out swinging against Supervisor Gregg Hart, a Democrat who has already announced his candidacy for the seat.
“There will be a general theme that if you believe California is heading in the right direction under Gov. (Gavin) Newsom, then vote for Gregg Hart. He’s been a very partisan Democrat. He stands for a continuation of the current direction,” Mr. Stoker said.
Mr. Stoker said he is a Republican because he wants fewer taxes and is more in tune with economic policies than social issues.
In his campaign announcement earlier this year, Supervisor Hart said the decision to jump into the open race was a difficult one because he truly enjoys the job he has.
“I’ve been working through the decision-making process because I really enjoy working for the community as a supervisor,” Mr. Hart previously told the News-Press.
Mr. Hart also has a mind for the environment. He has said he is especially proud of how Santa Barbara County helped environmentalists purchase San Marcos Preserve and the creation of Measure B during his time on the city council, a 2% bed tax dedicated to the Creeks Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Program.
His other priorities include increasing educational opportunities and reducing homelessness.
The primary election is on June 6. The top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will go head to head in the Nov. 8 runoff election.