BY ANDREW WANG
Political veterans and newcomers look forward to November’s general election after emerging from the primaries for local seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and California’s state Senate.
House of Representatives
Democratic Rep. Jimmy Panetta is seeking reelection for his third term in California’s 20th Congressional District, bringing experience as a prosecutor and an active-duty member of the Navy as well as two terms of congressional experience.
Panetta believes in preserving the beauty and environmental sustainability of the Central Coast, passing legislation to curtail the effects of climate change, including a carbon tax.
“I think it’s about making sure that we’re in a position to not just defend our environment, but actually take affirmative steps forward to strengthen those protections,” Panetta says.
He broadly supports improvements to affordable healthcare, education, immigration policy, infrastructure and the condition of veterans.
As founder and co-chair of the Agricultural Research Caucus, Panetta is concerned with addressing the well-being of agriculture in the country, pushing for sustainable farmland and agricultural innovation.
“We’re lucky to live in the salad bowl of the world. We’re surrounded by bountiful agriculture,” Panetta says. “But at the same time we have to realize that the same people harvesting our crops go home, and they don’t have access to those fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Jeff Gorman, chair of the Monterey County Republican Party, is also running for the House seat, bringing a long history of financial sector, foreign relations and public service experience to the table.
Gorman believes that he represents the voices of those not widely represented in local and state government, wishing to end what he considers one-party dominance in California.
“I think that one of the problems here in local politics is that one political party seems to control the entire narrative, including what the problems are and how they should be approached,” Gorman says.
He wishes to revive the “can-do” spirit of America, prioritize national security and put more freedom in the public’s hands by reducing government influence and lowering taxes. It is through such measures that Gorman plans to attract businesses and open new job opportunities.
“We are seeing job growth in the private economy, and I hope those looking to enter the workforce understand the way bad laws stifle economic growth,” Gorman says in reference to AB5, a bill that he says has killed jobs and devastated numerous small businesses.
California State Senate
Democrat John Laird is running for the District 17 seat in California’s State Senate, offering 40 years of political experience. His 2020 state Senate campaign focuses on issues like affordable housing, healthcare, education and climate change.
“I’d like to see us protect the environment, make sure it’s affordable and accessible to live here and make sure that the next generation gets the things that have been afforded to the previous generation,” Laird says. “We’re missing that right now.”
Laird played a large role in multi-national efforts to combat climate change, culminating in the formation of the International Alliance Against Ocean Acidification. He also endorses financing more affordable housing to address high property and rent costs caused by a 50 million unit housing deficit in California.
“On the Central Coast, housing is not allowing people to stay in the communities they grew up in, it’s not allowing teachers or physicians to come into the area,” Laird says. “It’s a real challenge.”
Local community leader Vicki Nohrden is also entering the race for the state Senate position, running as a Republican. She brings public service experience as a court-appointed special advocate and a former member of a Civil Grand Jury, as well as private sector experience as a businesswoman.
Nohrden’s campaign advocates for lower taxes to encourage the growth of small businesses and to allow families to stay in the area.
“In California, we pay some of the highest sales taxes, gas taxes and income taxes,” Nohrden says. “We’ve seen a tax exodus, where 9,000 businesses have left the state.”
Another central piece of her campaign is her focus on implementing mental health and substance abuse resources to combat homelessness, exploring a variety of models to find solutions. Nohrden advertises herself as someone who, in her own words, wants to take the label off politics by working across the aisle to come to pragmatic solutions.
“I’m looking at solving some of these problems, not just by throwing money at it,” she says, “but we need a strategic plan, and I haven’t seen one come out of Sacramento.”