Meet CA State Senate and Assembly candidates at tonight's Chamber Forum

Candidates for Assembly, state Senate express similar goals

Candidates for Assembly District 15: Anamarie Farias, Karen Mitchoff and Monica Wilson. Candidates for State Senate District 9: Tim Grayson and Marison Rubio.

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Feb. 21, 2024) — “All politics is local” goes the famous quote from the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, and the slate of candidates vying for open Assembly and state Senate seats will keep the electorate busy doing their homework in the runup to the March primary.

Here’s some information for the races in the area:

15th Assembly District

Democrats Karen Mitchoff, Monica Wilson and Anamarie Farias and Republican Sonia Ledo are vying for the seat being vacated by Tim Grayson.

Mitchoff cites her 20 years of proven leadership at the city and county levels, along with working with regional and federal partners to secure funding for programs and services such as mental health, public health, law enforcement, children’s issues, elders’ concerns and flood control.

“I am forthright once I have made a decision but always in listening mode with constituents. I work collaboratively with everyone to achieve agreed-upon goals,” said Mitchoff.

“Additionally, as a (former) county supervisor, I am the only candidate who understands both local needs and budget issues and how the state can/does impact finances for critical services.”

She identified public safety, housing and elder issues as her priorities if elected.

For public safety, Mitchoff noted much-needed support to local governments for law enforcement and mental health services, banning assault weapons that aren’t already banned and seeking longer sentences for those using firearms of any kind in a crime.

She supports housing in suburban areas that takes advantage of repurposing commercial land such as the parking lot at Sunvalley Mall south of Sears or the old Penney’s building north of the Rack in Pleasant Hill.

“We need to find solutions that allow flexibility by local jurisdictions to meet our housing goals without destroying neighborhoods,” she said.

She also wants to work to provide more financial resources to elders needing long-term care solutions that aren’t covered by MediCal/Medicare.

“I should be elected because I am the most experienced candidate with both local and regional experience dealing with our most pressing issues: housing, transportation, climate and water, specifically the Delta, and have the leadership skills to be the most effective in Sacramento,” Mitchoff said.

For her part, Antioch City Councilmember Wilson expressed a commitment to represent not just a few, but everyone, whether or not they agree with her.

Wilson identified her track record of advocacy for issues that impact all communities and being a voice for all to ensure equality of opportunity and community reinvestment as other qualities she brings to the Assembly.

If elected, she plans to prioritize economic empowerment, working on affordable housing and homelessness, and spotlighting education access/equity.

She noted a desire to create opportunities for economic advancement for all communities. This includes supporting initiatives for job creation, workforce development and entrepreneurship, as well as advocating for fair wages and equal access to economic resources and opportunities.

For affordable housing and homelessness, she plans to champion local housing creation that generates local jobs and home ownership opportunities for our workforce and future generations.

“Homelessness and housing insecurities is a crisis. I’ll bring my local leadership in improving homeless outreach coordination, expanding transitional housing and enhancing mental health programs to Sacramento,” Wilson said.

She plans to fight for equitable and quality education for all students by advocating for increased funding for public schools, addressing the achievement gap, expanding access to early childhood education, and supporting programs that promote college and career readiness, educational access and workforce training for a broad, diverse student community.

“My commitment to my community is unwavering, and I will continue to fight for their rights and representation. You see, representing Assembly District 15 means I am the voice for everyone. This type of representation is what my community deserves and demands at the state level, and I am the right person,” Wilson said.

As the lone lifelong Contra Costa resident in the race who was raised in this district, Farias noted she brings a unique perspective to the race. She pointed to her strong understanding of the district’s social, cultural and economic diversity. She cited her experience on the Martinez City Council, Planning Commission and Parks & Recreation Commission, and her appointment to the California Housing Finance Agency, as additional strengths.

“I will bring my experience in housing, economic and community development to prioritize opportunities that create sustainable and livable communities for all,” Farias said.

Three issues that Farias will be prioritizing if elected are ways to provide affordable housing, investing in education and public safety.

She noted that affordable housing is a basic human right. “Closing the housing affordability gap requires a comprehensive strategy that includes expanding rental assistance, increasing permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness, developing new units for low- and moderate-income households and creating homeownership programs for families who need down payment assistance,” Farias said.

Her emphasis with education involves recruiting, preparing and retaining a diverse and well-supported teaching force in all school districts. Acknowledging school overcrowding, she wants to make school funding a priority while investing fully and equitably in students.

“We need to create programs to stop the school-to-prison pipeline,” she said.

Restructuring the systems of public safety to ensure communities’ underlying safety and social needs are met is among her “All Safe” objectives. It includes recruiting well-trained public safety personnel committed to serving and protecting their communities and holding unfit officers responsible and accountable for their actions and removing them.

Farias touts her nearly 30 years of experience in administering various federal, state and local programs to solve complex community issues.

“In each role that I have the honor of serving in, I continue to be the voice for the voiceless by standing up, speaking out and fighting for social justice. My experience, commitment to public service and participation in a broad range of policies make me the ideal candidate,” she said.

Ledo, a bilingual self-employed real estate professional with a degree in legal studies, did not submit responses to the brief questionnaire that the Pioneer sent to all the candidates.

State Senate District 9

Tim Grayson and Marisol Rubio, both Democrats, are seeking to fill the seat held by Steve Glazer, who is unable to run again due to term limits.

Grayson currently represents California’s 15th Assembly District and previously served as the mayor of Concord.

His top priorities include working toward better jobs and higher wages for Californians, addressing the housing gap and ensuring public safety.

Grayson, who chaired the Committee on Banking and Finance, hopes to continue writing legislation that addresses the needs of small businesses, consumers and working families. He cited legislation he authored to help cut costs on new housing development, protect renters from unjust evictions and rent-gouging, and cut red tape slowing down financing for affordable housing projects.

“I will keep fighting to help build more housing that is affordable, so our kids and grandkids can afford to live in the communities where they grew up,” Grayson said.

Grayson sees the state Senate as an opportunity to build on his Assembly accomplishments: finding pathways to grow the economy, create new jobs and support for workers; lead efforts to build more affordable housing faster while protecting renters and addressing homelessness; and always fighting to make the community better for all who live here.

Rubio, an educator and scientist, is currently a member of the San Ramon City Council.

She identified her academic, professional and elected experiences as strengths, along with her determination and perseverance to deliver on her promises.

Three main issues she wants to prioritize are affordable and inclusionary housing, investment in a green economy and related infrastructure, and accessibility for education and health care.

Rubio noted efforts to incentivize and working collaboratively with cities across California to invest in more affordable and inclusionary housing for the unhoused and for the workforce including teachers, frontline workers and essential workers who kept us afloat during the pandemic.

“We must make sure that the state is helping to fund these efforts by supporting initiatives that drive revenue toward these efforts,” she said.

She sees achieving investments in green infrastructure and the green economy possible through the state tapping additional grants stemming from the Infrastructure Bill and from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Her plans also call for helping workers in the fossil fuel industry transition to green jobs. She has been active for several years as co-chair of a Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council Labor-Climate Task Force in collaboration with several Bay Area environmental groups and the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Apprenticeship programs and well-paying union jobs are part of the equation.

She believes addressing the social determinants of poverty and crime begins by providing affordable pre-K through college and health care services, including mental health care. She noted encouraging higher education that does not carry the risk of lifelong debt and ensuring that single parents have access to free before- and after-school programs, regardless of their child’s health status, so that they can be gainfully employed and ascertain higher education to better financially support their families.

“It’s the state Senate where I can have the greatest impact on people’s lives – people who needed a champion on their side decades ago,” said Rubio. “My intersectional experience is direly needed in Sacramento to inform good policy on housing, education, disability and women’s rights, supporting small businesses, racial and social justice, and confronting climate change with real solutions that will revitalize our economy.”

Read the unedited individual responses from candidates to the Pioneer’s questionnaire here.

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.