The 2024 primary election season is officially underway and now is the time to get informed on how to participate in the March 5 democratic process.
The primaries can be overshadowed by the presidential candidates vying for the general election ballot in November. But local contests and measures that will directly affect residents of Santa Cruz County will also be decided and it’s time to get familiar with them.
In the City of Santa Cruz, housing and homelessness are front and center this election with measures M and L. Measure M would give voters a say over the height limits of new developments, while requiring residential developers make more of their units affordable housing. Measure L would raise the city’s sales tax to help fund essential services for residents experiencing homelessness while also addressing the environmental impacts relating to homeless encampments.
At the county level, measures like G and H are seeking money to upgrade aging facilities and update technology to improve students’ educational experience. In South County, Watsonville Community Hospital is looking to expand and upgrade facilities as it begins a new era as a publicly-held hospital with Measure N.
Now, here’s your guide to what’s on the state and local ballots this March.
Voting in the Primaries
For the presidential primaries, if you are registered with a political party, you will receive a ballot that contains presidential candidates for that party only. If you have registered with no party preference, your ballot will not have an option to vote on a presidential candidate.
Some political parties offer crossover voting, which means you can vote for their candidate even if you have registered with no party preference. These are the American Independent Party, the Democratic Party and the Libertarian Party. The deadline to change your party affiliation is Feb. 24.
National, State and Local Races
This primary election, a number of national, state and local seats are in contention as some perennial incumbents are being challenged by political newcomers. The seats for U.S. Senate, California’s 18th congressional district; the State Senate’s 17th district and the State Assembly’s 29th district are being vied for. In Santa Cruz County, the supervisor seats for Districts 1, 2 and 5 are in play. In the City of Santa Cruz, the council seats for Districts 1, 2, 3 and 5 are up for grabs.
U.S. Senator, California
The senate primary race also includes a special top-two primary election for the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat, whose term ends January 2025. Incumbent Laphonza Butler, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom after Feinstein’s passing, will not run.The regular top-two primary will determine California’s top two candidates for the Nov. 5 general election. The race is packed—29 candidates are looking for a shot at both primaries. We’re highlighting the top candidates and those running for the special primary:
Eric Early, Business owner
Barbare Lee, congresswoman
Steve Garvey, professional baseball representative
Sepi Gilani, physician and professor
Katie Porter, U.S. representative
Adam Schiff, U.S. representative
U.S. Representative, 19th Congressional District:
Sean Dougherty, software engineer
Jimmy Panetta, U.S. representative (incumbent)
Jason Michael Anderson, small business owner
California State Senate, 17th District:
John Laird, California state senator
Michael Oxford, AV technician
Eric Tao, computer science professor
Tony Virrueta, veterans advocate
California State Assembly, 28th District:
Liz Lawler, retired Monte Sereno mayor
Gail Pellerin, state assemblymember (incumbent)
Santa Cruz County Supervisor, District 1:
Lani Faulkner, scientist and businesswoman
Manu Koenig, District 1 supervisor
Santa Cruz County Supervisor, District 2:
Kristen Brown, Capitola city councilmember
Tony Crane, businessman
Kim De Serpa, healthcare manager and trustee
Bruce Jaffe, oceanographer and water official
David Schwartz, businessman and accountant
Santa Cruz County Supervisor, District 5:
Theresa Ann Bond, governing board member
Christopher Bradford, businessman
Tom Decker, residential home builder
Monica Martinez, nonprofit CEO
Santa Cruz City Council, District 1:
David Tannaci, Biologist
Gabriela Trigueiro, nonprofit director
Santa Cruz City Council, District 2:
Sonja Brunner, councilmember
Hector Marin, educator
Santa Cruz City Council, District 3:
Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, councilmember
Joy Schendledecker, organizer
Santa Cruz City Council, District 5:
Susie O’Hara, water resources engineer
Joe Thompson, union organizer
Measure G: Happy Valley Elementary School District’s measure would renew its existing parcel tax for eight years at the existing rate, raising $61,000 annually with an exemption for seniors. Funds will be used for school arts programs and to retain teachers.
Measure H: Live Oak Elementary School District’s measure that would authorize $44 million in bonds to improve school facilities and upgrade classroom technology. Funds would be allocated at $2.8 million annually.
Measure I: Pacific Elementary School District’s measure that would authorize $1.3 million in bonds to upgrade outdated classrooms and school facilities. Funds would be allocated at $93,000 annually.
Measure J: Pacific Elementary School District’s measure to authorize $675,000 in bonds to upgrade outdated classrooms and school facilities.
Measure K: Santa Cruz County’s sales tax would be increased in unincorporated areas by one-half cent to fund essential Santa Cruz County services. These include wildfire response and recovery; affordable housing for working class residents; mental health crisis programs for children/vulnerable populations; substance abuse programs; public safety; road maintenance; parks and recreation and programs to reduce homelessness. The tax would generate approximately $10 million annually.
Measure L: City of Santa Cruz’s sales tax would be increased by one half of one percent raising to maintain essential services. These include homelessness response and prevention; emergency shelters, case management and connection to services; cleaning up and addressing the impacts of encampments; keeping pollution out of local waterways; supporting local food programs; preparing for wildfires; maintaining streets; and improving neighborhood parks, beaches, and public safety. The tax would generate approximately $8 million annually.
Measure M: Amend the City of Santa Cruz Municipal Code to limit building heights for all residential and non-residential development projects in all zoning districts unless approved by voters. Require developments of 30 or more housing units to provide at least 25 % inclusionary housing.
Measure N: Pajaro Valley Health Care District’s measure to authorize $116 million in bonds to improve the quality of health care at Watsonville Community Hospital; upgrade and expand facilities and purchase the hospital property. Funds would be allocated at $6.8 million annually.