.California’s 2018 Elections Come into Focus

With the 2018 midterm elections heating up, California’s crowded governor race includes two frontrunners, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

And at first glance, it looks like the race could come down to geography, with L.A.—and its larger population—favoring Villaraigosa while the greater Bay Area, with its higher voter turnout, favors Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor.

If that were the case, Santa Cruz would surely be at the edge of Newsomland, but Fred Keeley, retired county treasurer and former state lawmaker, has thrown his support behind Villaraigosa, a friend going back to their days in the assembly. Keeley will host a meet-and-greet for Villaraigosa at his midtown home this month, citing the candidate’s experience and his knack for making needed compromises “without compromising his principles,” he explains.

Here on the Central Coast, State Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), who represents Watsonville, has announced she’s running for the state senate in that same June primary.

At the Santa Cruz County level, District 4 County Supervisor Greg Caput—a strong supporter of term limits—tells GT he’s changed his mind and has decided to run for a third four-year term after all. Caput had said in the past that eight years would be enough, but he wants to continue work on ongoing projects, including flood protection along the Pajaro River. So far, three Watsonville city councilmembers, Jimmy Dutra, Felipe Hernandez and Nancy Bilicich, are also vying for that seat. And in North County, District 3 County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty has attracted two activist challengers, Steve Pleich and Doug Deitch.

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The primary race is June 5, and—if no candidate secures a majority in a given race—the top two choices will face off in the November 2018 election.

That November race has already begun taking shape as well. On the Santa Cruz City Council, Councilmember Richelle Noroyan says she’s running for re-election, although Mayor Cynthia Chase has made no announcement. Vice Mayor David Terrazas is terming out. It’s still very early, but so far Drew Glover—the Project Pollinate founder, who ran unsuccessfully last year—is the only other candidate to jump in.

Santa Cruz’s next shakeup at the state legislature will likely be in 2020, when State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) terms out. Many political observers expect former legislator John Laird—now serving as resources secretary under Gov. Jerry Brown—to run for that seat and win. Laird tells GT, via email, that he’ll “take a hard look at it as it gets closer.”

Santa Cruz has no shortage of local politicians waiting in the wings, but the next real opening may not be until 2024, when Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) would term out. We may have to wait until then to see an ambitious county supervisor (à la Ryan Coonerty, John Leopold or Zach Friend) have a crack at a big election.

Update 12/10/17 8:07 p.m.: A previous version of this story erroneously reported Mayor Cynthia Chase’s election plans. She has made no announcement about running.

Update 12/11/17 4:09 p.m.: A previous version of this story misstated the district that County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty represents.


  1. Pay special attention to the race for Marina Mayor in Monterey County. We will have a Socialist v a Green Party Incumbent Mayor in a battle that will get national attention from our efforts to legalize Psilocybin here in California for 2018. Rent Control and Marijuana dispensaries/businesss are top Issues for Socialist Candidate while current Mayor supports neither.


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