Five candidates are currently vying to lead the 30th Assembly District. Redrawn after the 2020 decennial census to include parts of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, the district now spans rural, agricultural and urban areas, including more than a dozen cities.
Whoever wins the June 7 election will therefore have to grapple with issues such as water shortages and land use, as well as the worsening homelessness and housing crises. GT spoke to four of the candidates (Vicki Nohrden did not respond to requests for an interview) about the 30th Assembly race.
Jon Wizard has lived and worked in every part of the 30th Assembly district, which he says has prepared him to step handily into the role of Assemblymember.
This, he says, is coupled with his roles as firefighter, 911 dispatcher, police officer and deputy sheriff, and experience with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
“I have a personal experience and a relationship with the nonprofit and governmental sectors, and I am going to be able to leverage not only those experiences but those relationships to providing tangible results in Santa Cruz County,” he says.
Wizard’s job as a police officer was cut short when he was injured on the job. Still wanting to serve his community, however, he joined the Monterey County Planning Commission, and then the Seaside City Council.
“My experience in public policy is baked into a regionalist perspective, and I understand the relationships between the small cities and rural suburban counties of the Central Coast,” he says. “I decided that when the opportunity came up to run for Assembly and to work in a district with 15 cities, the opportunity to serve our greater community and leverage the political might and resources of our counties to lift up our counties was very attractive.”
If elected, Wizard says he hopes to tackle the ever-worsening homeless and affordable housing crises, a mission he says was precipitated when, as a police officer, he met a family living in their car with their young daughter. Both parents had good jobs, he says, but still couldn’t afford the deposit on a place to live.
“When I think about that, I think about the youth homelessness crisis in our community, where we’re approaching 10,000 kids in our district,” he says.
Wizard also hopes to address water and the ongoing drought, which he says is tied inextricably to the housing crisis.
In addition, the state should do what it can to support small businesses, he says, pointing to companies such as Joby Aviation in Marina as examples of companies that are thriving despite the lagging economy, and to the economic development at the Paso Robles Airport.
“There is a lot of opportunity that is available to the Central Coast,” he says. “There is a lot of potential here to develop industries that are not limited to the tourism and agriculture sectors.
This, in turn, requires addressing water issues and workforce housing, he says.
“If we are going to seize these opportunities, we have to have the infrastructure, and all of the stuff that goes into an environment where people can grow and thrive,” he says.
Wizard has received $207,297 in 228 contributions, including $4,900 from the California African American PAC, $9,700 from the California State Council of Service Employees and the Democratic Women’s clubs of both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Zoë Carter says hers is the only moderate voice in the race, which she says fills a statewide need for a political shift at the State Capital.
“We need someone who will bring new ideas and be a reasonable voice for our community,” she says.
She says she did not support Assembly Bill 1400—also called the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act—a proposed law that would have guaranteed medical care for all Californians, but would likely have required raising taxes to foot the $400 million tab. The bill died Feb. 1 on the Assembly floor.
“I don’t believe in putting those types of large tax increases on our citizens at this point, especially coming out of the pandemic,” she says.
Carter says she supports small businesses, and all forms of water supply and all energy production, including solar, wind and nuclear.
“Being more of a moderate, I find myself getting frustrated with regulations on top of regulations on top of taxes and taxes and taxes that don’t always benefit our communities,” she says.
Such political philosophy is not as out of place in liberal-leaning Santa Cruz County as it may seem, she says.
“I’m not here to be another progressive in Sacramento,” she says. “I think that’s what people want, and that’s what people in this district want, too.”
Carter served on Michelle Obama’s policy team at the White House in 2011. She moved to the Monterey area eight years ago to work with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his wife on their nonprofit the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.
She holds a master’s degree in international relations from London’s Hult International Business School.
Carter serves as director of operations at the Monterey County Business Council. She formerly chaired the City of Monterey Architectural Review Committee, and is a member of the City of Monterey’s Architectural Review Committee.
Carter lists among her legislative priorities affordable and accessible education, clean water and mental health. She also hopes to tackle infrastructure such as housing, high-speed internet for rural areas and fixing the state’s crumbling road system.
She would also support small businesses coming out of the pandemic so they can be successful and help the state rebuild the economy, she says.
Carter has raised $53,166 in 73 contributions, including $9,700 from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee (CREPAC), $2,500 from the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and $2,000 from Brindeiro & Danbom Dairy Farms.
At 21, John Drake is the youngest candidate, and if elected would be the youngest Assemblymember in the state. Assemblymember Alex Lee of Los Angeles became the youngest in 2020 when elected at age 25.
But Drake says his youth is not a barrier to his ability to hold the position.
“A lot of people like the fact there is a young person running,” he says.
Too many people, he says, assume young people don’t understand how public policy works, or don’t understand the importance of holding public office.
Drake is currently studying public policy and public administration at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He says this, coupled with the fact that he is working to pay his tuition and living costs, gives him a boots-on-the-ground understanding of what working-class people need.
“I think the best way to solve these issues is to have someone who is in the throes of these issues, that solves these issues,” he says. “I would never expect someone who is making $100,000 a year to understand the plight of someone making less than $20,000 a year and experiencing rising costs of living.”
Drake says he is the only candidate who will not accept corporate money for his campaign. Those that do, he says, become beholden to their benefactors.
The California Secretary of State did not have a list of Drake’s donations.
“Frankly, I don’t trust the people who are currently running to represent my generation and the people in Assembly District 30 in general,” he says. “I am representing everyone who is tired of corporate influence in Sacramento.”
Drake serves as Housing Policy Director for Homeless-r-Us in Lancaster, which he says inspires his desire to take on the homelessness crisis, helping both the people and addressing the underlying issues.
“There isn’t enough being done in the Central Coast to mitigate or eliminate homelessness,” he says.
He says he would also address affordable education, healthcare and the environment.
“You have unaffordable education, you have unaffordable housing, you have unaffordable healthcare, and the biggest thing many young people are stuck with as they are moving into this economy is debt,” he says. “That’s what hinders [them] from being able to climb the economic ladder.”
Drake says above all that he will be a “bold voice,” ready to work for consensus, but willing also to push for change, which may occasionally make people uncomfortable.
“I’m all for compromise and working with people, but at the same time I am going to drag someone through the mud if they are going to absolutely abandon their promises to their constituents in order to gain political points or please their donors,” he says, referring in part to AB 1400. “You do not campaign for 30 years for universal healthcare, and then shelve it. The people who author the bills should not fold so easily.”
Dawn Addis calles herself a “proud Democrat,” the only one endorsed by the Democratic Party in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.
She currently holds a seat on the Morro Bay City Council. She also served on the Citizen’s Finance Advisory Committee there.
She says she would be a “champion in the State Legislature” for the people of Santa Cruz and the Central Coast.
“The Central Coast deserves a leader who works as hard as we do,” she says. “As the cost of living rises and we face some of the most difficult issues of our time, I want to solve problems and make our home an even better place to live.”
Addis also ran in 2020 for a seat in the former Assembly District 35, losing to Republican incumbent Jordan Cunningham, 45% to 55%.
She worked as a special education teacher and program developer for San Luis Coastal Unified School District, and is a mother to two sons. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art education and Spanish, and a master’s in special education.
She is also a founder of the San Luis Obispo Women’s March.
That experience, she says, will inform her work on the Assembly.
“I have a strong record of success, and my campaign has demonstrated a level of integrity that sets me apart from other candidates pursuing this seat.”
If elected, Addis says she will address issues such as ocean acidification and increasing green energy production. She would also look into increasing mental health care care and lowering prescription drug costs.
In addition, she would tackle affordable housing, and address rising rents and homelessness.
Her priorities also include increasing access to career technical programs, and lowering the costs of college tuition. Water and other infrastructure projects are also on her list, as are improving the state’s roads and boosting economic development and job creation.
The clear front-runner in fundraising, Addis has received $499,308 from 666 contributions, including $4,900 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, $3,000 from the United Nurses Association of California, $9,800 from the California Corrections and Peace Officers Association and $2,500 from the California Federation of Teachers.
The only Republican on the ballot, Vicki Nohrden is also the only candidate who did not respond to requests for an interview.
On her website, she writes that political leaning should come secondary to the job, and wonders why the focus so often is on what “side” one stands on. Instead, she believes the Assembly member should focus on helping the people who live here.
“We are all neighbors,” she states. “We want the same things—thriving businesses, job opportunities, safe neighborhoods and more educational opportunities for our kids.”
Nohrden has served on the Monterey County Inmate Welfare Fund Advisory Committee, with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Cruz County and as a youth director at the Presbyterian Church in Carmel. She also was a family liaison in the juvenile justice system. She began her business career as a realtor.
Nohrden ran unsuccessfully for the 29th Assembly District in 2018.
On her website, she writes that she is “running against a dysfunctional legislature in Sacramento, against agenda-driven policies being passed by a two-thirds majority instead of delivering solutions to the issues facing us, like our children’s education, mental health, 10,000 more homeless people on the streets in one decade, and a tax exodus of businesses and jobs.”
She lists supporting families and education among her priorities, along with the economy and businesses. Like her running mates, she also hopes to address the homelessness and housing crises.
But she also says she wants to support the religious community.
“For far too long, our religious community has been under attack by government restrictions, shut downs [sic] and being pushed aside,” she writes. “Now it’s time that we stand up together to make our voice heard.”
Nohrden has raised $230,177 from 628 contributions. This includes $500 from the California Narcotics Officers Association, $1,000 from Republican Central Committee of San Luis Obispo County and $1,000 from Salinas Valley Ford Sales, Inc.