[This is part three of our guide to the Nov. 6 election. Read about city and county candidates here, or area ballot measures here. — Editor]
For 26 years, Dianne Feinstein has represented California in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein has long been a formidable presence in controversial national debates, from a 10-year assault weapon ban she has spent the last several years trying to revive to battles over post-9/11 surveillance measures. Most recently, it was Feinstein’s office that fielded sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Feinstein is attempting to weather appeals for a post-Trump shakeup of the Democratic Party by touting a record of both state and national advocacy. She is emphasizing support for the Affordable Care Act, women’s health and immigrant rights.
Kevin de León
After ascending the ranks in Sacramento, California Sen. Kevin de León has painted himself as the Golden State incarnation of the Bernie Sanders progressive wave. A native of San Diego, de León speaks often about growing up with his Guatemalan single mother and struggling to pay for housing, education and health care. In his first bid for federal office, he won the California Democratic Party endorsement over Feinstein, attacking the complacency of Washington politicians and the number of millionaires in the U.S. Senate. “The Washington status quo is either unwilling or incapable of fighting back,” de León wrote in his candidate statement. “Californians deserve a Senator who will fight for their futures.”
U.S. House of Representatives, 18th District
After 13 terms in Congress, Rep. Anna Eshoo shook up her congressional leadership roles last year, relinquishing her ranking position on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee to focus on health care. Now, in her campaign for re-election to represent the 18th District spanning the counties of Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Santa Clara, Eshoo has been targeted by drug pricing watchdog Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, which has stated that it planned to spend $500,000 to oppose Eshoo for “cozy ties to the drug industry.” Eshoo, meanwhile, has raised $1.3 million for her campaign, including more than $136,000 from pharmaceutical and health care companies. Eshoo is also attempting to head off discontent with the status quo, offering a “We Can Do Better” list of eight priorities for Capitol Hill, including overturning the Citizens United decision on campaign spending, barring former lawmakers from becoming lobbyists, outlawing gerrymandering and passing an updated Voting Rights Act.
A Silicon Valley chief financial officer, 18th District challenger Christine Russell is putting fiscal restraint front and center in her campaign to upset 13-term incumbent Rep. Anna Eshoo. Russell, who has served as finance chief for tech companies including UniPixel, Vendavo, EAG, Virage Logic and OuterBay Technologies, is running on a platform to re-examine government from the ground up. Her campaign website includes a plan to “have all the agencies come before a committee and justify their existence and their budget.” Russell has also argued that “Technology should be introduced into the operations of all agencies” to cut costs and increase efficiency.
U.S. House of Representatives, 20th District
U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta is seeking a second term in Congress after winning the seat of former Central Coast Rep. Sam Farr in 2016. Panetta, son of former Secretary of State and CIA Director Leon Panetta, worked as a deputy district attorney in Monterey County after completing a tour in Afghanistan in 2007 as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer. Currently a member of House committees on armed services and agriculture, Panetta has raised $1.1 million for his re-election campaign, including from donors in the ag business, banking and national defense. His platform centers on immigration reform with a pathway to U.S. citizenship, protecting the Central Coast environment by advocating for climate action and against offshore drilling. He is endorsed by a range of Democratic Party and labor groups. “I’ll continue to bring energy and new ideas to Congress and work together with all sides to get things done,” Panetta said in a candidate statement.
Ronald Paul Kabat
No Party Preference
Tax accountant and independent challenger Ronald Paul Kabat is contesting Panetta’s seat with a campaign focused on building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing immigration sanctuary city policies and advocating for a government effort to build new housing units for homeless veterans. Kabat, who also ran for this same seat against Sam Farr in 2014, says he’s not accepting campaign funds from political action committees (PACs), labor unions or businesses. Still, his campaign website asserts that he is endorsed by the anti-property tax group the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association PAC. In addition to his hardline immigration stances, which his website says includes creating “a biometric tracking system” to monitor people with U.S. visas, Kabat is critical of government spending on safety net programs like social security. He did not file an official candidate statement in the 2018 race.
State Assembly, 29th District
Environmental protection and housing have been two dominant issues for Mark Stone since he joined the state Assembly in 2012—and he expects it to stay that way if re-elected to represent the 29th district covering the coast of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, plus a swath of San Jose. An attorney and former county supervisor and coastal commissioner from Scotts Valley, Stone counts climate resilience issues like sea-level rise among those he has prioritized, along with reform for foster youth and juvenile justice. Should he return to Sacramento, Stone says he expects housing issues, such as state funding for local construction projects, to grow in urgency. “Whether it’s service workers, teachers—the people who make our economy work are not always able to live close to where they work,” he says.
Vicki L. Nohrden
District 29 Republican challenger Vicki Nohrden is aiming to parlay past involvement in the Central Coast justice system into a campaign for state assembly that puts public safety front and center. “I felt like I could make a difference,” says Nohrden, who is endorsed by area Republican groups, the California Pro-Life Council and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Greg Caput. “We’ve come to this place where across our district, it’s really been about party politics.” Since moving to the Monterey Peninsula in the 1980s, Nohrden has led family outreach for Monterey County Jail and the juvenile justice system. She’s also serves as a court appointed special advocate for foster youth. She hopes to reassert law enforcement authority and curb further government involvement in housing and homelessness. “We can’t just keep enabling this,” Nohrden says.
State Assembly, 30th District
Neil G. Kitchens
“I have a very eclectic background,” says rancher, forest manager, home health care business owner, former arena football player, and District 30 Assembly candidate Neil Kitchens. A political newcomer running as a Republican, Kitchens moved to the Salinas Valley at age 19 from Arkansas. He says a family background in forest management instilled a desire to more actively maintain and add emergency paths to area forests, which he blames “tree huggers” for making more vulnerable to wildfires. Kitchens similarly argues that first-hand experience running mental institutions after Reagan-era slashes to state psychiatric services has been similarly enlightening. “I’ve been on the ground doing this stuff, working with people,” Kitchens says, criticizing Sacramento lawmakers for “soft on crime” stances. “Nothing that we do here in California makes sense to me,” says Kitchens. “The rest of the country mocks and laughs at us, and I love this area.”
After surviving a contentious Democratic primary and some $300,000 in opposition spending by oil and gas industry firms, San Benito County Supervisor and anti-fracking advocate Robert Rivas has entered the final phase of his campaign to replace termed-out Assemblymember Anna Caballero. Rivas, who grew up with his Mexican mother in farm worker housing near Hollister, is now endorsed by neighboring District 29 Assemblymember Mark Stone, state Sen. Bill Monning and the California Democratic Party. In his bid for statewide office, Rivas has hinged his campaign on advocating for adding jobs while maintaining affordability and improving infrastructure and access to social services like health care. “We need to give our communities the resources to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Rivas said in a campaign statement. “I’ll fight to make sure this remains the land of opportunity.”