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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 19th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 42

The race for the 37th Assembly seat is in full swing


When Monique Limón announced she wouldn’t be running for her Assembly seat again, local Democrats mobilized. Some had already planned to run against her for the 37th District seat, while others were considering Hannah Beth-Jackson’s state Senate seat until Limón announced her plans to run for that position.

With a filing deadline of Dec. 11, six liberal candidates and one conservative are running, many with experience in politics or local civic participation.

The state Democratic Party hasn’t endorsed anyone in the race yet. 

“It’s a progressive district with a strong environmental focus,” said David Atkins, director of Region 10 for the state Democratic Party. “Other legislators traditionally look to members of this district for leadership on environmental and economic issues.”

The district covers parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, with a large percentage of the population residing on the coast. 

“Monique has been a fantastic Assembly member for the district,” Atkins said. “And I expect [voters] to return a progressive Democrat to the Legislature.”

The primary election is scheduled for March 3.

Cathy Murillo

Cathy Murillo has been a fixture of Santa Barbara politics since 2011 when she joined the City Council as its first ever Latina member. She became the city’s mayor in 2018.

A self-described progressive Democrat, Murillo wants to expand access to preschool programs, increase enrollment in the state’s university systems, and boost funding for middle-class scholarships.

She also wants to address climate change with renewable energy policies.

“Mainly what I would bring is the executive leadership as the mayor of a full-service city,” she said.

Murillo, 58, said she has raised $60,000 and will try to raise upward of $350,000 for television ads and mailers. 


Steve Bennett has 20 years of experience in politics as Ventura County’s 1st District supervisor. The termed-out Bennett squeezed into the Assembly race on deadline day. Though he declined to say how much he has raised, Bennett said, “I’ve raised a lot of money before.” 

The progressive Democrat was key in efforts to pass a voter initiative to protect Ventura County’s agricultural, rural, and open-space lands from development. He, like other Democrats in the race, wants to tackle homelessness. 

“People at the lower end are just getting squeezed harder and harder,” he said.

Bennett, 68, comes into the race with Steve Barkan heading his campaign. Barkan served as campaign manager to both Jackson and Limón. 

“I can build coalitions, not just with the Legislature but I can sell political programs when they need to be sold,” he said.

Jason Dominguez

Jason Dominguez has been a Santa Barbara City Council member for four years, and he has years of legal experience, including in international environmental law. Dominguez, 51, wants to incentivize new, clean energy jobs on the Central Coast as opposed to imposing a moratorium on new drilling leases. 

“Let’s figure out ways to incentivize alternative energies rather than threatening fossil fuels,” he said. “Create the new without fighting the old.” 

He said the area’s local colleges and universities give the district an advantage in attracting companies with renewable energy goals. 

Dominguez said he also plans to push back on some of the state mandates on housing.

“I think we should have more local control over housing. I’ve been working hard on affordable housing and it doesn’t help when Sacramento gets involved,” he said.

Dominguez said he has collected about $40,000 in campaign donations.

Jonathan Abboud

Jonathan Abboud, 27, also identifies himself as a progressive Democrat. His experience in civil leadership is defined, partly, by his five years of experience as a trustee for Santa Barbara City College. The son of Lebanese immigrants, Abboud has roots in Isla Vista, where he attended UC Santa Barbara. 

Abboud plans to be aggressive about climate change policies.

“I believe we need to end any new fossil fuel permits in the state of California and heavily invest in sustainable energy,” he said.

Abboud is also a proponent of public works programs; renewable, clean energy jobs; and, potentially, offshore wind energy.

Abboud, who said he has raised $70,000 so far, is working with Democratic consultant Mary Rose, who has also worked for Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann.

Elsa Granados

Elsa Granados, 57, has been a community organizer fighting against sexual assault for more than 20 years. She’s now the executive director of STESA–Standing Together to End Sexual Assault.

Granados said she wants to get into politics to continue Limón’s progressive policies.

“I’m not a political insider. I’m not beholden to any special interests. I’m only beholden to the constituency of the 37th District,” she said. “My values are what guide me. And I hope the voters see that.”

Granados has 20 years of experience with the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, which has yet to make an endorsement. She’s taken a leave of absence from the fundraising committee while she campaigns.

Stephen Blum

A professor of law at California Lutheran University, Stephen Blum has spent years in education as a teacher and trustee. For 12 years, he served as a trustee of the Ventura County Community College District. He also served as a California Community College League Trustee for four years. 

For his campaign, Blum said he’s eschewing big-money politics and won’t accept donations greater than $100. So far, he’s raised about $6,000, and said that $10,000 should be enough for his campaign plans.

“I’m not naive. I’m a street kid, born in Compton and raised in Pomona,” he said. “I know the principled stances I’m taking greatly diminish my chances of winning, but I’m taking those stances anyway.”

Blum, 64, is running as a Democrat but didn’t delve into his policies. 

“I’m not going to give specifics about what I’m going to do or not do because that’s not how it works,” he said. “I don’t want to overpromise and under-deliver.

Charles Cole

Charles Cole is the lone Republican in the race, running on a platform in line with traditional conservative economic thought. He believes in strong border security and is against what he calls the “race hate” taught in schools. With about $10,000 in campaign money raised from friends and family, Cole said he plans to use it to go after Abboud. 

“I’m just for limited government. Government is trying to take over every facet of life in California,” he said. “Right now, the way I see it, I’m running against a bunch of socialists, cultural Marxists.”

The 22-year-old spent one year at Santa Barbara Community College before “taking a break” from his studies because of the “PC culture.”

Cole, whose father, Thomas, runs his campaign, is still assembling his team and interviewing potential staff. 

Contact Staff Writer William D’Urso at

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