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Green Party candidate calls for fresh leadership in the 19th District 

Incumbent U.S. Representative and Democrat Jimmy Panetta faces two challengers for his 19th District seat.

click to enlarge INCUMBENT Republican and Atascadero resident Jason Anderson and Green Party candidate Sean Dougherty contend against incumbent Jimmy Panetta (pictured) for the 19th District primary race. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JIMMY PANETTA'S CAMPAIGN
  • Photo Courtesy Of Jimmy Panetta's Campaign
  • INCUMBENT Republican and Atascadero resident Jason Anderson and Green Party candidate Sean Dougherty contend against incumbent Jimmy Panetta (pictured) for the 19th District primary race.

On March 5, voters across parts of three counties will choose from among Panetta, Green Party candidate Sean Dougherty, and Republican Jason Anderson for their congressional representative. The primary candidates who receive the highest and second-highest number of votes will advance to the general election in November.

Dougherty told New Times on Feb. 26 that he decided to run last July after facing difficulties trying to communicate with Panetta.

"Several activists and I were very concerned about the lack of diplomatic effort to address the war in Ukraine," the Santa Cruz-based engineer said. "We tried to get a five-minute meeting with him, and we couldn't even get that meeting."

Dougherty added that, other times, he contacted Panetta's staff to criticize some of the congressman's "hawkish" foreign policy decisions and faced misunderstandings about what he said.

"I didn't feel heard at all. ... I decided that someone had to challenge him," he said. "I knew that nobody thinks he can be unseated. When you look at past election results, he wins decisively."

Redrawn from the 20th District during the 2021 redistricting process, the mostly coastal 19th District comprises parts of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo counties.

Panetta—whose father, former director of the CIA Leon Panetta, represented the 20th District from 1977 to 1993—served as the U.S. representative of the old district from 2017 until it became the 19th District. He defeated Republican Jeff Gorman during the 2022 election to become the new district's first U.S. Representative.

Dougherty's campaign website calls for a permanent cease-fire of Israel's U.S.-backed military operations in Gaza. On Feb. 28, he convened a press conference on the steps of the Santa Cruz Courthouse to spotlight Panetta's acceptance of funds from a pro-Israel lobbying group.

Campaign data from the Federal Election Commission showed that the political action committee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) donated $143,055 to Panetta's campaign last December. His campaign has received more than $1.7 million in total contributions between Jan. 1, 2023, and Feb. 14, 2024.

Panetta belonged to a group of Congress members who signed a Jan. 23 letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that labeled South Africa's International Court of Justice case on Israel's occupation of Palestine "grossly unfounded."

"I can't help but make the connection between a giant AIPAC donation and his position on Gaza," Dougherty said.

Panetta's campaign spokesperson said he couldn't speak with New Times before press time.

Dougherty said that affordable housing was also one of his top priorities.

"I want to see social housing where you've got publicly owned housing that's rented out to people, scaled to their income," he said.

He aims to secure funds for it through a proposal to reduce the country's defense budget by half.

"That may sound crazy to people, but cutting the defense budget by 50 percent, we would still have the biggest defense budget in the world by a lot," Dougherty said. "[This] would get us the funds for universal housing, paid family and medical leave, medical debt forgiveness, debt-free college, and universal child care. That only takes a quarter of the defense budget, and I propose the other quarter could be applied to a Medicare-for-all system."

Dougherty's campaign raised $6,406 from July 12, 2023, to Feb. 14, 2024, and he pledges "complete independence from wealthy influences." So far, he's received endorsements from the Green Party of California and its chapters in Santa Clara, Monterey, and SLO counties; Santa Cruz for Bernie; Peace and Freedom Party of California; and California Progressive Alliance.

Republican Party candidate and Atascadero resident Jason Anderson didn't respond to New Times' multiple requests for comment. FEC campaign data showed that his campaign raised $3,024 from Oct. 1, 2023, to Feb. 14, 2024. The small-business owner received endorsements from organizations like the California Rifle and Pistol Association; the Republican Party chapters of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and SLO counties; and individuals like former SLO County 2nd District Supervisor race contender Bruce Jones and Templeton school board trustee Jennifer Grinager.

Anderson's X page (formerly known as Twitter) contained posts that shared information on uncovering alleged election fraud, "the truth" behind the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and a call to close the border.

"We must secure the border now," a post from Feb. 26 read. "Our first duty is to protect citizens. We cannot do that if we don't know who is entering the country." Δ

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