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Cunningham out of the running, opening door for others 

The new boundary lines for Central Coast state Assembly districts are opening the doors for some candidates, and closing chapters for others.

What was once Assembly District 35 will be torn between two new districts in the next election cycle. The new 30th District includes SLO County up to Santa Cruz County—along the Big Sur coast to just south of Santa Cruz—and the 37th District will include part of Nipomo and all of Santa Barbara County.

click to enlarge STEPPING BACK Assembly District 35 Incumbent Jordan Cunningham announced he will not run for the newly redistricted 30th District. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • STEPPING BACK Assembly District 35 Incumbent Jordan Cunningham announced he will not run for the newly redistricted 30th District.

Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, a Republican who represents Northern Santa Barbara County and SLO County in the current 35th District, announced Jan. 13 on Twitter that he will not be running again. As a Templeton resident, Cunningham would have had to run in the new 30th District, which demographically looks a lot different than 35th District did—namely, it skews Democrat more than Cunningham's district does right now.

But Cunningham told New Times that his decision "was not a political one, it was a personal one."

"Three of my four kids will be in high school by the end of my current term, and my fourth kid will be a second grader," Cunningham wrote in a statement. "I want to be able to be there for them full time. My wife and family have been very supportive of my work in Sacramento, and it's time to support them by being home full time."

Cunningham said some of the in-office accomplishments that he's most proud of include securing funds to fix the Highway 41/46 intersection, mitigating the economic impact of Diablo's closure, advocating for Career Technical Education, passing legislation to combat human trafficking, and solidifying the state's commitment to building wind energy off the Central Coast's shore.

"I am particularly proud that my office helped thousands of Central Coast residents get their unemployment checks when the state shut down the economy," he added.

Meanwhile Dawn Addis, a Morro Bay City Council member who announced her candidacy for the district in November, has picked up some big endorsements in the recent weeks as her campaign revs up.

"I got the endorsements of the Democratic Legislative Women's Caucus, of [California State Treasurer] Fiona Ma, ... we have a number of local elected officials, which I'm extremely proud of. There's 50 or 60 there now," Addis said. "There is widespread support for my candidacy, and that's because the issues are resonating with people—and me as a candidate is resonating with this district."

Addis said she's ready to take what she's pushed for at the city level to Sacramento.

"I've been an advocate for housing, for health care, for education, and I plan to carry that message across the district," Addis said. "From Live Oak in the north to Arroyo Grande in the south, east to the SLO County line, I think that resonates with all people: the importance of housing, health care, and education. We're excited to be in this."

Addis isn't the only Democrat to announce their candidacy for the newly drawn 30th District. Seaside City Councilmember Jon Wizard announced his run on Jan. 12.

A retired first responder and current policy director for a housing nonprofit in Monterey County, Wizard said he's running for Assembly "to be a voice for the individuals and families like mine fighting to achieve the California Dream."

"I come from a working-class family who fought hard to pay the bills, put food on the table, and make a better life for me," Wizard said in his announcement. "We need to put Sacramento to work for us to create more affordable housing, increase access to high-quality and affordable health care, and protect our coastal and rural communities from the effects of wildfire, drought, and sea level rise."

Three Democrats have announced their candidacy for 37th District as of Jan. 18: current 2nd District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart, Santa Barbara City Planning Commissioner Gabe Escobedo, and Santa Barbara Community College Trustee Jonathan Abboud.

For Hart, redistricting played a major role in his decision to run.

"I wasn't thinking about this until the draft maps came out, and it became somewhat clear that there would be a new open seat," Hart said. "I came to the conclusion that this open seat was an opportunity for me to take the experience that I've gained over the past three decades of public service and apply that to working on behalf of all the residents of Santa Barbara County and south San Luis Obispo County as the voice in Sacramento."

Hart said he wants to advocate for environmental protection, job creation, educational opportunity, health care for everyone, emergency preparedness, affordable housing, and ending homelessness.

Escobedo chairs both the Santa Barbara City Planning Commission and the Santa Barbara Community Formation Commission. The latter commission is "right now setting up a recommendation for civilian oversight of Santa Barbara Police Department," Escobedo told the Sun, one of a few issues that are integral to his campaign.

"The fact that California has budget surpluses, we have infrastructure money from the federal government—we have the potential of even more investments in terms of climate from the federal government ... and we also have really urgent problems," Escobedo said.

The housing and climate crises are two problems Escobedo wants to address, "and there's no better time to talk about it than right now," he said. Δ

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