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Assemblyman Mark Stone. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

2020 March Primary Preview: 29th State Assembly District

California Globe takes an inside look into the 29th State Assembly District primary race

By Evan Symon, February 11, 2020 6:57 am

The 29th State Assembly District:

Encompassing the Monterey Bay and snaking the shore along with the Pacific Coast Highway, the 29th State Assembly District starts at the end of the Bay Area and tapers off at the coastal boonies south of the city of Monterey. It’s a tiny chunk of Santa Clara County, the majority of Santa Cruz County and about half of Monterey County.

The 29th is pretty solidly Democratic. Former Governor Jerry Brown had 3 out of 4 every 4 votes for Governor here in 2014, with Newsom getting 70% in 2018. Among Assembly votes, Assemblyman Mark Stone (D – Scotts Valley) has won every race here by an average of 70%. In a district of 50% Democrats and 20% Republicans, it’s about par.

History of the 29th:

Ever since redistricting in 2011, the 29th has been solidly Democrat and solidly Mark Stone. Since 2012 Stone has been virtually untouchable. And compared to neighboring districts, it’s been pretty quiet here.

His record of not letting fellow lawmakers off the hook for sexual harassment and misconduct allegations regardless of party, such as former state Senator Tony Mendoza and Assemblywoman Christina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), have won him friends in both parties. If you’re looking how Stone routinely gets 20% above the number of registered Democrats, this is partly why.

It’s been pretty blue for awhile, and it looks like it’s staying that way for the near future.

Mark Stone:

Assemblyman Mark Stone. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Bowtie wearing Assemblyman Mark Stone is the incumbent and already enters the race as a heavy favorite. A former Santa Cruz County Supervisor and a member of the California Coastal Commission, Stone comes into the primary coming off 2018 primary and general win percentages of 72% each.

Stone is fairly left leaning with a lot of environmental and judicial bill work. He is on the Assembly Judiciary Committee after all. He’s also something of a protector of younger people from facing harsh sentences in the judicial system and foster care: last year alone he had about a dozens bills pertaining to those issues either indirectly or directly. Considering hand in reorganizing the Santa Cruz County child welfare system while a Santa Cruz County Supervisor, it’s more an extension of he has done rather than a sudden issue change upon being elected to the Assembly. Strong interest in LGBT issues have also won him support in the district.

Stone comes into the primary and general races with a ton of endorsements. U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) leads the pack, but a lot of local Santa Clara and Monterey County politicians can help a lot locally. The California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) seals up the education votes while support of the United Farm Workers helps out in the more rural areas. Oh, and the party supports him.

Stone has major support on pretty much every major issue in the district. That bowtie is hard to beat.

Dr. Shomir Banerjee:

Assembly candidate Dr. Shomir Banerjee. (Shomir Banerjee)

With no Democrat wanting to face Stone in the primary, the only major contender is Republican Dr. Shomir Banerjee. A Monterey doctor specializing in family medicine, Dr. Banerjee has never held or even run for public office before. He does have other degrees in engineering, offering a unique background.

That said, a number of issues have come straight into his lap because of his profession. He is taking a strong stand against the homeless crisis do to the number of homeless people coming in for healthcare, pushing for a more rehab-focused homeless solution. He’s also largely for responsible spending and working with Democrats to pass bills.

Other than medical expertise and some strong stances on issues, Dr. Banerjee doesn’t have much else going for him in the race. Endorsements have been few, support has just come from the Republican-registered core in the district, and Stone hasn’t even bothered to campaign much on the road to the primary.

Things would have to go very wrong for Stone for Banerjee to even have a chance at this point.

What does this mean?

Democrats are winning this. They’re just too strong. Stone is a Democrat who gets Democrat voters with his policies and centrist voters with the steps he’s taken to work across the aisle and treat members of his party as the same during times of wrong-doing. His support is also very wide-spread. Even the more centrist Republicans in the district consider him during elections.

But considering redistricting coming up, Republicans want to see where they get support in the district. Anyone wanting to vote for Banerjee could become part of a block for a newly remade district in 2022. A growing Democratic base in the coastal cities and San Jose could also free up some of the rural area for new Republican blocks.

They aren’t getting the seat anytime soon. The GOP knew that about the district when Arnold Schwarzenegger was still Governor. But seeing where the chips fall in 2020, as well as keeping a lookout for any sign of dropped support, could be a factor in Republicans getting a more centered Central Coast district near the Bay Area in the 2020’s.

But short-term it’s Stone by a mile.

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