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Monique Limón
Monique Limón. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

2020 General Election Preview: 19th Senate District

California Globe takes an inside look into the 19th Senate District race

By Evan Symon, October 29, 2020 6:14 am

Sitting completely in Santa Barbara County and the majority of Ventura County, the 19th Senate District stretched from the tail end of the LA metro area up to a more rural coastal central California.

Wealthy communities dot the area, all centered around the city of Santa Barbara. but there is also significant farming here too, especially around Ojai. With many beaches, hills, cities, farms, and wooded areas, the district has a mixed bag of pretty much anything Southern and Central Californian.

Almost evenly split between white and Hispanic voters, the district is blue but with enough Republican pockets of support to remain a threat to the Democrats here. 45% of the voters are registered Democrats in the 19th, not quite enough to claim the all important half mark.

Races in the district had been pretty even up until the 2012 redistricting. After that, the lines shifted just far enough south to grab the LA area voters, increasing the Democrats roll in the district and ushering in more Democrats to victory. In 2010 Whitman had over 50% of the vote here during the Gubernatorial. Only four years later, after redistricting, Jerry Brown had nearly 60% of the votes. It was that drastic.

It also changed up Senators. Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who had lost a close race to then Senator Tony Strickland in 2008, trounced Republican Mike Stoker by nearly 56% in 2012. By 2016, Jackson only cemented herself as the district’s Senator, winning with over 63% that year.

However she is hitting her term-limit in 2020. And with redistricting expected to shift the district to more Republican friendly-lines in 2024, the Democrats need to make this one count.

Assemblywoman Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara) will be duking it out with Republican Gary Michaels, each hoping to give their party the extra oomph to stay in play here in four years. Democrats do have the edge, but the GOP is thinking more long-term now.

Monique Limon – The current Assemblywoman of the Santa Barbara area, Limon is looking for a jump up the ladder in the district to Senator. A Berkeley and Columbia graduate, Limon’s first elected office was to the Santa Barbara Unified School Board in the late 2000’s while also serving as a UC Santa Barbara scholars program assistant director. She was then elected to the Assembly in 2016, winning by landslides in each of her elections, including by over 80% in 2018.

A Hispanic woman in her early 40’s, Limon is seen as a future major political player in the state. She is known for far left politics, and has been a huge supporter of women’s issues and the environment. She’s also huge on immigration, and has supported the DACA program. She’s also focused on education, rallying against student debt. This has won her a lot of crucial younger support. Overall, she’s a consistent and reliable Democratic vote – and one that isn’t that willing to work with the GOP lawmakers across the line.

In 2020, Limon is adding Medicare-for-all style healthcare and natural disaster relief to her platform. While both have local implications, especially with wildfire and debris flow mitigation, both are also critical state and even national issues. She’s broadening support for her state Senate run, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she aimed for higher office in the 2020’s. She’s also proved herself on issues like homelessness, so at this point it appears she is is covering the spread and making her positions known.

Limon has a lot of labor union support along with endorsements from members of Congress and many specialized organizations. Hispanic groups are supporting her, as are many women’s groups and LGBT groups.

The GOP wants the district back after nearly a decade, but Limon is going to make it very hard, if not impossible, for them in 2020.

State Senate Candidate Gary Michaels. (Gary Michaels)

Gary Michaels – Challenging Limon is Republican Gary Michaels. Originally from Chicago, Michaels came to California after working on the Reagan campaign in New England. Currently a school internet contractor, Michaels also served on the Santa Maria Bonita School District Measure “T” Citizens Bond Oversight Committee.

Michaels, a Trump supporter (as opposed to Limon’s strong support of Biden), holds somewhat centrist California GOP views and wants to use fiscally conservative methods to solve major issues in the district and the state. He has pledged to save taxpayers money while also putting it towards things the state needs. To win in bluer districts, recent races in the past decade have shown that GOP candidates in the center, and even those who share some Democratic views, have had a better chance to win. While Michaels isn’t as moderate as some candidates, he is at least making an effort in 2020, reflective of the district.

Fighting climate change, bringing in affordable housing, and reducing the homeless population are all on his agenda, but he wants it done Conservatively, with the private sector, or by making sure people are housed first before solving the bigger picture.

On the wildfires, he’s even proposing to put more money in forestry management while removing some forestry regulations for easier management access. It’s a type of compassionate conservatism that’s not seen much, even in California.

In 2020 he is trying to peel off support for Limon by making himself comparable. If the 2020 election wasn’t so partisan, he might have a better shot. But this year his party is the deciding factor for many in the district. His endorsements are few, with Republican groups making up the bulk of his support.

What does this mean?

Limon has this one in the bag. Had the year gone differently, Michaels may have still had a shot, but there’s just too much going against him right now. The fact that Limon has Assembly experience is a big factor, but the large opposition against Trump in California is also hurting him. This was best seen in the primary, where Limon received 61% of the entire vote.

But there is still hope for the GOP in the 19th. The primary was Limon’s smallest margin of victory in any race to date. The fact that Michaels even made it that close despite having no name recognition beforehand is saying something. If the Republicans can pull her down below 60%, it will make the Democrats nervous heading into redistricting, and they will mark the 19th as a district of concern – especially if Limon doesn’t work across the line with Republicans in the Senate and loses some centrist voters.

That’s the GOP’s goal – to show that they are still a major presence in this district. For Limon, the Dems want to crush the Republicans here, and they’ll do whatever it takes.

Limon is most likely winning here, but the stakes are even higher, as redistricting here could make or break their futures here in 2024.

Evan Symon
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