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Santa Barbara, CA. (California)

2020 March Primary Preview: 19th State Senate District

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

By Evan Symon, February 9, 2020 2:16 am

The 19th State Senate District:

The Beach, farmland, hills, and blotches of urbanity in Santa Barbara and the tail-end of the Los Angeles metro area, the 19th Senate district is Santa Barbara County and just over half of neighboring Ventura County.

While there are still pockets of Republican influence the farther inland you go thanks to the more rural areas of the district, the district has been solidly Democrat now for over a decade. Before that it teeter-totted between the two parties. Bush managed to win here in 2004, but just 12 years later Trump barely got over 30% of the vote. Recent races tend to give Democratic candidates around 60% of the vote, although outgoing Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s first race in 2012 was uncomfortably close with a 55% to 45% split. Democrats have the district for sure, but it is also an open seat year. And that means votes can be a bit looser.

History of the 19th:

The 19th used to lean more Republican. In the ’90s and 2000s it was known as a swing district. Congressman Tom McClintock was a Senator in the district for two terms. But the blue wave eventually struck in 2012. After losing to Tony Strickland by 800 votes in 2008, Hannah-Beth Jackson won in 2012 by nearly 40,000. And the district hasn’t looked back since.

However, this time around Senator Jackson has been term-limited out, so both parties are running hard. However this is a different district than it was in 2012. The district has gained more Democrats. Democrats have nearly half of all registered voters. Republicans have a quarter. In past years those undecided voters had been kind to the GOP, but once the blue wave hit in the 10’s, Democrats always get another 10-15% on top.

It’s almost an assuredly Democrat hold. But that doesn’t mean things can’t get interesting.

Monique Limon:

Assemblywoman Monique Limón. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

The Democrats first and only choice is Assemblywoman Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara). A former Santa Barbara Unified School Board Trustee, Limon was elected to the Assembly in 2016. She quickly moved up in popularity, becoming Assistant Majority Whip and being reelected in 2018 by over 80% of the vote.

She tends to vote to the farther side of the left than most. Having held several jobs at UC Santa Barbara, education issues usually pop up with her, as do Women’s issues and financing. The environment, especially concerning local issues and anything involving oil, have been a huge part of her Assembly career, and has authored a ton of bills on the subject. Take out anything that isn’t fiscal, environment, or education-based out of the bills she wrote last session and you only have two left. And yes, they’re also a large part for her 2020 Senate platform.

Outgoing Senator Jackson and the Democratic party back her, as do a host of members of Congress, local politicians, unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), minority organizations, and pretty much every women’s political organization in the state. With a solid voting track record, support of the party, and the backing of some of the most prominent people in the district, the odds are very good that’s she’s going to win big.

Gary Michaels:

State Senate Candidate Gary Michaels. (Gary Michaels)

Out of the other two candidates on the primary ballot, Gary Michaels has the best shot against Limon, even if it’s a long shot. A school internet contractor who has also worked in broadcast media, Michaels highest political position has been being a member on the Santa Maria Bonita School District Measure “T” Citizens Bond Oversight Committee. He does also have some campaign experience, most notably working on Reagan’s presidential campaigns, but compared to Limon, he’s not as experienced.

An unabashed Trump supporter, Michaels has some shades of a proto-typical California Republican. He’s big on energy efficiency at the same time he wants to draw in the tech sector. He’s for fighting climate change and affordable housing, but wants to do both by reducing government interference in private companies. He wants homeless reduction, but wants it by introducing more shelters first. It’s a type of Republicanism that isn’t often seen in California much these days, and it could be an interesting contrast to Limon’s policies.

Michaels hasn’t had too much in the way of support, but he does have party backing. So, regardless of the Democrats strength in the district, they obviously see that he at least has some kind of shot here.

Also running is Independent doula Anastasia Stone, but her numbers have not been tracking very high.

What does this mean?:

It’s going to be Limon most likely in the 19th. She has the support, the funding, the name recognition, and the popularity.

But this isn’t 100%. The district still has substantial Republican support, and Democratic growth has been slowing across races. This is also an open election year. They are historically more open with voting due to no incumbent. Plus the GOP is backing Michaels and hasn’t simply not even given that much like in other districts races. For the GOP, there is hope here.

The primary will indicate what kind of work needs to be done. If Limon hits 60% or above, it’s almost assuredly hers in November. But if Michaels can knock it below that and simply get 40% or above, Limon might have to do some extra campaigning around the district.

This is the litmus test for the GOP to see if they can still make it in the area or not at state-level politics: will Limon win, and the Democrats hold their seat, or will it prove that the Republican party isn’t dead yet in Santa Barbara? That can prove to be fodder for races going into the 2020’s.

Evan Symon
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