Election 2020: State senate race to represent Santa Barbara County

Oct 19, 2020

For the last eight years, Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson has represented California’s 19th state senate district, which extends from Guadalupe to Camarillo. With Jackson’s term expiring this year, the seat representing close to one million people on the Central Coast is open to someone new.

Two candidates are vying to represent all of Santa Barbara County and much of Ventura County in Sacramento: Democrat Monique Limón and Republican Gary Michaels.

“The legislative work, the constituent work, the emergency response work has really prompted me to run for the state senate seat,” said Monique Limón.

Limón has spent the last four years in the state Assembly representing a similar, but smaller, district. She is a lifelong Santa Barbara resident who worked in education and served on the Santa Barbara Unified School Board before being elected to the Assembly.

Assembly member Limón currently chairs the banking and finance committee, among others, and said she has the experience to tackle the more expansive 19th district.

“The bills that I’ve worked on over the last four years, some of that work encompasses a lot of those different regions,” said Limón.

The district includes the large agricultural areas of Santa Maria and Oxnard, as well as communities with vast differences in income and priorities.

Limón said she is already working on issues that affect everyone like disaster preparedness, the environment, and jobs. Having served the community during recent wildfires and natural disasters, she acknowledges that priorities can quickly change.

“I think at this particular moment, the district, first and foremost, is dealing with COVID-19 as a health impact and also economic impact,” said Limón.

Gary Michaels is a businessman from Santa Maria who describes himself as fiscally and environmentally conservative. He says he entered the race to help the local economy recover and address what he believes is a lack of attention paid to northern Santa Barbara county.

“The most obvious example would be the DMV in Santa Maria which is so out of date, it was built in the 1960s,” said Michaels.

In addition to the DMV, Michaels points to issues he says affect the wider community, not just his hometown.

“From overcrowded work-force housing to problems in the K-12 school system to a continual poverty rate here,” Michaels said. “It turns out these aren’t just issues in Santa Maria but they’re issues, frankly, throughout all of the senate district.”

Michaels is a telecommunications consultant. He manages his own businesses and is part of the oversight committee for Santa Maria-Bonita School District’s Measure T. He said his experience in business prepares him to tackle the district’s varied issues.

“Especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the economy and jobs, and I am very properly qualified for this,” said Michaels.

Both Limón and Michaels are endorsed by their respective political parties in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.