Jackson’s retirement opens Senate seat
| October 16, 2020By Christina Cox
An assemblymember and a political newcomer are facing off in the election for California’s 19th Senate District seat.
The district, which extends along the Central Coast from Camarillo to Santa Barbara, includes about 93,000 residents. It was represented for eight years by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who is retiring this year due to term limits.
Now Monique Limón, a Democratic assemblymember from Santa Barbara, and Gary Michaels, a Republican telecommunications consultant from Santa Maria, are campaigning for the office.
Michaels believes the most effective elected officials are those who collaborate with local leaders throughout their tenure. That is what the Santa Maria resident plans to do if he is elected to the state’s 19th Senate District.
“I know many locally elected officials, and they say they don’t get a lot of interaction with state representatives,” he said. “I want to work locally with local governments.”
Michaels spent his career in the telecommunications and broadcasting industry and started two businesses, Summa Solutions LLC and Summa E-rate Solutions, which provide internet access to K-12 schools.
The 64-year-old believes his work in the private sector has prepared him to jump into the elected position and work with individuals from all backgrounds.
“I think I’m very qualified for this. I can creatively think out of the box,” Michaels said. “I think I am more collaborative, more inclusive and better able to schmooze with these Sacramento politicians.”
Michaels said he decided to run for office after seeing common issues such as housing affordability and homelessness in several cities.
If elected, he hopes to address some problems he saw by working to bring high-paying jobs to the region to address income disparities and housing affordability.
The key, he said, will be to partner with local college programs and bring clean-energy jobs to the community.
Michaels also hopes to reduce homelessness by finding creative ways to bring workforce housing to farmers and affordable housing to seniors.
“I’d be happy if we can get the poverty rate down a few points and get the per capita income up a few thousand dollars,” he said.
Beyond the economy, Michaels’ priorities include evaluating the existing funding formula and accountability measures for public schools and drafting legislation for statewide emergency drills.
“The pandemic is a wake-up call. We need to create programs so we are better prepared for a disaster since we’re having them all the time now,” he said.