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Santa Cruz County Elections 2018: Meet The Candidates

A look at supervisorial races and city council candidates in Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Capitola and Watsonville.

A cheat sheet for the Nov. 6 election in Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Capitola, Watsonville and the county at large.

Santa Cruz County District 4 Supervisor

Greg Caput

In the June primary, County Supervisor Greg Caput won 32 percent of the vote, and he will once again face Councilmember Jimmy Dutra. Caput hadn’t originally planned to run again, having advocated for a two-term limit for board seats, but he says he was swayed by his supporters. If re-elected, he says he’ll remain committed to the Pajaro River flood protection project, and that he wants to further increase affordable housing and local veterans services. “Even though I am on the short end of votes 4-1 on the board, it’s important someone speaks up and represents other opinions,” Caput says. “Because a minority opinion today might be the majority opinion later in the future.”

Jimmy Dutra

Watsonville City Councilmember Jimmy Dutra ran for this seat in the 2014 June primary, when he lost to Caput and Terry Medina. After graduating from USC’s school of public policy and serving nearly four years on the council, Dutra says he’s more ready than ever. “People have had major road issues, and there has been no attention brought to that,” he says. Dutra is the first openly gay Watsonville councilmember. If elected, he’d like to see more revenue going to Watsonville and other South County areas, saying that though Watsonville is home to Driscoll’s, Granite Construction, West Marine and Martinelli’s, there isn’t a comparable return of tax dollars to South County. “It’s really sad that a lot of that revenue doesn’t come back to us,” Dutra says.

Capitola City Council (Vote for Three)

Jack Digby

After losing to Jimmy Panetta for a congressional seat two years ago, Digby decided to go more local in 2018. “I got a lot more positive vibes from my community than I thought I would in that race, so when this cycle came around for City Council, I decided to run,” he says. A Navy veteran and ironworker, Digby is a no-party-preference candidate, and prefers to identify as a capitalist reformer. He would like to see resources for homelessness diverted to other county priorities, and have Capitola focus on supporting the middle class, struggling families and the elderly. He originally opposed Greenway’s Measure L initiative to prevent rerouting the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail off the railroad tracks. He has since reversed his position after doing more research, and now supports the measure, arguing that a train station wouldn’t be coming to Capitola any time in the near future, anyway.

Sam Storey

Former Capitola Mayor Storey ran for office as a write-in candidate in 2016 and lost by only seven votes. “I have my name on the ballot this time, which is good,” Storey says. “The voters will be able to see my name and hopefully I’ll have a better chance at prevailing.” Storey, who’s also an attorney, would like to see the new Capitola Mall developers focus on dining, entertainment and the performing arts, rather than retail. He pictures a space with a variety of uses and local businesses, as well as a feeling similar to that of Capitola Village. Storey supports Greenway’s Measure L initiative, saying that Capitola needs a safe route for pedestrians and cyclists. A supporter of the Measure H housing bond, he would like to see Capitola be a welcoming place for everyone, regardless of income level.

Yvette Brooks

Brooks managed the 2016 campaign for Martine Watkins, who is currently vice mayor of Santa Cruz—now she’s running her own. Brooks says she brings a perspective not currently represented on the council—that of mothers, new homeowners and young working families. Brooks works at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. She supports Measure J, the transient occupancy tax measure, which would slightly boost money for children’s early education programs from taxes on hotel rooms and short-term rentals. “If we invest early in children, we will get the largest return in the future,” she says. “I want to make families a priority, and put families first.”

Jacques Bertrand

In running for re-election, Councilmember Bertrand says he wants to make a difference in residents’ lives in tangible ways, like ensuring permanent support for the Capitola Junior Lifeguards Program and establishing a plan to sustain and rebuild the wharf. “Since elected, I’ve elevated community involvement in decisions—both behind the scenes and up front—to make sure people have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives,” Bertrand says. He supports Measure L, arguing that it will give residents more of a voice in future decision making. He also supports funding housing for the homeless, adding that it’s an important component of addressing the crisis.

Scotts Valley City Council (Vote for Two)

Stephany Aguilar

Aguilar, who’s served on the Scotts Valley City Council since 1998, has compiled a long résumé—having served as president of the League of California Cities and the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments. A 48-year resident, Aguilar says her experience working on regional efforts and statewide policy has shown her how interconnected California’s communities are. Although she generally supports the long-discussed Town Center plan, she has voted differently than her colleagues on the direction, suggesting that the mixed-use housing project needs more retail than has been planned thus far. “We need a good balance of those elements,” she says.

Jim Reed

Mayor Reed knows something about local government, and not just from his 11 years on the Scotts Valley City Council. Reed, a lifelong Republican, is also the chief of staff for San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, a lifelong Democrat. Reed says he agrees with 90 percent of what Liccardo does, largely because of how Liccardo does it. “Oftentimes, one of the least important things you do on the council is vote on the dais,” he says of local government. “A far more important element is how you engage.” A supporter of the council’s direction on the Town Center project, he wants to see the town grow in a responsible way that’s consistent with Scotts Valley’s character.

Derek Timm

Timm knows full well that he’s in a race with two long-standing incumbents in this year’s City Council race. The timing might make things appear tough. “The problem in Scotts Valley, in general, is we don’t have term limits. There’s probably never a good time, because you’re just waiting for someone to retire out. Sometimes it’s good to bring in fresh energy,” says Timm, who has earned an endorsement from Mayor Reed. Timm, a Scotts Valley planning commissioner, first got civically involved in 2010, when he started Save Our Schools. He led a successful bond measure campaign in 2012, and he’s leading another one this year with Measure K. One of his strengths, he says, is his skill as a communicator—bringing people together to discuss the issues and helping them stay informed.

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Santa Cruz City Council (Vote for Three)

Paige Concannon

Once a week, Seabright resident Concannon is a day manager for the St. Francis Catholic Soup Kitchen. Concannon, who worked for 10 years as a chef at Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall, says the city needs to crack down on property crime and start handling its “criminal homeless” population more aggressively. She says she does feel for transients who are mentally ill or just down on their luck. “But then you have these guys who really make it hard for everybody else,” she says. As for solving the problem, she says, “it’s a lot of little things, but all those little things are adding up to what the problems are.”

Philip Crawford

Attorney Crawford has been politically involved for decades over the hill, where he taught at San Jose City College. Crawford first started getting involved locally last year, when he and his fellow neighbors from the Friends of West Cliff group began questioning the placement of Santa Cruz’s coastal Jump Bike docks. On public safety, Crawford says he would like to see the police do more community-oriented policing, when cops go the extra mile to get to know residents on their beats. He believes the city should get a bigger portion of mental health funding, as well. “We should be getting our lion’s share, and I don’t think we are, from what I hear from the mayor and others,” Crawford says.

Justin Cummings

Foremost on Justin Cummings’ mind is the need for rent stabilization to protect tenants. “We need it now,” says Cummings, one of two City Council candidates to support the Measure M rent-control ordinance. He says that many campaign issues come back to the economy. If people cannot find good jobs, that exacerbates problems in both housing and public safety, explains Cummings, who trains young people to be environmental stewards via a UCSC conservation program. The son of a criminal defense attorney, Cummings used to plant community gardens throughout low-income neighborhoods and at the Cook County jail in Chicago, where he grew up. He opposes the downtown parking garage/library project, arguing that the city should focus on reducing car trips instead.

Cynthia Hawthorne

Psychotherapist Cynthia Hawthorne hopes she’ll soon have the opportunity to help lead on mental health issues that affect the whole county. If California’s Proposition 2 passes, the bond will provide a couple of billion dollars toward building affordable housing with on-site social and medical services. “We will have a pot of money, for the first time in a generation, that we could use to make a big difference,” she says. Hawthorne hopes to stop the revolving door for those suffering from mental health issues, including the folks that residents see on the streets of downtown everyday. The city, she says, also needs to build more housing downtown. A leader of the Santa Cruz’s Women’s March, Hawthorne has been inspired to see women get more involved in politics.

Drew Glover

Activist Drew Glover finished just 500 votes shy of earning a seat on the City Council when he ran two years ago, after a family emergency pulled him away from Santa Cruz in the final stretch of the campaign. This time, he stopped raising money once he reached about $10,000, as he was uncomfortable with the amount of cash that pours into campaigns and the amount of paper that gets thrown out in the form of mailers from candidates. “It’s so wasteful. My entire kitchen table is covered, literally plastered, right now,” says Glover, the only candidate other than Cummings to support Measure M. He’s focused his energy on talking to voters. Glover says there’s waste in the city government, which he feels needs to better prioritize social services.

Dave Lane

Retired UCSC auditor Lane is running on his experience rooting out financial waste at the university. When GT spoke to him in June, Lane said the Santa Cruz Police Department was overfunded, and he opposed high-density affordable housing. “We just don’t have the water and resources. And we don’t have the room on the streets. I think they want to turn Santa Cruz into San Jose South,” he said. Lane has since added to that, saying it would be better to build housing outside the city limits—and, later, that affordable units should earn subsidies or tax breaks, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Lane didn’t return calls seeking comment for this guide. According to city records, he recently donated $80 to his campaign to print out 800 fliers.

Greg Larson

Former Los Gatos City Manager Larson says he’s running for City Council because Santa Cruz is in need of seasoned leadership. “I’ve been a problem solver across 30 cities,” says Larson, who additionally worked for the cities of Santa Cruz, San Jose and Milpitas, and now works as a consultant. Santa Cruz, he says, is facing ongoing crises in housing and neighborhood safety. He wants to consider hiring new police officers and would like to look at offsetting the costs in the budget, which is already strapped due to increasing pension obligations. Larson says he wants to see the city embrace the San Lorenzo River, rather than turning its back and treating the riparian corridor like it’s a back alley.

Donna Meyers

Environmental consultant Meyers wants to bring her experience in collaboration and securing needed funding to the City Council. She serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission—where she’s helped to oversee the Parks Master Plan—as well as the board for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, which has grown during her years as board president. Meyers, also the founding director for the Coastal Watershed Council, says the city can bolster the local economy through partnerships to create new jobs. “There’s still a lot of commitment to making Santa Cruz a place for all the people who are here raising their families,” says Meyers. Concerned about housing affordability, she’s a strong supporter of Measure H, the affordable housing bond.

Richelle Noroyan

The only incumbent in the Santa Cruz City Council race, Noroyan has built her campaign largely around the economy and public safety, issues she campaigned on in past years. Since being elected, she has served on the Homelessness Coordinating Committee, which drafted recommendations that the city is implementing. When she knocks on doors, the one question that Noroyan says voters ask the most is what she thinks of Measure M, which she opposes. Noroyan says that she would support other tenant protections, like outlawing exorbitant rent increases, adding that everyone should work together on housing solutions. “Among landlords and property managers, no one is saying everything is fine the way it is,” she says. “No one has said that to me, no matter if they’re tenant or a property manager or a landlord.”

Ashley Scontriano

Scontriano envisions a Santa Cruz that’s more “customer-friendly” to local businesses. “I don’t think it would be a big hurdle for our government to change in that way,” she says. “It’s just a mentality shift.” Scontriano says she’s witnessed red tape as a business owner operating a dog daycare business that got shut down for a zoning code violation, and then in the form of a planning code violation for what she says is a “landscaping project” at her home. Experiences like those, she says, give her a unique insight into what ails city government. On public safety, she wants to find a way to hold low-level convicts accountable for quality-of-life crimes. Scontriano is an ardent opponent of Measure M, having served on the board for Santa Cruz Together, the opposition campaign.

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Watsonville City Council District 3

Lowell Hurst

Current Watsonville Mayor Hurst is running unopposed in his fifth local election, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of issues on his mind. Hurst, a former teacher first elected to city council in 1989, says public safety, living-wage jobs and affordable housing have remained priorities throughout his career, but that pushing for a “well-rounded economy” is still a top objective. “We need to dig deep and help solve the housing crisis,” Hurst says, noting that some 300 new units have been approved in recent years. Pressure is still on, he adds, to address affordability for retirees and area farm workers. In addition to downtown improvements, he sees the evolution of Watsonville’s most famous industry as a potential path forward with new jobs in agriculture tech.

Watsonville City Council District 4

Francisco Estrada

Estrada grew up in Watsonville in a family of farm workers, but more and more, he’s noticed fellow locals moving out of town for lower costs of living inland. It’s one factor that motivated the 35-year-old Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust staffer to run for City Council, transforming from a self-proclaimed political cynic into a first-time candidate. “You see election after election that young people don’t vote. Latino people don’t vote,” Estrada says. “I know my city.” An adjunct professor at Hartnell Community College who worked for nine years at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, Estrada lists addressing rising youth diabetes rates and reviving community programs among his top priorities, along with adding living-wage jobs. “The rail trail  and fixing Highway 1, these things are Band-Aids,” he says. “The real problem is people need to find jobs.”

Jenny T. Sarmiento

After a career in social services and violence prevention, Bolivia-to-California transplant Sarmiento is running for the open District 4 seat on a platform of conscientious economic development. Sarmiento, a Watsonville planning commissioner, hopes to encourage an uptick in interest from new businesses while bolstering technical support and resources available to existing small, often Latino-owned businesses. “We have to be cautious that we don’t become so gentrified that we lose the culture of the town,” she says. Addressing homelessness is also top of mind for Sarmiento, who suggests pairing social workers with police to improve outreach, as the city has done to encourage farm workers to report crimes, despite “the ICE situation.”

Watsonville City Council District 5

Casey Kraig Clark

Clark, challenger to District 5 incumbent Rebecca J. Garcia, is running on a platform of “smart growth” focused on advocating for more reliable infrastructure and job opportunities in the city. “Watsonville is experiencing growth at a record pace,” Clark said in a candidate statement filed with the city. “I vow to ensure our growth is both sustainable and balanced.” In addition to pledging community meetings to discuss large construction projects up for approval, Clark says his profession as a residential care director would also help inform work on public health and mental health.

Rebecca J. Garcia

District 5 Incumbent Rebecca J. Garcia, a former 18-year Pajaro Valley public school teacher and administrator, has served on the Watsonville City Council for four years. In her re-election campaign backed by a broad cross-section of business, labor and Democratic Party groups, Garcia says she intends to continue the work she has already started. “I have volunteered in the city and county for over 35 years,” Garcia says. So far, her approach to policy has been balancing day-to-day local issues like traffic and parking with broader challenges, like advocating for climate action, reaffirming Watsonville’s status as a sanctuary city and implementing regional affordable housing and homelessness plans.  

Watsonville City Council District 7

Ari Parker

Ari Parker traces her roots in the Pajaro Valley back nine generations, to the indigenous Amah Mutsun tribe. The 30-year public school teacher also counts her time on the tribal council—contending with frequent “hurry up and wait” interactions with the federal government—as a key source of experience in her candidacy for the open District 7 council seat in Watsonville. Parker, who has also negotiated on behalf of her teachers’ union and served on county commissions, cites flood prevention, a new emergency services outpost in her district and streamlining small business red tape as top priorities. Parker, who’s earned an endorsement from outgoing District 7 Councilmember Nancy Bilicich, draws on advice she frequently dispenses to her sixth-grade students. “Get out there and get trying,” she says. “That’s the only way things get done”

Steve Trujillo

Former Pajaro Valley teacher and school board member Trujillo is vying for the open council seat in District 7 with an aspirational slogan: “Watsonville Renaissance.” Among his top priorities are counteracting stunted economic opportunity, homelessness and gentrification. “There’s a song, ‘Let Your Little Light Shine.’ That’s what Watsonville needs to do,” he says. “Watsonville for too long has played the poor, unwanted stepchild of Santa Cruz County.” Trujillo, now a frequent front-row attendee at City Council meetings, says he plans to balance local priorities, like fixing damaged levies, with resistance to the Trump administration. “We’re going to form a big, blue wall here, and I hope to be part of that,” he says.

Lupe Rivas

Ensuring public safety and a high quality of life for local seniors are among District 7 candidate Rivas’ top campaign priorities. With advanced degrees in multilingual education and 30 years under her belt as a teacher in the Pajaro Valley, Rivas still substitutes in local classrooms. In her bid for city council, she cites credentials including four years on the PVUSD school board, eight years on the CALRetired teachers board and two years on the Watsonville Senior Citizens Board. “It’s crucial to have city council members that are informed,” Rivas said in a candidate statement filed with the city.

News Editor at |

Jacob, the news editor at Good Times, won the 2014 award for best local government coverage from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. A longtime basketball and football fanatic, Jacob has evolved into a shameless fair weather fan and band wagoner for hot West Coast sports teams. He also enjoys arguing with others about where to find the best burrito in town.

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