www.montereycountyweekly.com february 8-14, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 17 United States Congress Zoe Lofgren for District 18 Jimmy Panetta for District 19 The U.S. House of Representatives is in a world of hurt. While its foundation is solid—the House comprises 435 members representing all 50 states and is divided proportionally into districts that have approximately 700,000 residents each—in our lifetime, there’s never been such a divided body. To say the partisan rancor is off-the-charts dysfunctional is putting it mildly—it’s more in the wackadoodle, WTF zone. For example, the current Speaker of the House is a right-wing extremist who believes dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark (we’re not kidding). Perhaps worse is that the current leadership is hell-bent on undermining any effort to build compromise between Democrats and Republicans— which we believe is the essence of the job requirement. To put the ineptitude in perspective, in 1995—when Newt Gingrich led the Republicans as speaker and Bill Clinton was president—430 bills became law. In 2019 when Democrats had the majority and Trump was president, 235 laws were passed. Then in 2023, a grand total of 27 bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that became law. No wonder there is growing disapproval for government leadership. Hopefully that will change course this November if pragmatic Democrats take control of the House. While not everyone will agree with their policies, at least they are interested in restoring order and sanity. Thankfully for our community, we have two great representatives, Jimmy Panetta and Zoe Lofgren, both Democrats who are pragmatists rather than idealogues. They are smart, dedicated public servants, and both deserve your continued support. It’s hard to conceive of why these two are even willing to fly coast to coast every other week to deal with the chaos. Both are important advocates for good government, holding the mantle for accountability for elected officials. Considering that Panetta’s district stretches from south San Jose to northern San Luis Obispo and Lofgren’s is a similarly unruly district to the east, we ought to not only re-elect them but send them neck pillows, seat cushions and slippers for their under-appreciated work and long-distance sojourns. Hopefully this November, their hard work and patience will be rewarded with a return to the House majority, enabling them to accomplish more. State of California John Laird for State Senate District 17 First elected to represent parts of Monterey County in the Assembly in 2002, John Laird is a known quantity. He has a long and impressive track record advocating and legislating on behalf of the environment, LGBTQ+ rights and education priorities. Since 2020 he has represented the sprawling 17th district, which goes from south San Jose to the desert west of Bakersfield, in the California Senate. In his first tour as a state senator, Laird has held leadership positions in budget and labor committees, but his expertise in the burgeoning field of battery storage also stands out. His bill to enhance safety standards at lithium-ion battery storage facilities—like those in Moss Landing—was signed into law last fall. In a related exercise, Laird assumed leadership to get the decommissioning of the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor extended for an additional five years in order to wait until sufficient renewable energy sources are available to replace its output by the time it is fully shut down. Laird also had an outsized leadership role in securing state money to get the Watsonville Community Hospital under local ownership and state funds to cover what had been presented as residents’ share of the levee restoration project in Pajaro. Laird’s comments during a Carmel Residents Association forum last fall—when he seemed to suggest that a workaround with a housing bond to allow Carmel to pay to have affordable housing built elsewhere—left us nonplussed. Laird is being challenged by two Republicans and one Libertarian. Republican Eric Tao, a professor of computer science at CSU Monterey Bay, came to this country from Taiwan and is raising his kids as a self-proclaimed Tiger Dad. Tao supports Pure Water Monterey expansion and says he favors accountability measures on municipalities to meet housing obligation numbers. He champions traditional family values, parents’ rights and private property rights. Veterans advocate Tony Virrueta has earned the endorsements of Republican Party entities in this race. He’s well known for creating the Salinas Veterans Day parade in 2010. Like Tao, however, he lacks in elected experience. They might start local before aiming for Sacramento. Robert Rivas for Assembly District 29 It has been a very eventful two years for Robert Rivas, whose district runs the length of the Salinas Valley, plus Prunedale, Watsonville, Gilroy and Hollister in the north. First elected in 2018, Rivas has demonstrated during his time in the Assembly both the ability to get things done and political ambition. During the Covid pandemic, he successfully got a series County supervisors Luis Alejo (District 1, above) and Wendy Root Askew (District 4, right) are both seeking re-election. Alejo is running unopposed. “I want to focus on the inspirational, positive, good work that is happening.” Daniel Dreifuss Daniel Dreifuss