20 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY february 8-14, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com solidarity with Israel amid its ongoing war against Hamas, seemingly Democratic Party-aligned grandstanding. In 2022, he toed Big Tobacco’s line when he suggested adding an exemption for Modified-Risk Tobacco Products to the county’s ban on sales of flavored tobacco products and onetime-use e-cigarettes. Alejo also supported expansion of rural cities into farmland, embracing a slow outward creep for new development rather than smart growth. Still, Alejo continues to be a voice for the little guy, sharing his own uplifting story and encouraging others in his Salinas district to find and embrace their own. “I want to focus on the inspirational, positive, good work that is happening,” he says. “Every young person in Salinas, I want them to be proud of the community they live in.” Wendy Root Askew for District 4 As she seeks a second term, Wendy Root Askew faces a challenger, but she may as well be unopposed. Jeremiah Pressey is not a serious candidate and has no government experience. (“My goal is not necessarily to win,” he told the Weekly in December, and has ignored our inquiries since.) Askew has focused on achievable, tangible wins for her district. Last fall, she celebrated the award of state funding to the County so it can move forward on plans for a new (and much needed) health clinic in Marina. This spring, County officials will be unveiling plans for a new campus in Seaside located where the Department of Social Services is now; it will include social services as well as a Monterey County Free Libraries branch, a hub for the District Attorney to offer victim services, and more. She also partnered with Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig to push the SHARE Center for homeless families—a joint project between the city and county—to completion. That shows the art of the possible, where things could just as easily have fallen apart amid political conflicts. And that’s where we hope Askew follows her own advice about dreaming big but still finding paths toward achievement. The nutsand-bolts stuff must get done—things like new county buildings, roads, responsive government offices—but as she enters a second term, she’s in a unique position to advance some of the big-picture stuff. Can she help lead on housing solutions and a water solution? We hope so. Kate Daniels for District 5 Mary Adams is retiring, and that means there will be at least one new county supervisor next year. And that’s good news for constituents. Adams was elected eight years ago, ousting incumbent Dave Potter, on the promise of big change. Instead, the issues that matter in this district have stalled, and stalled again. (Look no further than Monterey Peninsula water supply, still in limbo, or short-term rentals. Finally, eight years later, the county has circulated a draft environmental impact report with a sensible compromise proposal to regulate these commercial units instead of kicking the can down the road even further.) There are three candidates in this race, and two would bring energy and good ideas to this seat. Alan Haffa is a member of Monterey City Council, a professor at Monterey Peninsula College and a longtime, progressive, local Democratic Party leader. Kate Daniels is a Monterey County planning commissioner and works as a staffer to State Sen. John Laird and formerly was chief of staff to Adams. (The third candidate, Bill Lipe, who works in agriculture, is interested primarily in one issue—an important one, but singular— of Salinas Valley water supply. The job demands a bigger scope, and we do not believe he’s up to the task.) Haffa and Daniels both have good ideas and energy to lead. Haffa has a track record of supporting infill development and tackling homelessness in a humane but real way in Monterey; he’s running because of his interest in housing and to advocate for more transparency in county government. These are important issues, but getting anything done requires relationships. And Daniels is running largely on a platform of relationships. “We need leadership that is not only willing to call it out and have lofty goals, but bring all voices to the table and come up with solutions,” she says. We agree, and we believe she’s the best candidate to do that. Daniels is new to campaigning and still learning. We’re concerned about her deference to public sector unions; she doesn’t seem to understand the supervisors are the ultimate boss of labor groups, who are paid with taxpayer money. “I don’t think we can control the public sector [wages],” she says. “The issue we have is the private sector isn’t paying enough.” (One of her largest donors is the SEIU Local 521, which gave the max of $5,500.) As for creating better-paying jobs in a region powered by agriculture and hospitality, she suggests recruiting more tech companies—good luck with that. When it comes to big problems of water and housing, Daniels and Haffa have some different ideas. She’s open to desalination being part of the portfolio to persuade the state water board to lift the cease-and-desist order that’s long tied the region’s hands when it comes to adding water meters; Haffa believes recycled water is enough to get there. Daniels supports urban growth boundaries to protect farmland and open space while building in existing city limits, while Haffa opposes such lines. We do need housing, unquestionably—but at what cost? Both Daniels and Haffa would be good leaders for District 5. But Daniels is more likely to forge relationships U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta and Zoe Lofgren, both Democrats, are seeking another term in Washington. Both face Republican challengers, as well as challengers from the left. Daniel Dreifuss Daniel Dreifuss “I really love this job.”