The fight to represent the state 19th Senate District kicked off last fall with a series of light jabs between former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, and Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner Jason Hodge, both Democrats, thrown in such as a way to test each other’s mettle.

But on March 7, Republican Mike Stoker, a former Santa Barbara County supervisor, entered the race, and he’s come out swinging.

 

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Mike Stoker, former Santa Barbara County supervisor

In regard to the state’s budget impasse, Stoker said, “In the short term, you have three choices, you can raise taxes — and I know one of the Democrats [in the SD-19 race] didn’t get her nickname ‘Taxin’ Jackson’ for nothing — or make draconian cuts to cities, counties and schools, which is what the state has done … or you can balance it on state government.”

Stoker’s plan, if elected, is to trim the fat from state government by forming a bipartisan commission of chief executive officers and chief financial officers to do a top to bottom review of every department, position and board of state government. The commission’s recommendations, Stoker said, would save $16 billion to $20 billion and would eliminate the need to raise taxes, as stated in Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

“Hannah-Beth Jackson is more of the same that we’ve sent to Sacramento,” Stoker continued. “There is no change. Unfortunately, with Jason [Hodge], I think he could have great intentions, and if he is the nominee, I’ve seen it happen with Democrat after Democrat after Democrat, they get hundreds of thousands of campaign contributions from state public employee unions. If you receive hundred of thousands of contributions from anyone, does anyone realistically believe you can be objective in regards to their interests?”

Hodge, a firefighter, laughed at Stoker’s claims about contributions from state public employee unions. “I am beholden to no one,” Hodge said. “I have such a wide range of support from across the spectrum. It shows that, frankly, everybody is fed up with the current system of reruns and has-beens.” A look at Hodge’s campaign contributions shows the bulk of support coming from firefighter unions and business interests. As Ventura County Star columnist Timm Herdt reported, there has even been some union pushback from SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and California Labor Federation against Hodge because of his tough-on-higher-taxes stance.

 

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Jason Hodge, Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner

Hodge said, however, that he supports Gov. Brown’s plan as part of a strategy to fix California, but was emphatic that it is not the only solution.

“Will new revenue come in the form of new taxation? Yes, but does it have to come from middle-class and working-class families? No, it doesn’t have to,” explained Hodge, “but if you look at taxes as being the main solution to California’s problems, you missed the question entirely.”

The lifelong Silver Strand resident has no problem exchanging verbal blows with Stoker. Hodge, who is against offshore drilling, said he remembers cleaning up oil spills from Greka Oil and Gas Inc., a company that has Stoker on its payroll to handle government relations. Federal and state agencies filed a civil lawsuit on June 17 accusing the company, now called HVI Cat Canyon Inc., of violating environmental laws as a result of 21 oil spills in Santa Barbara County from 2005 to 2010. While Stoker has said he was hired by Greka to “turn their record around” and boasted that there have been no violations issued in annual inspections for the last two years, reports show that Stoker has been employed by Greka since 2007.

But Jackson, perhaps by stratagem, did not jump into the verbal fray, never mentioning her Senate rivals by name during her phone interview with the VCReporter. Instead, she focused on traditional themes of the Democratic Party, such as investing in a green and high-tech economy, education and infrastructure, which she said make up the platform of her campaign.

“It starts with getting California back on track economically, with good-paying jobs that are going to provide a good quality of life for people who live here,” said Jackson. “That starts by developing California as the home of the green economy. That is the future, that and high technology, which all come from the best education system we can create.”

Jackson leads the pack in fundraising, having amassed around $471,000 in the past seven months, and has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, SEIU State Council and a number of education-related unions, among others.

 

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Hannah Beth Jackson, former Assemblywoman

Critics of Jackson, including Democrat and former Assemblyman Pedro Nava, are quick to remind voters about Jackson’s position as a paid consultant for the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) in 2010 to advocate for the Plains Exploration and Production Company’s (PXP) plan to introduce the first new offshore drilling in state waters since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. While the plan was eventually rejected by the State Lands Commission, Nava doesn’t rest easy with Jackson as the potential nominee.

“My concern about her in the Senate, if she were to win, the Central Coast would be represented by a Senate and Assembly member who supported PXP,” said Nava, alluding to Das Williams, who supported the new drilling plan during his 2010 election campaign. Williams’ won the seat over Nava’s wife, Susan Jordan, in the race for the 2010 Assembly seat, representing Santa Barbara and much of Ventura counties.

But Jackson still defends her position in the PXP debate, contending that she was hired by the EDC to work on a proposal to end offshore oil drilling. The proposal called for an eventual halt to drilling from three existing platforms in federal waters off Point Conception if PXP could drill for a stated amount of time, an argument that is still heavily debated. “I have a long record of working to end offshore drilling. I am very proud of my record. I truly believed that we were going to end offshore oil drilling (with the PXP plan).”

The 19th Senate District includes western Ventura County and all of Santa Barbara County. The June 5 primary will advance the two top vote getters.