Hannah-Beth Jackson hopes to snag the seat in California’s 19th State Senate District after advancing past fellow Democrat and Oxnard Harbor Commissioner Jason Hodge in the June 5 top-two primary. A former state assemblywoman and deputy district attorney for Santa Barbara County, Jackson is running on a platform that focuses heavily on the environment and education.

“If we want to rebuild our economy and move forward, we need to reinvest in education, not cut more,” Jackson said. “Education provides that well-trained workforce that is responsible for California having a $1.9 trillion economy.”

Jackson’s opponent, Republican Mike Stoker, wants you to feel the pain. If you’re a state public employee, that is.

“They should be an equal partner at the table, in feeling the pain that those of us in the private sector and those in the cities, counties and schools have.”

The former Santa Barbara Supervisor advocates budget, pension and regulatory reform. He also suggests consolidating “5,800 boards, commissions, agencies and departments,” which, he says, would lead to a more streamlined state government and a savings of $12 billion.

On the subject of pension reform, Stoker called the bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Sept. 12 “an election-year gimmick.”

“Anyone that has followed this issue will attest to the fact that what they passed in the legislature and gave to the governor, which was signed into law two weeks ago, was a lot of fluff. There was very little substance in it,” he said.

What was missing, according to Stoker, is a two-tier system where all new hires are entered into a defined-contribution plan, similar to a 401(k), as opposed to a defined benefit plan. He wants state employees to have a retirement plan similar to those in the private sector and calls concerns regarding a defined-contribution plan “bogus.”

“Hannah-Beth will say, ‘I don’t support 401(k)-type options for the public sector because you’re investing in Wall Street and you can’t trust Wall Street.’”

This was indeed an issue that had Jackson “very concerned.”

“I don’t believe that we should be giving that money in that fashion,” she said.

Jackson said that both CalPERS and CalSTRS have, historically, provided a great rate of return, but there has been some abuse, and tweaks needed to be made. She assures that both were addressed in the legislation.

“I think what we ended up with was a much better and certainly a good start at dealing with some of these pension issues.”

Jackson has also been an outspoken supporter of Proposition 30, which would increase personal income taxes for those earning more than $250,000 and raise California’s sales tax by one-fourth cent for four years. The revenue generated would fund programs in the state budget, particularly schools and public safety.

The consequences of Prop. 30 not passing, said Jackson, would be catastrophic.

“I think that it will set education in this state back decades. Ultimately, it will undermine our economic growth and economic well being.”

Stoker suggested laying off 22 percent of California’s state employee workforce, with the exception of public safety and education, before looking at a tax increase.

This recently prompted Jackson to accuse Stoker of vilifying public employees and blaming them for circumstances they didn’t create.

Stoker asserted that he considers them no more or less important than anyone else and that Jackson’s accusation is an attempt to appease her endorsers. 

“The Hannah-Beth Jacksons of this world, where they get all their money in these races are the state public employee unions.”

Thirteen of Jackson’s top 20 contributors to date are, in fact, unions. Among them, the California School Employees Association and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee have given the most to her campaign and are listed prominently among the nearly 150 endorsements on her official website.

In contrast, Stoker’s own endorsement page is blank. He has, however, cited mayors John Linn of Lompoc, Jim Richardson of Solvang, Larry Lavagnino of Santa Maria and the former mayor of Goleta, Eric Onnen, as some of those not currently listed.

“I’m the only candidate running with endorsements from elected, or formerly elected, leaders of the other party. “

Democrats Bob Geis, the Santa Barbara County auditor-controller; and former treasurer-tax collector of Santa Barbara Gary Feramisco are among the names he plans to announce in an upcoming mailer.

Stoker also has the financial support of the California Independent Petroleum Association and Venoco Inc., an oil and gas exploration and production corporation whose hydraulic fracturing of oil-bearing formations raised community concern in both Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties last year.

Affiliations with big oil have been a point of contention between the two candidates. Stoker stands by former California State Assemblyman Pedro Nava’s claim that Jackson’s stance against offshore oil drilling is hypocritical, given her involvement with the PXP deal.

“She was compensated. She was on the payroll. She financially benefited and she was up in Sacramento lobbying Sacramento politicians to approve the PXP project. ”

Jackson maintained that she was working to negotiate a deal with PXP that would have ultimately ended offshore drilling, on behalf of the Environmental Defense Center.

“I think Mr. Stoker’s problem is that he can’t differentiate between a number one oil polluter and an organization that is committed to ending offshore oil drilling.”

What remains to be seen is whether Stoker can carry the same level of support he had in the primary election, receiving 45.3 percent of the vote over Jackson’s 41.2 percent. Since its realignment last year, the 19th State Senate District holds an 11 percent Democratic majority among registered voters.

Despite this and the support she’s received, Jackson refuses to be lulled into a false sense of confidence.
“It’s never over until it’s over.”