As 2021 comes to a close, several campaigns launched with an eye towards the future 2022 election. The Santa Clarita Valley now offers a wide berth of candidates running for Congress, the California State Assembly and the Santa Clarita City Council, to which The Proclaimer has offered a quick rundown of where all the races stand with each candidate.
Quaye Quartey (D)
Quaye Quartey, a 20-year Navy veteran, announced his campaign for Congress at the start of June. He spent half of his career overseas serving as an intelligence officer in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and, more recently, Europe. Quartey said that while serving abroad, he “saw America from a different light” and saw that “our country has gone backwards”. Ultimately, for Quartey, the U.S. Capitol Riot was the “crystalizing moment” that motivated him to seek public office.
Among the issues that Quartey is focused on include restoring national security, growing the middle class, ending gun violence and getting young people to be hopeful for the future. He’s second in the fundraising race behind Christy Smith, with $278,233 on hand as of Sept. 30, according to the Federal Elections Commission website.
Ruth Luevanos (D)
Ruth Luevanos, the first Latina elected to Simi Valley City Council, launched her campaign for CA-25 on April 5. Luevanos’ campaign is running on achieving well-funded and well-supported public education, single payer healthcare – commonly referred to as Medicare for All, moving towards a green economy, good-paying union jobs, ending our dependence on tackling climate change with an emphasis on environmental racism, and improving immigration policies in the United States.
Before Rhoda Nazanin dropped out of the race in October, Luevanos came fourth in fundraising with $7,443 on hand as of Sept. 30, according to the FEC.
Dara Stransky (D)
Dara Stransky is a mother of four children with a leadership position in the nonprofit voter registration organization, HeadCount, filed her run for Congress in June.
Her website lists expanding access to the ballot box, universal public college tuition, a more streamlined and fair immigration process, a transition to renewable energies, a $15 federal minimum wage adjusted based on cost of living and increasing available inventory and decreasing the number of unoccupied homes as campaign issues she will focus on
On her campaign website, Stransky states: “I have decided to run for CA-25 because, as stated above, I am a mother. More than that, I am a mother who is fed up with the vicious rinse-and-repeat cycle of politics that’s been going on.”
No fundraising data is available on the FEC’s website.
Steve Hill (D)
Steve Hill, a military veteran with a career in the aerospace industry, a former correctional officer, a small business-owner, stand-up comedian and self-described Satanist, began his race with an eye on how Garcia “could vote with people who tried to overthrow our government,” as he told The Proclaimer in August.
Among the issues Hill said he’s concerned about include money in politics (to which he is accepting donations from individuals only), improving the education system by directing money towards underfunded areas of the district, police reform, immigration reform, respect for the Constitution – especially in regards to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol Riots – and voting rights.
No fundraising data is available on the FEC’s website.
Christy Smith (D)
Following two losses to Garcia in 2020, former Assemblymember Christy Smith announced her campaign in March to once again run for CA-25 in 2022 four months after a very narrow 333-vote loss. She earned 36,096 more votes than any other Democrat in CA-25 history.
When in the California State Assembly representing AD-38, she authored nine bills focusing on education reform, homeowner protections and college affordability, which each ended up going to Gov. Newsom’s desk and signed into law. Additionally, she helped secure investments in emergency management, $700,000 for the Free Clinic of Simi Valley, $450,000 for the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, and $397,000 for College of the Canyons. Before her time in Assembly, Smith was a governing board member of the Newhall School District.
Smith leads in fundraising with $371,443 on hand.
Mike Garcia (R)
First elected in the May 2020 special election following Katie Hill’s resignation, followed by winning his full term in the general election the following November defeating Smith, Garcia’s platform includes promises to “defeat socialism” and “build the wall.”
Noted by The Los Angeles Times for running to right of his district, Garcia’s drawn repeated criticism for his association and support of the former president. During his tenure, he’s voted against the certification of Biden’s vote, allegedly blocked Twitter accounts belonging to CA-25 constituents, denied knowing what QAnon is and participated in a GOP-led Fourth of July rally at one point featuring a triple-threat flag. Garcia also suggested California’s extreme wildfires are not a product of accelerated climate change and he would actively campaign against school board members in CA-25 wishing to implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
He currently sits on the Committee on Appropriations, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and the Republican Study Committee. He leads the fundraising pack with $1,284,338 on hand and over $2 million in receipts, according to the FEC.
Pilar Schiavo (D)
Pilar Schiavo, a labor organizer, a former member of the California Nurses Association and co-founder of the homelessness advocacy organization West Valley Homes YES announced her campaign for AD-38 in July.
Working closely with unions, Schiavo said she’s seen those struggling under the economic impacts of COVID-19. Schiavo’s main policy platforms include bolstered funding for quality public education, living wage jobs, expanded access to good jobs, expanding affordable housing, guaranteeing quality healthcare for all and moving towards real solutions to homelessness.
“We can’t have politics as usual and career politicians doing the same thing that they’ve always [said], because it’s not working. When you’re on the ground working on these issues and you see over and over policies that are just Band-Aid solutions and not actually solving the problems is so frustrating,” Schiavo said.
Annie Cho (D)
Annie Cho announced her campaign for AD-38 in July after reaching third place in the nonpartisan primary in March 2020. Cho helped found the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus for the Democratic National Committee in 1980, served as a legislative aide to US Senator Alan Cranston, director of public relations at LA 18 KSCI-TV, produced and hosted the Emmy-nominated “LA Seoul”, and served as a commissioner of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power.
In an interview with The Proclaimer, Cho said that her main policy issues include the health and economic fallouts of COVID-19, affordable housing, bold measures in vegetation management, increased measures to train and protect firefighters in the case of wildfires and be “the voice of district” in unseating Assemblymember Suzette Valladares (R-Santa Clarita).
Jonathan Ahmadi (D)
Jonathan Ahmadi, former Santa Clarita City Council candidate and former senior district representative for Rep. Katie Hill, was the second Democrat to announce his campaign for AD-38. Moving to southern California in 2001, Ahmadi went to UCLA for aeronautical engineering but has worked in a variety of fields since, including engineering, research, entertainment and currently healthcare.
The 2016 election changed Ahmadi, who had “never envisioned a future in politics.” This led him to become more active in politics, where he joined Santa Clarita Valley and Simi Valley Democrat groups. Among the issues Ahmadi is advocating for are affordable housing, improving public education, keeping communities safe from gun violence, improving access to healthcare and addressing climate change.
Suzette Valladares (R)
Suzette Valladares was elected last November with 76% of the vote. She was selected to serve as the Vice Chair of the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee, and on the Assembly Committees on the Budget, Communications and Conveyance, Rules and Higher Education.
A small business advocate, Valladares previously ran against Garcia for Congress in 2019. She’s since garnered criticism for attending the same GOP-led rally on July 4 where a triple-threat flag was seen on a radio livestream. During the 2021 California Recall Election Valladares endorsed San Diego’s former mayor Kevin Faulconer, though she appeared at a rally for far-right candidate and radio host Larry Elder in Castaic where Elder baselessly claimed those who have contracted COVID-19 have stronger immunity than if they were vaccinated.
In this legislative year, she has worked on several bills, including AB 90: Foster Youth Credit Protection, AB 91: Tax Relief for Small Businesses, and AB 217: Back to School Sales Tax Holiday.
Psychiatrist Aakash Ahuja announced his second bid for Santa Clarita City Council after reaching sixth in last year’s elections. Ahuja is also chairman-elect of the Rotary Satellite Club, where he works on local issues such as helping the homeless community. He additionally runs a psychiatrist program in partnership with College of the Canyons where he answers questions concerning mental health from members of the community
Ahuja said he ran in 2020 to make Santa Clarita a “more prosperous” city in terms of safety, economic prosperity, health and education, and has the same priorities going into this campaign. Ahuja plans to renew his 2020 pledge to donate 100% of his Santa Clarita City Council salary back to local charities if elected.
Selina Thomas, a human resource professional, announced her second run for Santa Clarita City Council after running last year. Prior to becoming a business owner, Thomas was a social worker and is currently the CEO of 6 Degrees HR Consulting, a human relations consultancy providing support to small businesses, which gave her more insight into how COVID-19 has affected small businesses.
One of the policies that Thomas supports in regards to a COVID-19 business recovery includes “essentialized locations” that provide information regarding the latest changes in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said her candidacy takes into account the importance of relating most with voters compared to her fellow candidates. She also slammed the use of a triple-threat flag during a Fourth of July parade through SCV held by the local GOP, declaring there was “no place for these symbols in our evolving, diverse community.”
David Barlavi, an attorney and Saugus Union School District School Board Member, plans to run for Santa Clarita City Council in 2022. Barlavi said plans to run on a platform of bringing new perspectives to how Santa Clarita is traditionally governed, and is concerned about dealing with COVID-19 and securing federal and state funding for local businesses who have taken a hard hit due to the pandemic.
Barlavi is especially vocal on Facebook about his opinions, but his various actions have drawn the ire of SCV residents on both sides of the political aisle.
William S. Hart Union High School Board member Joe Messina filed to run for city council on July 6.
A figure who is vocal about his conservative views on everything ranging from transgender rights to COVID-19 vaccinations, Messina’s appeared across various right-wing networks from Fox News to Newsmaxx. An L.A. County Superior Court judge ordered Katie Hill to pay Messina $30,000 for claiming he was “part of a conspiracy to distribute pictures,” according to Associated Press, after Messina received in 2019 an anonymous Zip file with text messages and intimate photos of the former congresswoman.
“I’m fearful of some of the people that are running for office or want to run for office,” Messina told The Signal in a July interview, suggesting those candidates are “looking at” issues that “brought down” cities like Seattle and Portland (both cities were flashpoints in clashes between rioters and local law enforcement last year, and have both been recycled in conservative circles as examples of Democratic-led failures).
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