Paul Wellman (file)

Old Faces, New Races

Stoker and Jackson Duke It Out for the 19th

Thursday, October 25, 2012
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Forgive the gross simplification, but in many ways, the race for the State Senate’s 19th District seat is like trying to choose between beer and coffee, two beverages whose basic commonalities are only exceeded by their obvious differences.

On one side you have high-energy Democrat and former state assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, a quick-talking and sound-byte savvy candidate who narrowly lost the 19th in 2008 by half a percentage point to Tony Strickland. Squaring her up on the ballot is once-upon-a-time Santa Barbara County supervisor Mike Stoker, a well-worn and likable area Republican who went home without a seat in 2010 after losing to Das Williams in the 35th District State Assembly race. With a possible Democrat-led supermajority in California’s upper house hanging in the balance, one of these two longtime Santa Barbara County political players is guaranteed to break a losing streak come November 6.

When voters last had a chance to decide who represents the 19th District, the rules of engagement were a bit different. Then, the district was a geographical hodgepodge that included all of coastal Santa Barbara County, the City of Ventura, and large inland areas like Simi Valley, the Santa Ynez Valley, Thousand Oaks, and roughly a third of Santa Clarita. Now, after 2011’s redistricting, the new 19th includes all of Santa Barbara County, the City of Oxnard, and more than 60 percent of Ventura County, a reconstituting that favors Democrats by roughly 10 percentage points. Further, after the seat was left wide open earlier this year by a departing Strickland, who opted to take a run at the 26th District’s U.S Congressional slot, the stage was set for the Stoker-versus-Jackson showdown by way of an open primary that saw Stoker edge out Jackson by three points and the distant third-place finisher, Democrat Jason Hodge, by more than 30 points.

And while, for even the most casual of Santa Barbara–area voters, both Jackson and Stoker were familiar ​— ​if not predictable ​— ​candidates long before their mailers started showing up in mailboxes earlier this fall, their views on issues like budget and regulatory reform, the environment, and partisanship ​— ​as well as their assessments of each other and themselves ​— ​offer insight into a local race that could mean big things for the state at large. What follows are one man’s findings after sitting down and talking shop with the candidates.

Hannah-Beth Jackson

Catching a mid-morning cup of coffee with Hannah-Beth Jackson is no joke. Not only is her attention in high demand ​— ​the roughly one block walk to and from the coffee shop and the hour-plus interview were both peppered with numerous handshakes and pleasantries exchanged with folks aged 6 months to 65 years ​— ​but she goes into campaign stumping mode with breakneck speed. After a quick lament about her opponent’s preference to not go on the record with his feelings about assorted state ballot initiatives and what she sees as Stoker’s connection with big corporate interests, Jackson jumps into describing what she stands for as a candidate in colorful election-season speak.

“I believe every person is entitled to a basic level of dignity,” said Jackson. “I believe in respect and clean air and clean water and an environment that doesn’t cause us health risks. I believe in a hand up, not handouts.” A six-year veteran of the State Assembly (1998-2004) who enjoys endorsements from the California Teachers Association, the Nurses Association, the Highway Patrol union, and the firefighters of both Santa Barbara and Ventura, Jackson views the current situation in Sacramento as “totally dysfunctional” and rife with an “attitude of division” on both sides of the aisle, something she thinks she is uniquely qualified to help fix. Jackson makes her case by pointing to bipartisan legislation that she helped craft such as the Teacher Retention Tax Credit bill and a ban on pesticide applications near schools. “I am used to sitting down with colleagues with an R next to their name and talking and finding common ground,” she said. “I am a problem solver, and my record shows it.” She explained all this before her third sip of coffee.

When it comes to the future, Jackson, who is a mother and a grandmother, preaches the gospel of doing things that are “in the best interest of our children.” She calls jobs her number- one priority, blames the economic hell of the past half-decade on the “greed of Wall Street,” sees the “inability to make long-term plans” as the real problem facing small-business owners, considers the fact that prison-related business is the fastest-growing industry in the state an “extraordinary waste of money,” hopes to revisit currently chilled plans to establish a functional commuter rail service between Santa Barbara and Ventura and Santa Maria, and vows to pursue an oil-severance tax to the tune of $2 billion annually. Offering that such a tax is commonplace in every other oil-producing state in the country, Jackson said that $1 billion of the tax would be earmarked for K-12 education with the other half going to higher education and helping reduce student debt. Jackson riffs on all of this before our drinks are half-empty.

But perhaps the biggest question hanging over Jackson’s candidacy, at least for hard-core politicos and those with memories of her last stint in office, is what, if anything, has changed about the way she does business. This question becomes even more pressing when you consider the possible state of affairs in Sacramento should the Dems win a supermajority in November. Asked about the biggest difference in her as a candidate this time around, Jackson, who has survived breast cancer since her last shift in public office, answered with a smile, “I still stand for all of the things [I did then], courage and honesty and independence and operating in the best interest of the people of California. But you also get a little wiser as you get older. No man or woman is an island.”

Mike Stoker

Talking with Mike Stoker is easy. He has an animated and informed yet easygoing way about him that seems well suited to striking up enjoyable conversations with strangers in bars. But make no mistake: He is also a serious and experienced political animal. A veteran of county, state, and federal races, Stoker reckons that, at this point in his campaign, he is more at peace than he ever has been with a race before. “Everything we can control, I feel good about,” summed up Stoker last week over late-morning iced teas.

With Santa Barbara County supervisor and California deputy secretary of state among his former job titles, Stoker is a self-described “different type of Republican” who has refused to sign a no-new-tax pledge and is on the record as favoring immigration reform but only if it comes with some sort of labor-friendly component. He is quick to cite laudatory statements from prominent area Democrats like Goleta City Councilmember Roger Aceves and former state assemblymember Pedro Nava as evidence of who is the real bipartisan-capable candidate in the 19th District. “Jackson just can’t make claims like that. … All she has is the Democratic machine,” said Stoker.

And when it comes to the important work of balancing the budget, Stoker ​— ​who once copped a regular paycheck as a spin doctor for the reviled Greka Energy Corporation after it ran afoul of regulators for its onshore oil-spilling habits ​— ​again argues that Jackson, due to party affiliation and endorsements, won’t be able to make the tough decisions. “It’s not even really a question. … Just look at her endorsements; she can’t and won’t cross the unions. There are things that just aren’t on the table for her,” argued Stoker, his iced tea long since sucked dry.

However, perhaps the biggest piece of his campaign is Stoker’s desire to duplicate in Sacramento the type of government streamlining that he led at the county level in the early 1990s when he reduced the number of public agencies from 38 to 27. (Of course, the history-hip voter will no doubt remember the aftermath of the reorganizing efforts, which included a damning Santa Barbara Grand Jury investigation and the subsequent dismantling of virtually all of the governance tweaks at a great cost, both monetary and psychological, to the county.)

According to him, there are some 5,800 different state-funded boards, agencies, and commissions that need to be reassessed and potentially reconfigured in the name of fiscal prudence and regulatory reform as the state faces down its monstrous multimillion-dollar deficit. Further, he adds, the many hundreds of business-related laws on the books in California that aren’t in place in any other state must also be reexamined and potentially repealed. “If we do these things, it will say to everyone, California is open for business again,” concluded Stoker with a hint of excitement.

With less than two weeks until Election Day, Jackson and Stoker will be going head-to-head in their third and final debate this Thursday, October 25, at 7:15 p.m. at the Congregation B’nai B’rith in Santa Barbara.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that Stoker was “quick to cite endorsements” from prominent areas Democrats like Goleta City Council’s Roger Aceves and former State Assembly member Pedro Nava. However, both Nava and Aceves have both denied technically “endorsing” 19th District Republican candidate Mike Stoker. Though quotes from the duo of Dems have been used widely in Stoker’s campaign efforts, not to mention the fact that Stoker himself has cited their favorable opinions about him as evidence of his bi-partisanship, Aceves and Nava took great exception to the statement describing them as actually endorsing Stoker for the seat. As Nava put it on Thursday morning, “It just is not true. I am not endorsing him and I have never endorsed him.”

The confusion stems from the use of quotes by both men on campaign mailers from the Stoker camp. In the case of Aceves, the councilman explained that he did give permission for Stoker to cite him but only in relation to their work together on non-profits. He added that he has been on the record from early on in the Stoker-Jackson race as not officially endorsing either of the candidates. He has since, he explained, asked Stoker to remove his name and quotes from any future campaigning efforts.

As for Nava, the former 35th District Assembly member corrected the record by explaining that the quote that was used as the meat of a Stoker campaign email blast sent on September 28 – in which Nava says, amongst other things, “If we had more people like Mike involved in Sacramento a whole lot more would get done on behalf of the people of the state of California” – was never meant to support a Stoker candidacy. Rather, he explained, it was something he said in a United Agribusiness League newsletter several years ago in relation to a Farm to School bill that he was working on at the time that Stoker, in his role with the League, helped out with.

For his part, Stoker too wished to set the record straight on Thursday morning. Explaining that while he does have official endorsements from several Democrats, Stoker said he has never claimed “endorsements” from Nava and Aceves but rather that they are Dems who simply “have good things to say about me.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Pedro Nava I understand, but Roger Aceves endorses Mike Stoker?

Aceves is SO political road kill now and will be buried in June 2014.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Back in 2004, Jackson told me "I just can't vote against the unions." Looking at her endorsements, I believe she is still on that bandwagon. If you want the public employees unions running the state, vote for Jackson and a super majority of Democrats in the California Assembly. If you don't want the unions in charge, vote for Stoker.
I am voting Democrat all the way for federal offices, even though I am not crazy about Lois Capps, but Republican all the way for State offices. Also no on 30, but yes on 38, and yes on our local assessments for schools.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 12:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One good thing about Mike Stoker is that he never wins. There's a reason for that.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 2 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I attended the debate Thursday night at Temple B’Nai B’rith. Much of the content in this article was repeated there. Both candidates were articulate promoters of their positions. Stoker calmly laid out his rationale where as Jackson was somewhat more combative but it seemed a little unnecessary and negative, at times she seemed to find disagreement needlessly just to “debate”. When asked if they supported Prop 30, (Jerry Brown’s tax increase) Hannah of course laid out all the good things she could spend the tax revenue on but never noted that California is already paying some of the highest state taxes. Taxes which themselves are driving business and jobs from our state. So she was all about benefit but failed to mention the very real costs. Every balanced decision maker understands there are always costs and benefits. Mike Stoker made a good point. As a state senator he will not be voting for proposition 30, instead he countered the right question is what will we do if it doesn’t pass. He rejects the notion that the only thing to cut is education; instead he vows to cut Sacramento administration and bureaucracy before education gets cut another cent. That is a different tune than we hear from Brown and the rest of the Sacramento crowd. We need new leadership. This seems as good a place to start as any.

concerned4ca (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2012 at 11:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"administration and bureaucracy" as you call it, "concerned4ca," only represents $13 Billion in expenses.
(That's the General Government line items and the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive budgets.)

Education represents about 38% of the State's budget -- close to $50 Billion -- and is unfortunately the low-hanging fruit in the budget-cutting process, as the largest program in State government.

So Stoker's "good point" sounds nice, but is not any sort of insightful or workable solution. You were snowed by a talking point, "concerned4ca."

binky (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 12:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Aceves was the dude who called someone a Towelhead or Turbanhead, this was years ago. Does anyone remember the details? Nava crossed to dark side long ago opposing med marijuana. Not my kind of democrat.

BongHit (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 6:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

More and higher taxes, more regulation, fewer jobs, more union power - that's the Taxin', Job Killin' Jackson way.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 9:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I, too, attended the debate at the Temple in Santa Barbara last night. I found Mr. Stoker's unwillingness to support Prop 30, to protect our schools most disappointing. He boasts that he has the answer based upon what he did during his brief time on the SB County Board of Supervisors almost twenty years ago in cutting our county agencies. It turns out that his great solutions was a disaster and resulted in the SB County Grand Jury writing a report condemning his actions. Perhaps most significantly, and most telling, (as reported in this very article) is the fact that the county had to completely undue Mr. Stoker's handiwork at a "huge financial and psychological cost" to the County and its taxpayers.

sbbrewer (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 11:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

California cannot afford Mike Stoker's slash-and-burn approach to the state's future. Hannah-Beth Jackson has real ideas and real solutions. This one is an easy call!

zn_esq (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 11:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I too was at the debate last night and I firmly believe that Hannah-Beth Jackson will help us right-the-ship with a well articulated balanced approach. She emphasized identifying duplication and unnecessary waste and at the same time talked about the importance of investing in our education and children to assure a better future and return to good economic times. Mr. Stoker had no such plan.....just more of the same cuts, cuts, cuts and a track-record of embarassing failure. His budget solution was to cut boards and commissions (which has been done every year for the last three budgets) and in the same debate, he said his first legislative bill would be to create a commission! Hannah-Beth Jackson has my vote.

sbdoctoralstudent (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 11:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hannah-Beth Jackson is a down to earth, smart woman who cares about all her community. She's gotten flack for supporting unions, but people forget the unions brought you the 5 day work week, minimum wage, health and safety protections ect ect. So it's quite right to be critical of individual union or labor issues, but to somehow suggest unions are akin a fifth column which is so often done is just plain selfdefeating for the entire country- and oneself.
Do not air travellers benefit from air traffic controllers who are well rested and reasonably stress free? Might your food be cleaner if the person processing it has adequate healthcare and sanitary working conditions

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No candidate is ever perfect, but Mike Stoker..give me a break. Why not just put the chamber of commerce in charge. Hannah-Beth is a very strong advocate for the environment, for our children, for schools and working people and she is smart and an effective politician. Stoker is a nice guy, I'll give him that but he will do nothing more than vote the pro business anti environmental party line and is unlikely to propose any meaningful legislation or do much for our district.

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2012 at 3:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey KV-Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans also brought us abolition but what does that have to do with the current party? It's impossible to use past, private industry union victories as examples in order to support our ridiculous PUBLIC UNIONS.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 8:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why in Gods name would anybody vote for Stoker. He's a strait up liar who, by the way, pandered to and received union endorsement in his last failed run for office. He then stood on the steps of the county adiministration building and bashed them. What a con.

Doesn't surprise me a but he lies about his current endorsements. Vote at your own risk for this fool.

Validated (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 2:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Jackson is a lying, conniving, partisan self-promoter who never saw a tax she didn't like. For her to advertise working across party lines is an insult to anyone with an IQ above 10.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 5:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe if the other side of the aisle were more interested in solving problems than posturing for the cameras there might be more across the aisle working.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 5:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe, but then when Taxin' is captured on-mic plotting to block, rather than negotiate, a budget, her claims to bipartisanship are shown as the lie she routine tells.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 9:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Be that as it may, I still trust her more than anyone opposing her.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 11:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Ms. Jackson: If you are reading this, I never got a response from you c.2000 when I asked you (three times, once by regular mail, twice by e-mail) why you brought up your concern about school vouchers being a problem because parents could choose religious schools. (Just as they can choose nonreligious schools)

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 3:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

P.S. Per our conversation back in 2007 on the Paul Berenson show when you claimed that "all things being equal" we need a woman president. Dennis Kucinich is a world apart from Hilary Clinton, but when I called out your inconsistency on your opposition to the war (which Kucinich opposed) while supporting pro-war Hilary Clinton, all you could respond with was the argument that Kucinich couldn't win the general election if nominated.

I'm no fan of Mike Stoker, and will probably not vote in this race, but your obsession about gender and religion give me no reason to think you would represent *all* the people.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 3:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mrs. Jackson needs your vote, out there! Michael Hiltzik in today's [10/28] LA Times makes it clear that the wealthy and the entrepreneurs will certainly not flee the state if Prop 30 is passed. We also need a Democratic super majority in Sacramento.
Some public unions are out of control, urgs., but others are pretty good so you paint with an awfully broad brush just blasting them all. The UC public employees union is exemplary, try to check some facts once in awhile.
Greka apologist and long-time Republican punching bag Stoker needs to go back to defending the filthy oil industry in this state.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2012 at 7:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This maybe the only part of the ballot I am going to skip. While I support Pres. Obama, Sen. Feinstein, Prop 30, I just can't vote for HB Jackson. I can't stand Stoker either. The unions in this state have a lot of power. The broad stroke really does cover it. Public Safety, Prisons, Teachers, General employees have too much sway with folks like HBJ. Stoker is too tight with Oil, Gas and business.


BeachFan (anonymous profile)
October 29, 2012 at 9:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I worked alongside Mike Stoker in 2008 when he was negotiating a truce between Greka and the county. Hes a good negotiator, getting both sides past past the name calling to useful steps forward.

He has a disarming likable style. His work paid off. We dont read much about Greka in the papers anymore. A major employer in the county remains in the county.

We could use Mike in Sacramento now.

nuffalready (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2012 at 9:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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