Credit: Jun Starkey (file)

Santa Barbara City Planning Commissioner Gabe Escobedo announced his candidacy for the 37th California Assembly District Tuesday, January 10, at the Sunken Garden, promising diversity of perspectives and ideas and emphasizing a long-overdue need to invest resources locally. 

“We need representatives that are going to advocate for this community and do everything in their power to bring resources here,” Escobedo said. “Resources to provide affordable housing, to build the green energy future that we need, and to fix our higher education system.”

Escobedo, who is also an intramural sports coordinator at UCSB, was appointed to the city Planning Commission in 2019, and was also appointed chair of the Community Formation Commission, a panel of 13 citizens tasked with creating a model of a civilian review board for the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Escobedo has spent more than 10 years working in higher education, serving as an intramural coordinator at California State University San Marcos and a competitive sports assistant at UC Berkeley before coming to UCSB in 2016. These experiences, he said, have allowed him to see the day-to-day struggle of students, ranging from food insecurity to overwhelming medical expenses, and how lack of support from colleges fuels this cycle. “There’s not a university I’ve worked at that has had enough support services for the students attending,” Escobedo said. Much of his work centers on bridging this equity gap, such as the Student Medical Emergency Relief Fund, which provides grants to students with expenses related to medical, dental, psychological, and optical emergencies. 

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California is currently in the process of redistricting for State Senate and Assembly districts, and the 37th District will no longer include western Ventura County, where current Assemblymember Steve Bennett resides. This will leave Santa Barbara’s district without an incumbent, and open for the taking in November. [Update 1/13: After this story was published, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart put the word out that he will be running for State Assembly, though he has not yet officially announced his candidacy.]

So far the only other candidate to announce is Jonathan Abboud, a longtime progressive figure at Santa Barbara City College, where he has served on the Board of Trustees since 2014. 

Escobedo will begin releasing his policies further into the assembly race, as so far he and Abboud are the only people who have announced their intentions to run. “We can’t keep waiting on the next generation to save us,” Escobedo said. “They can’t save us from the decisions we make today.”

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