The two candidates challenging state Senator Brian Dahle for his seat in California's 1st Senate District are asking people to vote for change on March 3.
The two candidates challenging state Senator Brian Dahle for his seat in California’s 1st Senate District are asking people to vote for change on March 3.
Pamela Swartz, a Democrat, and Linda Kelleher, running with no party affiliation, are each making the case to voters that Dahle hasn’t met the needs of north state citizens in his time as an elected official.
“Are you getting what you need from the representatives that you have?” Swartz, a business owner from Nevada County, asks. “Is the system working for you?”
Meanwhile, Kelleher, a retired educator also living in Nevada County, painted Dahle as too aligned with special interest groups.
Dahle, who won the seat in a 2019 special election, responded by saying he’s simply aligned with business interests in the 1st District community. The Republican farmer and business owner from Bieber noted anyone with concerns about his campaign contributions can find his donors online through the Secretary of State.
“Yes, it takes resources to run a race and (opponents) always complain when they’re not able to raise money,” Dahle, 54, said.
Asked about a maximum contribution from Juul Labs Inc., the electronic cigarette company accused of marketing toward minors, Dahle said the product had been shown to help people quit smoking and said he disapproved of targeting teens.
He said more information came out about Juul since taking the contribution in December but didn’t clarify if he would take any more donations from the company.
The March primary likely won’t be too consequential for Dahle given that the top two vote-getters will move on to the November general election. The main question for the primary, he said, is figuring out which of the two new candidates will advance to the general.
Who is Pamela Swartz?
Swartz, 56, is a business owner and Democrat based in Nevada County. Swartz said she spent part of her childhood in Redding and attended Shasta High School before graduating from University of California, Berkeley with a degree in forestry and emphasis in wildlife management.
After working in forestry, Swartz started Ninja Skincare, a business that sells products to treat acne. She said she has been running the business for three decades.
“Nothing feels better to me than helping somebody out,” Swartz said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for 30 years.”
It’s no secret that Democrats have struggled to win elections in the north state. But Swartz is addressing that by asking voters if they’re happy with the current state of the district.
“We do have Republican representatives in the northeastern corner of California,” Swartz said. “Is it working for you?”
Swartz pointed to the homeless population in the district and suggested more subsidized housing, floating the idea of re-purposing rundown buildings in the area.
“Maybe we need to take some of the empty hotels and businesses that are in Shasta County and convert them into low-income housing units and do a private-public collaboration,” she said. “Let’s get those buildings used and utilized.”
Looking at Dahle’s voting record, Swartz said she disagreed with Dahle’s “nay” vote on Assembly Bill 857, which would let cities and counties create their own public bank systems. Every Republican in the Senate voted no on that bill.
“Vote for the person who’s going to advocate for you and doesn’t take any money from special interest groups,” Swartz said. “I don’t have a price tag; I have a morality tag.”
Who is Linda Kelleher?
Kelleher, 64, is a former teacher and high school principal residing in Nevada County who argues “corporate economic structure” has devastated rural residents. She said the blame lies with both parties but specifically said Dahle is tied to the agriculture lobby.
“Most candidates, they go around raising money and then (donors act) entitled to those people,” Kelleher said.
Now, she says she wants to be a “lobbyist” for the people of the district.
“Cruising around Senate District 1, I’ve been reminded of these pockets of rural poverty ... they don’t have much services and medical treatment,” she said. “There’s kind of a bias against white rural poor. People think if you’re poor in the country it’s easier or something.”
Kelleher said the North State would have better representation in the Senate if the chamber changed its makeup so that each county is represented.
“We need the Senate to be more like the Senate in the country to have it equally,” she said.
Kelleher also said she’d like to see term limits for every elected office in the country.
Asked about her stance on Governor Gavin Newsom, Kelleher said he is sincere but has a tough job. She said her campaign is more concerned with issues affecting the district than serving the Democratic governor.
She went on to say that the Democratic Party in California is made up of ideologists.
“I believe that the problem is the two party system ... the capitalists have been replaced by the corporate economic structure,” Kelleher said.
How Dahle is preparing for the race
For now, Dahle says he’s keeping his focus on legislative work. He said he’s working to address power shutoffs like those that affected thousands of residents in the fall. At the time, he called on the governor to convene a special legislative session on the topic.
In that same vein, Dahle said he’s working on a bill that would change the state’s Public Utility Commission to an elected body instead of one appointed by the governor. Critics say the commission, designed to regulate utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric Co., could have done more to mitigate wildfire risks and power shutoffs. The majority of Siskiyou County was not affected by the shutoffs except for a small pocket in the Somes Bar area.
In general, Dahle said the experience he gained from about seven years in the state Assembly are also an electoral advantage. He said local voters need a voice in Sacramento who understands that “one-size-fits-all” approaches don’t always work for the north state.
Dahle also has a reputation for working across the aisle in a Democrat-controlled legislature. On many occasions, he has brought fellow legislators to tour the north state.