Monday, July 16 , 2018, 10:26 am | Fair 71º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Mike Stoker Joins the Race for 35th District Assembly Seat

The former county supervisor says he represents the change needed to get California back on track

Former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Mike Stoker announced Friday that he’s entering the race for the 35th Assembly District seat.

In front of about 150 supporters at the Courthouse Sunken Garden, the Republican said he’s been urged by local and statewide leaders to seek the Assembly post.

“Had you asked me a year ago what chance there would be in me running, I would have told you slim to none,” he said. “But a year ago, California was not at the crossroads we see today.”

Stoker said he made his decision to run after learning the results of the May 19 special election.

“The message the voters sent loud and clear was that it’s time for a reality check,” he said. “Clearly, the path we’ve taken hasn’t worked.”

With Friday’s announcement, Stoker joins the race with two Democrats, activist and environmentalist Susan Jordan and Santa Barbara City Councilman Das Williams, whom Stoker said “stand for more of the same and business as usual.” Jordan is the wife of current Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election to the seat and is running for state attorney general.

Stoker served on the Board of Supervisors from 1986-94, when he said he was instrumental in turning a $20 million deficit into a $10 million surplus, through cost-cutting measures such as laying off nonessential employees.

But keeping public safety such as fire and police employed was critical he said.

“We don’t need to cut their jobs to balance our budget,” he said.

Stoker also has served as chairman of the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, the Santa Barbara County Water Agency and the Flood Control District board, and has been involved in politics for about 30 years.

Much of Stoker’s talk Friday emphasized trimming government fat, and he called for Sacramento to live within its means and make “cuts like the rest of us.”

As a former supervisor, Stoker was predictably against borrowing from local governments.

“Cities and counties should not be in this equation, end of story,” he said.

Invoking the spirit of former Govs. Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan, Stoker emphasized the importance of creating jobs and keeping them in California.

Also present at Friday’s announcement was state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, who endorsed Stoker and talked about California’s tax structure, which he said costs businesses 20 percent more to operate here than in neighboring states.

“This last election proved that we need to stop treating California citizens like an ATM machine,” Strickland said. “The only way out of this budget mess is by creating jobs.”

After the announcement, Stoker said California had a spending problem, and not one of revenue. To enforce his point, he told reporters that when Gov. Gray Davis left office, California had a $73 billion budget, and today, that budget is about $133 billion. Stoker said much of the money that has contributed to the current deficit was related to over-hiring in government.

“We’re going to have to go through, at the state level, and eliminate some of those jobs, just like we did at the county level,” he said.

Stoker said he wanted to streamline many government departments, cutting back on positions, but making the remaining workforce more efficient so services would not be sacrificed.

“That’s what you do in bad times,” he said.

When Stoker was asked about his alignment with Greka Energy Co., which has made headlines in the past from uncontained oil spills, Stoker made no apologies. He said Greka’s ownership brought him in, along with a new president, when the company decided it wanted to be a “responsible corporate citizen.”

Stoker said he’s expecting his opponents to bring up the issue, but said Greka has made huge improvements since he began working with the company as a consultant.

“We haven’t had one spill out of containment since January of 2008,” he said. “I’m proud of that.”

Stoker said he also supported PXP, and he welcomes discourse about environmental issues.

California’s lagging educational system also was addressed. Growing up in California schools in the 1960s, 2 percent to 3 percent of the education budget went toward administration, he said, with some school districts in the state now at 25 percent. Stoker said administrative costs should be capped at 5 percent, and money should be kept with teachers and in classrooms.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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