Santa Clarita Valley residents will vote for two California Assembly seats in the June 7 primary election. Two incumbents will vie for the same seat as a result of the redistricting that occurred late last year.
For the 40th District, incumbent Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, who currently occupies the Assembly seat of the 38th District, seeks re-election. Challenging her are nurses advocate and businesswoman Pilar Schiavo of Chatsworth and businesswoman Annie Cho of Porter Ranch.
For the 34th District, incumbent Tom Lackey, R-Antelope Valley, who currently occupies the Assembly seat of the 36th District, will face off against incumbent Thurston Smith, R-Apple Valley, of the San Bernardino High Desert, who currently occupies the Assembly seat of the 33rd District. Four other candidates will challenge the two incumbents. Those candidates are homelessness solutions coordinator Paul Fournier of Lake Arrowhead, real estate investor Raj Kahlon of Palmdale, veterans advocate Roger LaPlante of Victorville and retired professor Rita Ramirez Dean of Twentynine Palms.
Santa Clarita voters should know that district boundaries have changed since the last election. According to CalMatters.org, “Hundreds of thousands of voters were shifted in the new California election districts drawn by the state’s independent redistricting commission.”
The new map puts the SCV in the 40th District rather than the 38th, currently represented by Valladares, expanding to the south to encompass a majority of the SCV, while shifting Agua Dulce to the 34th District, which was previously known as the 36th District, currently represented by Lackey.
While anchored around Santa Clarita, the 40th District, as indicated by CalMatters, reaches down across the Santa Susana Mountains and into the San Fernando Valley. The website indicates voter registration in the district is 41.8% Democratic, 29% Republican and 22.7% no preference.
According to CalMatters, the 34th District takes in almost the entirety of California’s high desert, from the San Andreas Fault to the Nevada border. “Portions of Palmdale, Lancaster and Victorville — the region’s most multiethnic and Los Angeles-connected towns,” the website reads, “were placed into their own Latino-majority district, leaving this one more rural and more conservative.”
CalMatters.org shows the 34th District divided as such: 39.4% Republican, 31.4% Democratic and 20.2% no party preference.
Both elections on June 7 are “top two” primaries, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the November general election, regardless of party affiliation.
40th Assembly District
Running for the 40th District are two Democrats and one Republican, listed in alphabetical order.
Cho is one of the two Democrats in this race. According to her website, she began her community activism in the late 1970s when she volunteered on the Free Chol Soo Lee Committee and helped get Lee off death row and out of prison.
Cho’s site also indicated that she wants to create more union jobs, expand access to health care for everyone, stand up for marginalized communities, enact smart criminal justice reforms and protect air and water while combating climate change and the growing threat of wildfires across the state.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, Cho has raised $214,500 for her campaign. Her campaign website is AnnieForAssembly.com.
Schiavo is one of the two Democrats in this race. She told The Signal that the reason she’s running is because, as a nurses’ advocate for over a decade, she’s been on the front lines fighting to guarantee health care to those who need it. She said she also wants to address the problem of homelessness and has worked in the past to house those who need a roof over their heads, food and hygiene supplies.
Schiavo’s website indicates that she wants to make sure big corporations and billionaires pay their fair share as a means to cut taxes for small businesses, seniors, veterans and “regular people.” She told The Signal she’s ultimately striving to take her frontline experience and apply it to policymaking.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, Schiavo has raised $539,700 for her campaign. Her campaign website is Pilar4CA.com.
Suzette Martinez Valladares
Incumbent Valladares is this race’s sole Republican. According to her website, she’s an educator who was elected to the state Assembly in 2020. Her biography indicates she was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, she went to Cal State Northridge and served as a district representative for former local Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon.
In a commentary piece Valladares wrote for The Signal, she brought up a need to suspend the gas tax, move the homeless from unhealthy and dangerous public sidewalks into care facilities and housing capable of treating drug addiction and mental illness, address the increase in violent crime, and empower parents with choices, including charter schools, career technical education programs, child care tax credits and early childhood education.
According to CalMatter.org, as of May 27, Valladares has raised $969,700 for her campaign. Her campaign website is SuzetteValladares.com.
34th Assembly District
Running for the 34th District are three Republicans, two Democrats and one with no party affiliation, listed in alphabetical order.
Fournier is one of the three Republicans in this race. According to his website, he’s a citizen, not a politician. The site reads that he believes in personal liberty and personal responsibility for one’s actions, and that he has a technology and business background, is a passionate and devoted follower of Jesus Christ, and that he’s spent three years helping the homeless restore their lives.
Fournier told The Signal that his No. 1 priority is to reverse and forever prevent the “medical tyranny that has taken place in the last two years” — referring to the handling of COVID-19 and the pandemic — “from ever occurring ever again in the state of California.” Other priorities, he said, include protecting the Second Amendment, protecting school choice and upholding pro-life policies.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, Fournier has raised $2,300 for his campaign. His campaign website is VoteForPaul.TV.
Kahlon is one of the two Democrats in this race. According to a Ballotpedia survey Kahlon filled out, he’s been a resident of the Antelope Valley for three decades. Kahlon obtained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture abroad and is a licensed real estate professional as well as a real estate investor for over 34 years.
That same survey Kahlon filled out indicates that the candidate’s primary focus is on the progress of the environment and the community. He wrote in the survey that he’s an advocate for fair housing, proper care of foster children, education and public service, and he added that his biggest public policy concern for the state of California and the community is the water drought issue, which, he continued, is causing detrimental effects on farm land and real estate development.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, Kahlon has raised no money for his campaign. He does not have a campaign website.
Incumbent Lackey is one of the three Republicans in this race. According to his website, he’s represented California’s 36th Assembly District since 2014. Before joining the Assembly, Lackey served on the Palmdale Elementary School District board of trustees and the Palmdale City Council. He earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Utah State University and had a 28-year career with the California Highway Patrol.
Lackey told The Signal that he’s running for re-election because he said he feels he finally developed what “they call chops” as a public official. One of his big priorities is public safety, he added. Other priorities, he said, include making living affordable, addressing the fuel burdens that the public is currently facing and increasing funding for those with disabilities.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, Lackey has raised $382,300 for his campaign. His campaign website is lackeyforassembly.com.
LaPlante is the only candidate in this race who is not affiliated with any political party. According to a minibiography on Ballotpedia.org, he served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1996 and is a combat veteran of the Gulf War. The site also indicates that he received his associate’s degree in liberal arts from Victor Valley College in Victorville in 2005, and was appointed to the Veterans Caucus in 2015.
In 2016, the Ballotpedia biography shows, LaPlante was a Democratic candidate who sought election to the U.S. House to represent the 8th Congressional District of California. His top priorities, according to VotersEdge.org, include representing working families and veterans, addressing homelessness and lowering taxes.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, LaPlante has raised no money for his campaign. He does not have a campaign website.
Rita Ramirez Dean
Ramirez Dean is one of the two Democrats in this race. She told The Signal that she was a community college professor for 38 years and was involved in politics for almost 20 years, adding that she was mayor pro tem of the city of Victorville.
The reason Ramirez Dean is running, she said, is to make health care available to all, help bring an international airport and a state university to the high desert area, uphold women’s rights as equal Americans, and create universal broadband, especially to those in rural areas.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, Ramirez Dean has raised no money for her campaign. She does not have a campaign website.
Incumbent Smith is one of the three Republicans in this race. According to his website, he states that, as a small businessman and concrete contractor, he’s spent decades creating jobs. The site also reads that Smith knows cutting government spending and taxes will drive down the ever-increasing inflation and grow the economy.
On the issues, Smith’s website indicates that he intends to be tough on crime, reform the immigration process, cut government spending while reducing government regulations, protect veterans, oppose any efforts to ban firearms, defend religious liberties and restore local control for students.
According to CalMatters.org, as of May 27, Smith has raised $377,300 for his campaign. His campaign website is JoinSmitty.com.
LAVote.gov states that vote centers will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. between May 28 and June 6, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day (June 7). All registered voters, the site indicates, will receive a vote-by-mail ballot. Go to LAVote.gov for more details.