In 2011, Marie Waldron was named by Martin Garrick – the outgoing assembly member for the then 74th District – as the district’s Woman of the Year. This nod to Waldron was his way of anointing his heir to the seat and letting everyone know Marie Waldron would be the next assembly member representing the district which encompasses north inland San Diego County and a portion of Southwest Riverside County.
Now, eight years later, Marie Waldron is the Assembly Republican Caucus Chair and is running for her fifth term in the seat. She has weathered four challengers for the position – a lawyer, a tribal elder, a mostly absentee candidate, and a write-in candidate. Not surprisingly, Waldron emerged unscathed in all four of those elections.
This year, Waldron faces a new challenger to her seat, Democrat Kate Schwartz, a Fallbrook resident and mental health provider and a Director on the Fallbrook Regional Health District. According to her website, Schwartz has lived in the District for 20 years and has become frustrated with the representation – or lack thereof – in Sacramento and wants that to change.
We sat down to discuss the race and the issues.
The demographics of the 75th Assembly District favor a Republican candidate. Voter registration (as of 2018) shows 242,000 registered voters, 37.4% of them being republicans, 28.71% of them being independents, and 27.91% of them being democrats. With these numbers, I began by asking Schwartz why she wants to run now, in a district which seems a strong republican seat, and not wait for four years when Waldron will term out of the Assembly?
“So many of us,” Schwartz began, “are ready for a change – and we need the change – in the district now. I don’t think we can afford to wait another two or four years. We’ve seen the changes in our district: traffic congestion, air quality, climate changes; issues which all affect our quality of life have gotten worse. And our frustration levels have increased.
“We’ve had a representative in office now for eight years and, if she wanted to make changes, she’s had plenty of time to do the things which would improve our quality of life. She’s had ample opportunity but we haven’t seen that from her at all.”
I asked if Waldron’s status as the Minority Leader, the leader of the Republican Caucus in Sacramento, affects her campaign in any way.
“I am not intimidated by the fact she is the Minority Leader in Sacramento. If anything, it really is an opportunity for Waldron to make excuses about why she is unable to get things done for the district. She has been focused not on improving the quality of life for members of her district, but instead working on things which are important to the members of the Assembly.
“Residents of her district want their assembly member to address real issues like affordable housing, improving our transportation infrastructure so they can get to and from work in a decent time so they can spend quality time with their families, improving and increasing access to healthcare; these are the things the residents of the 75th Assembly District want. Costs for these things have gone up over the years and wages have stagnated. Our Assembly member needs to address these issues.”
With the decreasing Republican minority in Sacramento, it seems the job of the Republican Assembly members has morphed into a strictly opposition party, working to slow or reverse the work the Democratic majority has done over the last few years. Waldron’s work has demonstrated her focus on opposing legislation instead of proposing new legislation which would help the residents of the district.
Schwartz indicated she would ignore that partisan aspect of the seat when she reached Sacramento; her focus would not be on turning and keeping a “red” seat “blue”, but focus more on providing all of the district’s residents the things which she sees the district has lacked in representation.
“The residents of the 75th District,” she says, “regardless of party, all have similar needs. Party is irrelevant when it comes to needing affordable housing, when needing adequate wildfire protections, needing upgrades in our transportation systems, we all want a better quality of life. It doesn’t matter with which “side” we identify; what matters is we all rise and come together to address all of our similar needs.”
What Are the Issues?
Schwartz says her key issue is maintaining and improving our quality of life. “No matter why you’ve moved to this area of California – the beauty of the landscape, the recreation, employment in our California economy – there are reasons why we’re all here and we want to see those reasons to continue.” This is a topic to which we return a number of times during our chat.
With the future of housing looming on everyone’s mind, I asked what she would do as our Assembly member to address the projected 1 Million more people which are estimated to be immigrating into the county, along with the large number of teens and college graduates who are looking to find housing after they have reached adulthood. “We are going to have to increase the density of our housing. We will have to move away from the old concept of single-family homes, built further and further away from the city, taking up our countryside. None of today’s working families can afford those homes; the idea about housing and what housing looks like is going to have to change.”
“We will need to build more housing where there is existing infrastructure,” she continues, “and really focus on building where along transit corridors. We will need to build walkable neighborhoods and rely on public transportation. The manner in which we think about housing in the future will need to change and it will be something very different.”
Speaking of housing, I asked about Senate Bill (SB) 50, Sen Weiner’s bill which would have allowed for density increases near existing transit and would have, essentially, taken the planning and land-use authority away from local jurisdictions. “SB50 is a good starting point,” says Schwartz. “I was disappointed with local governments taking offense to losing some decision-making abilities instead of working together to solve the housing crisis which we face as a state.”
Similarly, Schwartz was supportive of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers which calculate the number of affordable housing units needed in the regions of the state. “Cities and towns are failing with the RHNA numbers. I don’t think the numbers are wrong; I believe the problem is the lack of trust which cities and towns have with other levels of government.”
“There is a real fear of public, or affordable, housing,” Schwartz continues. “Other countries have created wonderful projects for their affordable housing and the image of affordable housing which we have here in the United States is not present in other countries. We need to overcome the negative image of affordable housing and provide the needed houses for our citizens.”
The other hot button piece of legislation this year is Assembly Bill (AB) 5, Assembly member Gonzalez-Fletcher’s bill which addresses the status of certain workers in the state. I asked, as a legislator, what would Schwartz do – if anything – to support, change, or overturn AB5. “AB5 definitely needs changes. I believe the intent of the bill was good, and I believe it was pushed through too quickly without considering the full ramifications. I would favor a system where the employee gets to choose whether they are a full W2 (on a company’s payroll) employee or a 1099 (independent contractor) employee. The choice would allow the employee, not the company, to determine the relationship.”
The crux of AB5 was correcting a “test” which employers could evaluate each of their employees and then determine on their own which classification an employee would fall into. I asked Schwartz, given the current court decisions and case law which allow for this “test” to be used by companies, if we could offer the employee the option to choose.
“I believe we need to look at the employers more closely,” says Schwartz. “We should look at the percentage of W2 workers versus 1099 workers. If the company appears to be taking advantage of loopholes where they employ a majority of 1099 workers or are employing workers at levels which allow them to avoid healthcare costs and/or offering benefits, we need to look at that more closely. We need to give more thought to the employers and how they are treating their employees; we need to hold them accountable.”
Other issues which Schwartz wishes to focus on are community hospitals, like the now closed community hospital in Fallbrook. In 2014, Fallbrook closed their non-profit hospital and offered only out-patient services. Schwartz would like to see more attention given to these types of services in communities where larger, for-profit hospitals are located.
Schwartz is against the bullet train traveling from San Diego to Sacramento. “We have other, higher priorities right now,” says Schwartz. “The only bullet train we need is from Murrieta to San Diego. We should be focused on improving the existing infrastructure to get people moving and workers back and forth from their jobs more easily.”
I asked just before we parted what her pressing issue was which I didn’t cover. She turned, as she did several times in our talk, to quality of life. “The citizen satisfaction level in the United States is not high. In other countries, citizens are provided with a sense of security and well-being; they know there is a safety net beneath them and, when they need access to services and benefits, their governments will be there to provide for them and help them. We face too much insecurity in the United States currently, and I would like to see the basic quality of life be met for each of our citizens.
“Very important is our work/life balance. Our citizens need to feel they aren’t just a tool to be used by their employers. We need to better balance our working and our lives to have a more livable environment. We can do this by looking, again, to other countries and seeing the level of services they provide to their citizens and the quality of life which their citizens enjoy. Their citizens know they will be taken care of if they experience trouble and our citizens deserve the same.”
Kate Schwartz has our endorsement for the 75th Assembly District.