Jordan Cunningham has a challenger for Assembly, and it’s a familiar SLO County progressive

Morro Bay councilwoman Dawn Addis — a longtime political activist and a co-founder of Women’s March SLO — will challenge Republican state Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham in November 2020, she announced Thursday.

Addis made the announcement at the SLO County Progressives meeting in San Luis Obispo on Thursday evening.

“I have been active and engaged in our local issues and encouraging other people to use their voices and run for office,” she said by phone earlier in the day. “It’s important to me to lead by example.”

Addis, who worked as a special education instructor for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District for more than a decade and currently works for the district as an English language educator, was elected to the Morro Bay City Council in November 2018, when she had the endorsement of the Democratic Party of San Luis Obispo County.

The 35th Assembly District encompasses San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. It has been represented in Sacramento since 2016 by Jordan Cunningham, a Templeton attorney and former member of the Templeton Unified School District board of trustees.

Addis shares her mission

On Thursday afternoon, Addis declined to go into detail about what she sees as the Central Coast’s most important issues at the state level, but she said she feels the region’s voices are not being heard in Sacramento and the Central Coast “needs a leader who is off the sidelines and ready to make an actual difference.”

“I believe I can make a true difference in the lives of the people of the Central Coast,” she said. “I’m ready to bring the importance of the Central Coast to Sacramento as the true asset it is to (the state).”

Asked about her roughly yearlong experience serving on the Morro Bay council, Addis said she’s learned that leaders “have to be willing to stick our necks out to get things done.”

Dawn Addis_Print
Dawn Addis, left, shakes hands with supporter Amanda Tompkins at the Guild Hall in San Luis Obispo, where she announced her Assembly candidacy on Thursday. She will challenge incumbent Jordan Cunningham. Laura Dickinson

Cunningham, who’s made headlines as a lawmaker focused largely on public safety and consumer privacy issues, has also taken heat from his own political party for championing issues normally associated with Democrats, such as cap-and-trade, renewable energy and police transparency.

Asked for criticism of Cunningham’s work in office, Addis declined to go into details, saying instead that she’s “focused on the people of the Central Coast.”

In response to a request for comment Thursday, Cunningham’s campaign released a statement saying the incumbent legislator “has been an independent and bipartisan fighter for the Central Coast.”

“We are confident that the voters will continue to recognize his efforts to fight human trafficking, fund career technical education, and fight for jobs and infrastructure here on a the Central Coast,” the statement reads.

Late announcement

The timing of her announcement late in the campaign could present a problem for Addis’ campaign, namely in terms of endorsements from statewide associations. Cunningham already boasts a number of important endorsements, including from the California Teachers Association, according to its website.

Addis said her campaign will move forward by reaching out to groups whose missions “align with the Central Coast.”

According to state records, Cunningham’s campaign committee has roughly $205,000 on hand.

Secretary of State records on Thursday showed that Addis has created a campaign committee to begin fundraising, but it had no funds reported. She’s also formed a campaign team she described as “ready to win.”

“I’m going to do the things that I’ve always done: take a broad view, think about the people’s needs, and think about the things we can be effective with for changing lives for the better,” she said.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.