Democrat John Laird says he won't run for California Senate in 2012

John Laird, who lost his race against Sam Blakeslee for California Senate last year, announced today that he will not run for the seat in 2012, saying he does not want to leave his job as state secretary of natural resources.

Laird, a Santa Cruz environmentalist who served in the California Assembly, said Gov. Jerry Brown had appointed him to the statewide post in January and “there is much to do” in “protecting and restoring the state’s natural resources.”

“I cannot walk away ... right now, given the difficult times we face in California,” he said.

Laird’s departure leaves Democrat Bill Monning as Blakeslee’s chief opponent next year, should Blakeslee seek re-election. Blakeslee, a Republican, also could run for a newly drawn congressional seat, against Democrat Lois Capps and former Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, also a Republican.

Laird praised new congressional districts that have been created by the voter-approved California Commission on Redistricting. The current and soon-to-be-former district lines, which were created in 2001, spread the Senate seat over five counties.

Blakeslee defeated Laird by four percentage points in a special election held in August 2010.

The new district includes Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties and portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties. But it excludes northern Santa Barbara County, a GOP stronghold that voted heavily for Blakeslee in 2010.

“With the partisan gerrymander of the 15th Senate District about to end, voters in the new Central Coast Senate District will have the chance to elect a senator who will understand and reflect their concerns for quality public education, strong environmental protection, rebuilding our economy with green jobs and ending the gridlock in Sacramento,” Laird said in a news release.