Elections

Former Santa Cruz mayor running to replace Bill Monning in state Senate

John Laird, who served as California’s Secretary of Natural Resources under former Gov. Jerry Brown, will run to replace Sen. Bill Monning in the state Senate in 2020.
John Laird, who served as California’s Secretary of Natural Resources under former Gov. Jerry Brown, will run to replace Sen. Bill Monning in the state Senate in 2020. Courtesy photo

A former assemblyman and mayor of Santa Cruz will run for a second time for state Senate, this time to succeed Bill Monning, who will term out in 2020.

John Laird, a Democrat who most recently served as California’s Secretary of Natural Resources under former Gov. Jerry Brown, announced his candidacy Thursday for the California State Senate’s 17th District, which includes all of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties, as well as a portion of coastal Monterey County and southern Santa Clara County.

The primary will be held in March 2020, followed by the general election in November.

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State Sen. Bill Monning Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Laird wrote in a prepared statement Thursday that his role overseeing the Natural Resources Agency “placed me on the front lines in the effort to fight and adapt to climate change, as well as provided me with the responsibility to run a state agency with 25 departments, 19,000 employees and an almost $10 billion budget.”

“I’m running for the State Senate because I want to build on that leadership to protect and invest in the Central Coast and California during these difficult times — not just in the area of natural resources, but also with critical priorities including health care, education, the economy and housing,” Laird wrote.

In a news release, Laird pledged to work on “major challenges” including: the impact of a changing climate on California; affordability for the middle class; providing health care to all; providing adequate support for education; adequate and affordable housing; wild fires as California’s “new normal”; protecting California’s leadership in ocean policy; protecting California’s diversity; and “fighting for the needs of the Central Coast.”

Laird, a Vallejo native, previously served on the Santa Cruz City Council, including two stints as mayor. He also served as a member of the State Integrated Waste Management Board from 2008 to 2009 and taught state environmental policy at University of California-Santa Cruz.

In 2002, he was elected to the state Assembly’s 27th District, which included portions of Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, and served three terms.

In 2010, he made an unsuccessful bid for what was at the time the state Senate’s District 15, losing to Republican and San Luis Obispo County resident Sam Blakeslee.

Laird, along with former Bay Area state Sen. Mark Leno, was one of the first openly gay men to serve in the state Legislature. He’s a longtime resident of Santa Cruz.

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