State Assembly candidates Karina Cervantez Alejo and Anna Caballero are scheduled to attend Thursday's "Use Your Voice" election forum at 6:30 p.m. at Hollister City Hall, 375 Fifth St. The forum is presented by the San Benito County Farm Bureau and BenitoLink and is produced in conjunction with BenitoLink’s media partner, CMAP-TV, which will broadcast the forum live.
Each Assembly candidate answered questions from BenitoLink by email.
BenitoLink: What are your values?
Alejo: I have always worked on behalf of children, women, and families in our communities. I am the daughter of migrant farmworkers. Growing up in a rural agricultural community, I experienced the same struggles as most of my neighbors and families living in the 30th Assembly District. My childhood taught me the meaning of hard work and what it’s like to struggle to get by and make ends meet. I saw firsthand the difficulties of those living in poverty and the importance of education to achieve the American Dream. I will work hard to provide future generations with the opportunities my own parents worked to provide for me.
Caballero: My values revolve around people, particularly working people. Most of my family members were copper miners in the small town of Morenci, Arizona, and I learned early on that the only way the progressed was by working together. That’s why I came straight out of law school to represent farmworkers in Salinas. That’s why I eventually left the practice of law to set up a youth violence prevention program in Salinas, Partners for Peace. I continue to focus my life and my work around what is good for our communities on the Central Coast.
BenitoLink: What about your background qualifies you for the Assembly?
Caballero: I know that I can do the job and do it well because I have done it before. On top of that, my experience at every level of government, from the Salinas City Council to Governor Brown’s cabinet member, has given me both a real understanding of the particular needs of our rural communities and what it takes to work within government to get us the resources that we need.
Alejo: I ran for the Watsonville City Council in 2012 and won. In 2014, I served as Mayor. In my capacity as a City Council member, I sit on, serve on, or have been appointed to various city, county, and regional boards and commissions, including: Board of Directors of Santa Cruz METRO Transit District; Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown also appointed me to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, whose jurisdiction covers 9 counties.
By day, I am a college professor. I began my teaching career at Cabrillo College as an adjunct faculty professor. Currently, I am a college educator at Cal State University, Monterey Bay. I went to Porterville High School, and continued on to U.C. Santa Cruz for my B.A. in Psychology. I then continued at U.C. Santa Cruz to complete my M.S. in Psychology and currently, I am finishing my Ph.D in Psychology at U.C. Santa Cruz.
Prior to running for elected office, I served on the Watsonville Planning Commission, the Watsonville Parks and Recreation Commission, the Santa Cruz County Girls Task Force, and as the co-chair of the Santa Cruz County Immigration Action Group. Previously, I also worked with the Community Action Board’s Youth Community Restoration Project (YCORP), where I assisted directly with youth transitioning from juvenile hall back into the community and helped to develop youth leadership and mentorship programs, including Girlzpace, an after-school program working with young women.
BenitoLink: What are a couple things you hope to accomplish this term?
Alejo: During my time in the Assembly, I will continue to champion access to a quality education for all of our students, continue to strengthen our economy, and ensuring access to clean drinking water for all Californians.
Education: As a college educator, I see first-hand the challenges of my students. Many of them have to work multiple jobs to pay for increasing costs and tuition at our local colleges and universities. I will work to lessen the burden of debt for our student and families. I will also advocate for greater funding for our K-12 schools so that they can prepare more of our students for college.
Economic Development: Our economy depends on three critical components: an educated workforce, investment in our infrastructure such as our roads and highways, and addressing our housing needs so that people can live where they work. If we can address our needs in these areas, we can attract better paying jobs to our region.
Clean Drinking Water: The drought has resulted in our state needing to be that much more innovative in how we conserve and plan for our future water needs. Proposition 1 was passed by voters in 2014, there is a significant amount of money ready for multi-use and multi-benefit projects. I will work to ensure we draw down those resources to expand our water storage and water recycling facilities.
Caballero: I hope to dramatically expand access to early childhood education without taking existing resources away from the school systems. This is critical to breaking the cycle of youth violence by helping our kids enter school with the tools that they need to succeed. I also hope to create opportunities for our communities to build affordable housing for veterans, the disabled, seniors and working families without seeing that housing snatched up by commuters from the Silicon Valley. By the same token, I want to create opportunities for the Silicon Valley to build housing to meet their workforce needs, as well.
BenitoLink: Why are you a better choice than your opponent?
Caballero: Ultimately, that is up to the voters to decide, but I believe that they have good tools to judge me by. I have spent the last 30 plus years on the Central Coast working in government and as a small business woman, on the needs of working families and our communities. Experience that counts. That record speaks for itself.
Alejo: Public Safety: During my time on the Watsonville City Council, I have been successful with the passage of Measure G, allowing us to hire more police, fire, and invest in prevention programs for youth.
Economic Development: I have worked with the California League of Cities to advocate for critical tools for local municipalities to replace the loss of redevelopment agencies. AB-2 was a successful effort for our city and region. And year after year, during my time on the council we continue to strengthen our reserves and have a healthier budget to expand services to our residents.
I have the opportunity to serve our district in the long-term. Our region deserves a champion in Sacramento that can work to bring the necessary resources to our region. This requires showing up, and working through the legislative process. This cannot be accomplished by my opponent who would be termed-out on her first day. Our district will benefit from my energy and solutions-focused leadership.
For more information about the candidates, visit their websites: