Government / Politics

Election 2020: 30th Assembly District

Incumbent Robert Rivas and challenger Gregory Swett face off Nov. 3.

Watch candidates for 30th Assembly District answer questions from the BenitoLink 2020 Virtual Election Forum.

On Nov. 3, voters will elect an assemblyman to represent District 30, which encompasses the cities of Greenfield, Gonzales, King City, Salinas, and Soledad in Monterey County; Hollister and San Juan Bautista in San Benito County; Gilroy and Morgan Hill in Santa Clara County; and Watsonville in Santa Cruz County.

 

Incumbent Robert Rivas is a freshman assemblyman elected in 2018. He received 74,707 votes, representing 67% of the votes cast. He previously had been on the staff of Assemblymembers Simon Salinas and Anna Caballero, and served on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.

Rivas grew up in San Benito County, where he resides with his wife and daughter. He was raised in farmworker housing by his single mother and grandparents. His grandfather was an immigrant from Mexico and Rivas credits him as a major influence in his life.

Several bills that Rivas authored or co-authored aimed at assisting the farmworker community during the COVID-19 pandemic have been passed by the legislature and are expected to be signed by the governor.

State Assemblyman Robert Rivas. Photo provided by the office of Robert Rivas.
State Assemblyman Robert Rivas. Photo provided by the office of Robert Rivas.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for Assembly?

RIVAS: I am running for re-election to the Assembly so I can continue working to solve the important issues facing our community, and so I can continue serving as an advocate for every constituent. During this past term, I was proud to win passage of the Farmworker Housing Act of 2019, a bill I authored that will help build safe and affordable housing for these vulnerable essential workers. I wrote and won the passage of other bills that expanded telehealth services for rural and community health centers, and that provided essential safety protections for agricultural workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we see the increasing effects of climate change, I will continue to stand up for environmental protections that safeguard our air and water. We must keep fighting to expand broadband access, invest in roads and other infrastructure, and work to make sure every resident has access to decent and affordable housing.

What issues are most important to your district?

Housing: The impact of the housing crisis on Californians cannot be overstated. I will continue to introduce and support legislation that will build the housing that is so desperately needed in our community. I worked to address this in my first year with the passage of the Farmworker Housing Act of 2019, and I continued my strong support for housing production legislation and tenant protections in the most recent session.

Education: California’s future success depends on students being prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow. That is why I will continue to support fully funding all levels of education and investing in teacher training. This pandemic has widened the digital divide, and much more must be done to increase broadband connectivity so that all students are able to participate in distance learning. I introduced legislation at the beginning of the year that would increase rural broadband access. Although we were not able to pass the legislation this year, I will take up this fight again if I am reelected. Students and teachers in District 30 are counting on us to make sure they can learn, no matter where they live.

Environment: California leads our nation in protecting the natural environment, but I know we can do more. In my first year in the Assembly, I was proud to pass AB 936, legislation that expands protections for our ocean and coasts in case of a spill of non-floating oils. With the climate crisis in mind, I fought hard for AB 2954 this year, a bill that would establish an overall climate goal for California’s natural and working lands. I will continue to champion legislation that addresses the very real threat of our climate crisis. The recent wildfires across our state have shown us the risks of inaction.

Are there issues you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?

I am proud to represent a district that is engaged and informed. In every part of our district, there are individuals and community groups working to address problems and advocate for their needs with my office. I could not do what I do without the involvement of so many engaged citizens from around the district. This past year, I was pleased to introduce a bill that came from a constituent, AB 3153, which would encourage more people to bicycle or car-share to work. I am always looking for new ideas from my constituents.

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

Traffic and congestion are a challenge throughout the district. Solving our traffic and congestion problems will require close collaboration between the community, local leaders, and policymakers in Sacramento. There is a lot left to be done on this issue and it is an area where I hope to make substantial progress if I am reelected.

How do you plan to address those issues?

We need to bring all stakeholders to the table to ensure that solutions are well thought out, practical, and can be implemented in a reasonable amount of time. I have advocated for legislation that would direct funds toward improving our local infrastructure. I will continue to be a strong advocate for repairing and expanding our rural roadways, which are essential for the transport of locally grown produce and other goods.

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

It is very important to me to be available and accessible to my constituents, no matter where they live in the district. Throughout my first two years in office, I have held community meetings on important issues. This has been an invaluable way to meet and hear from constituents, and I plan to continue as soon as it is safe to do so. Besides our district office, we have set up satellite offices where my staff holds weekly open hours to ensure residents have a nearby location to visit. We communicate regularly with the district through emails and on social media. We pride ourselves on constituent services, and we produce yearly guides to help constituents navigate state services. This year I was especially proud of an expanded guide to senior resources our office created for residents in our district. Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, our office once again held our summertime Youth and Leadership Program that included students from throughout our district. In addition, our office can always be contacted by phone, email, or our website for constituents who want to get more information on legislation, make their opinion heard, or get help with services.

What is the role of state government?

The California Legislature has a responsibility to pass a balanced budget that addresses the diverse needs of a diverse state home to 40 million people. The Legislature conducts oversight over state regulatory agencies to ensure that regulations put in place work as intended. Most importantly, the Legislature works to address the most pressing issues facing California: housing and homelessness, education, healthcare, the environment, strengthening the economy, transportation and infrastructure, and now dealing with the many challenges posed by COVID-19.

 

Gregory Swett served as board president of Willow Grove School District for six years and has been a walnut farmer in Hollister for 30 years. He served on the San Benito County Farm Bureau as president and treasurer, and was director of operations for the Farm Labor Association.

Swett worked for a major airline in a variety of management and non-management positions, as well as for a specialized demand printer manufacturer. He has primarily lived in San Benito County his entire life, concurrently with Berkeley, Los Altos, Kansas City, Missouri, New York City and Long Island, New York, and Houston, Texas. He is married, with no children.

Swett believes his experience with the Farm Labor Association will directly relate to the needs of the citizens of the 30th District, citing his experience building farmworker housing and running a farming business.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Swett.
Photo courtesy of Gregory Swett.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running for Assembly?

SWETT: We are the highest taxed state with some of the worst outcomes. We do not spend our money effectively. Best case in point is Caltrans desire to spend $12 million on 784 feet of Hwy 25 south of the Pinnacles that will not achieve anything. A great example of how you get to a $204 billion budget with really poor outcomes.

What issues are most important to your district?

Education, housing and transportation.

Are there issues you feel are important to your district that the public may not know about?

Essentially how the bureaucracy is really failing them. Caltrans District 5 does not want to work together and our local politicians and COG cannot get their act together. My opponent has had 10 years to achieve change and has not in this transportation area. Another is our high taxes and the price of fuels compared to other states creates economic stress and diminishes the quality of life. This is supported by the out-migration of Californians.  

What obstacles and challenges does the district face?

At the local agricultural level, adequate housing. Improving our schools and their outcomes.  

How do you plan to address those issues?

Regulations do not create housing. The state and counties have to realize the rules for market-rate housing and local worker housing are two different situations. A major balancing act is required to get industry involved to benefit our local workforce. Our agricultural workforce is subject to worldwide market rates while our tech workers reap the benefits of monopoly advertising control. On education, providing the proper resources is paramount but also competition in the form of alternative schools. The families of our district can be helped by HHS, especially if they are integrated with the schools.  

How do you intend to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents you’d represent?

I would like to say through the press but the role of the press has been greatly diminished. BenitoLink reaches some in San Benito County and along with its counterparts in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara Counties. Social media is an option but more incendiary rather than informative if not handled correctly. Essentially actually getting projects moving will provide some publicity. And if COVID ever ends, actually getting out into the community with other elected officials and community organizations.  

What is the role of state government?

Provide services and direction to improve the lives of the citizens of California.

 

BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is working around the clock during this time when accurate information is essential. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s news.

Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.