California Elections

Voter guide for California Assembly District 1 special election primary: Who’s running?

Just a couple of months after voters in much of California’s northeastern corner were asked to select a new state senator, new ballots and information guides are being sent out, this time for the Aug. 27 special primary election for state Assembly District 1.

Five candidates are vying for the seat vacated by former Assemblyman Brian Dahle, who won the District 1 state Senate seat in June. Dahle, a Republican, had represented the district in the Assembly since 2012.

Among the five candidates on the ballot: one Democrat, Elizabeth Betancourt; and four Republicans, Megan Dahle, Patrick Henry Jones, Lane Rickard and Joe Turner.

The district – which spans the eastern edge of the state from Lake Tahoe to the Oregon border — is widely considered a conservative stronghold.

The candidates

Betancourt, a Shasta County resident, is a local farmer and small business owner who has spent nearly 20 years of her career in resource management and water policy in rural areas. She previously served as director of the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District Board, and on the Community Development Advisory Committee for the city of Redding.

Betancourt said she would advocate for increased investment in forest management training and employment, improved health care resources in rural areas such as traveling mental health care services, and more K-12 education options in the district.

“Being a member of the majority party would allow me to more effectively negotiate relationships I’ve built,” Betancourt said. “My constituency shouldn’t be represented by a party but by somebody who understands the issues and votes in our best interest.”

Dahle, a Bieber resident, is running for the seat vacated by her husband, Brian Dahle. A local dry land wheat farmer and small business owner, she was previously the co-owner of Big Valley Nursery in Bieber and former president of the Big Valley Joint Unified School Board.

Dahle said she has spent the last seven years traveling across the north state with her husband, hearing the challenges of the district and building relationships with state stakeholders. She said she would seek more state money going toward local fire councils to reduce vegetation, improve public safety by partnering with local county sheriffs, and increase education investment.

“I have those relationships and frankly, I’ve watched Brian do it,” Dahle said of working in a Legislature with Democratic supermajorities. “When people like you as a person and you’re respectful to them, you can get a lot more done than throwing bombs and fighting.”

Jones, a Redding resident, has worked at a family-owned gun shop for 40 years and is a former Redding mayor and City Council member.

Jones said that unfunded pensions is “one of the biggest issues for counties” in California, and believes that because there is support among both Democrats and Republicans on the issue, he can help fully fund them. He also advocates for thinning forests to reduce wildfire risk and improve local watersheds, and for protecting Second Amendment rights.

“We know in the Assembly that you can’t pass any bill without bipartisan support, but there is a time to do it (and) a time to not give in compromise,” Jones said. Residents “want someone to fight for them for what is important for each county.”

Rickard, a Shasta County resident, worked as a field representative for former state Sen. Ted Gaines’ District 1 office in Redding. He also was a campaign intern for former Redding Mayor Brent Weaver, and is a member of the Wintu tribe.

Rickard said he would push for more funding for police officers and local jails, creating statewide mental health programs to address homelessness, and establishing fire prevention strategies for cities similar to Paradise, which was mostly destroyed last year during the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history.

“I’ve seen what it takes to be a legislator and it requires the presence of a legislator who will be active in the community on a full-time basis,” said Rickard, who at 24 is also the youngest candidate running. “California is simply too large for a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Turner, a Lassen County resident, is a medically retired soldier who served 17 years in the California Army National Guard. He is also the former chairman of the Lassen County Republican Party.

He said he would advocate for strengthening the timber industry to help address wildfire risk, while also using new revenue from reducing trees to go toward unfunded liabilities. He also said that as assemblyman, he would try to sign on as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state filed by gun advocates last month against a new ammunition law requiring background checks.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t want to leave (but with) increasing taxes and cost of living and the horrible lack of representation, I say that California is an oligarchy not a republic,” Turner said. “There’s no reason we should be putting up with California infringing on our rights.”

How to vote

When is the special general election?

California’s “top-two” system means the two candidates who get the most votes, regardless of their partisan affiliations, advance to the general election.

The special general election is set for Nov. 5.

However, if a candidate in the special primary election wins more than 50 percent of the vote, that person is declared the winner and a special general election is not held.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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