Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Laird eyes state Senate run


John Laird is eyeing a state Senate seat.
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Former openly gay state Assemblyman John Laird is eyeing a run for state Senate should the governor tap Republican Senator Abel Maldonado for the vacant lieutenant governor post.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is widely expected to pick Maldonado, with an announcement imminent, after the resignation of John Garamendi, who won a vacant East Bay congressional seat in last week's general election and was sworn in November 5.

Laird, a Santa Cruz Democrat, currently lives just outside Maldonado's 15th Senate District, so he would have to move in order to enter the special election. But his Assembly district overlapped with the Senate district, which runs along the central coast covering parts of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties.

"It would be a small move for me to move just outside the city limits out of Santa Cruz to one of the areas in the district. It is something I would consider if there is a vacancy; so that's the story," said Laird in response to questions from the Bay Area Reporter . "I represented probably as much of Maldonado's district as any other senator I overlapped with in the Assembly."

Laird became the first of two out gay men to serve in the Assembly when both he and Mark Leno won their races in 2002. But unlike Leno, who successfully ousted from office former lesbian state Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) last year, thus avoiding being termed out of office, Laird opted not to run against Democratic Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), in whose 11th Senate District he resides.

After being termed-out last November, Laird was given a seat on the state's Integrated Waste Management Board. Considered a plum assignment for former lawmakers, the waste board is being dissolved later this year, a symbolic cost-cutting move by Schwarzenegger.

Laird will join the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz in January, where he has been hired to teach a course on environmental policy. A former Santa Cruz mayor, he repeatedly has said since leaving Sacramento that he would seek a return to public office if the opportunity arose.

Democrats have long eyed returning the 15th Senate District to their column, getting them one vote closer to having a two-thirds majority and ending their need to find Republican support to pass state budgets. Last fall President Barack Obama captured the district with 58 percent of the vote.

Clark Williams, northern vice-chair of the LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party, said Laird could easily capture the seat should he enter the race. He said Laird was seen as a regional leader who pushed issues important to district residents, from budget and water concerns to state parks funding and agriculture.

"Everybody down here in that district knows John Laird," said Williams. "When John Laird was serving in the state Assembly, he was one of the most effective state legislators we have seen. Having him back in Sacramento would reap huge benefits for the people of the state."

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