Opinion: There are 34 people running for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat. Here are most, in all their glory


Sen. Barbara Boxer’s decision to retire has given California its first open U.S. Senate seat in more than two decades. Apparently there are a lot of politicians and wannabe-politicians who've been waiting in the wings. Some 34 candidates want to replace her – giving voters the longest list of contenders in a single race since 135 people ran in the special election to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

So who are all these men and women who think they should be one of two people elected to the U.S. Senate representing the most populous, most economically significant and, dare we say, most important state in the nation? And how did they end up on the ballot?

California’s top-two primary allows virtually anybody to get on the June ballot. Candidates have to pay the $3,480 filing fee or submit 10,000  valid signatures – no political party nomination required. That helps explains the size of the field and the eclectic mix of candidates.

The Times Editorial Board attempted to talk to and research the candidates. As part of the board’s endorsement process, we reached candidates who listed a phone number or email address with the secretary of state’s office. Of those, 21 accepted our invitation for an interview, either in person or by phone.  

Most of the candidates we spoke with have never run for nor held public office before. Few thought they have a serious shot at becoming California’s next senator, but they saw the race as an opportunity to get publicity for themselves or an issue they care about. Some wanted to rail against the political establishment and bring some common sense from the common man to D.C. Almost all were surprised and disappointed that they have to share the ballot with 33 other people. 

Here’s a brief introduction to the candidates we met:

Tim Gildersleeve, paratransit operator
No party preference

Top Priorities:

  1. Advocate for the poor, elderly and disabled, including increasing Section 8 funding and protecting Medicare and Social Security.
  2. Bridge the ideological divide in the Senate.
  3. Address income inequality by passing legislation to make it easier for workers to organize and join a union.

Von Hougo, teacher

Top priorities:

  1. Develop a website/app that would provide Californians with real-time analysis and cost information on pending legislation and let them “vote” on the bills. That information would be shared with elected officials.
  2. Embrace alternative fuels.
  3. Streamline regulations on business.

Jason Kraus, businessman and author
No party preference

Top priorities:

  1. Eliminate taxes on any behavior the government wants to encourage, including income tax.
  2. Immigration reform with a long path to citizenship for individuals who work and have no criminal convictions.
  3. Create jobs. Become president.

Mike Beitiks, stay-at-home dad/attorney
No party preference

Top priorities:

  1. Climate change, climate change, climate change.
  2. Defend the Clean Power Plan program and work to ban fracking.
  3. Advocate for a carbon tax.

Jarrell Williamson, healthcare lawyer

Top priorities:

  1. Look for ways to shrink the federal budget.
  2. Support the 2nd Amendment and reduce government regulations on gun ownership.
  3. Balance the need for fiscal restraint with the desire of Californians for federal “pork barrel” spending.

Kamala Harris, attorney general of California

Top priorities:

  1. Advocate for laws and policies to fight climate change.
  2. Push for comprehensive immigration reform and demonstrate the positive economic impact of immigrants.
  3. Push the federal government to do a better job collecting and using data to inform decision making on public safety, health, education and other policies.

Tom Del Beccaro, attorney/former chairman of the California GOP

Top priorities:

  1. Enact a flat tax for businesses and individuals.
  2. Oppose using state bonds to build high speed rail.
  3. Address California’s water crisis by investing in water infrastructure, including reservoirs, recycled water and stormwater capture.

Duf Sundheim, mediator/former chairman of the California GOP

Top Priorities:

  1. Boost the economy with helping small community banks, streamline regulations and lower the marginal tax rate.
  2. Comprehensive immigration reform with a long path (at least 10 years) to citizenship.
  3. Address California’s water crisis with more storage, desalination, recycled water and the development of markets where farmers can sell unused water rights.

Gar Myers, international development promoter
No party preference

Top priorities:

  1. “Restore California to the U.S. Constitution.”
  2. Reform the criminal justice system.
  3. Generous tax cuts.

Emory Rodgers, property manager

Top priorities:

  1. Address income inequality by reducing tax loopholes for wealthy individuals and corporations.
  2. Reduce homelessness and hunger.
  3. End the war on drugs.

Loretta Sanchez, congresswoman.

Top priorities

  1. Immigration reform, including temporary programs that allow the undocumented to work and stay until a pathway to citizenship is developed.
  2. Boost the economy with workforce development and cuts to small business regulations.
  3. Address California’s water crisis with federal investments in water infrastructure, including water storage (dams and underground storage) and conveyance and recycled water.

Ling Ling Shi, author
No party preference

Top priorities:

  1. Bring about a spiritual revival through economic revival.
  2. Reform the banking and finance system, and simplify the tax system.
  3. Redirect government spending to healthcare and education.

Clive Grey, woodworker/businessman/entrepreneur
No party preference.

Top priorities:

  1. Set up a website so the public can get information and give input on legislation.
  2. Reform the prison system so inmates leave with education and life skills.
  3. Address voter apathy and get people to vote.

Tom Palzer, retired urban planner

Top priorities:

  1. Support a strong national defense.
  2. Support an anti-terrorism agenda, including using Special Forces and airstrikes to wipe out terrorist organizations.
  3. Boost the economy by simplifying the tax code, decreasing the corporate tax and developing WPA-like programs to create jobs.

Karen Roseberry, teacher

Top priorities:

  1. Cut "unconstitutional spending" and enact zero-based budgeting.
  2. Limit federal influence over education and bring decisions back to the local level.
  3. Advocate for a “more realistic world view” of our foreign allies and enemies.

George C. Yang, Internet start-up CEO

Top priorities:

  1. Improve government using technology, such as empowering teachers to create curriculum and education apps for their classrooms that can also be sold for profit.
  2. Litigation reform to reduce expenses on small businesses.
  3. Taxation reform, and using tax policy to encourage employers to pay higher wages to people who qualify for welfare.

Pamela Elizondo, environmental healing consultant
Green Party

Top priorities:

  1. Legalize marijuana and grow it everywhere.
  2. Use marijuana to cure the nation’s biggest problems, including unemployment, climate change and healthcare.
  3. Stop putting people in prison for marijuana-related crimes.

Paul Merritt, self-employed/investigator
No party preference

Top priorities:

  1. Crack down on government corruption.
  2. Environmental protection, including cutting air and water pollution and plastic garbage in the ocean.
  3. Maintain a strong national defense.

Don Grundmann, chiropractic doctor/chairman of the Constitutional Party in California.
No party preference

Top priorities:

  1. Believes the LGBT movement is a long-term threat to the nation.
  2. Believes that Planned Parenthood “has killed black citizens by the millions.”
  3. Would fight climate change regulation and carbon taxes because “global warming is a farce.”

Ron Unz, entrepreneur/writer/publisher

Top priorities:

  1. Increase the federal minimum wage.
  2. Advocate for a foreign policy that is less interventionist and more skeptical of military force.
  3. Reform immigration cutting by raising the minimum wage high enough that American workers will take the jobs that migrants usually do, and by reducing legal immigration.

Phil Wyman, attorney, businessman, rancher, former assemblyman

Top priorities:

  1. Address California’s water crisis as broader regional issue in the west and look at importing water from the Mississippi River.
  2. Protect entrepreneurial investment and innovation by tort reform and training more lawyers to work on patents.
  3. Encourage the development of more aerospace jobs.

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