With a deep background in government Gregg Hart, 2nd District County Supervisor, has thrown his hat in the ring for the 37th Assembly District seat after redistricting left a wide-open field.
There will not be an incumbent to face in the race, since the California Citizens Redistricting Commission pushed the district north through Santa Barbara County and into San Luis Obispo County while chopping out the parts of Ventura County it previously included.
That pushed the current assemblyman, Democrat and Ventura resident Steve Bennett, out of the chance to seek reelection.
But the change in boundaries also didn’t extend the district far enough north to pull in Republican Jordan Cunningham, who previously represented the northern portion of Santa Barbara County through the 35th District.
Hart wasted no time announcing his intent to seek the seat.
Hart’s interest in serving in the state Legislature can be traced back to the early 1980s when he worked on Jack O’Connell’s successful bid for the 35th Assembly District seat.
He said he admired O’Connell’s style of accessibility and incorporated that into his own public service efforts on the Santa Barbara Planning Commission, as a member of the City Council from 1986 to 1994 and the Coastal Commission during the last four of those years.
He later retired as deputy executive director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and then was elected county supervisor.
“Steve Bennett was doing a good job, but when the new Assembly district left him out, I thought maybe this was the time for me to run,” Hart said, noting his experience will give him “a unique voice” in the Assembly.
“The issues I deal with on a daily basis at the Board of Supervisors … are paralleled in the state Legislature,” he said. “The defining relationship between the county and the state is money, and being in the room [at the Assembly] will allow me to support the work my colleagues and others are doing here in the county.”
Some of the issues Hart listed are the COVID-19 pandemic, demographic issues, education, affordable housing and the economy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the state hard in many ways, and the only way out of this is to work together and be respectful,” he said. “We need to get the economy going, and we need to support business.
“With a $31 billion surplus, we’re in a position to provide a stable source of funding for counties. … I just want to be helping deliver resources.”
Hart said his accomplishments with the Board of Supervisors have included funding preservation of open space, improving mental health services with the co-response teams, making a tremendous investment in homeless services and actively partnering with businesses during the pandemic.“
These issues don’t get finished,” he said. “It is a constant effort to provide what people need to support themselves.”