McGuire faces newcomer Gene Yoon in re-election bid
Written by Marc Albert
In the November 8th election, longtime incumbent and highly favored Democrat Mike McGuire faces Republican newcomer Gene Yoon to represent the sprawling 2nd state Senate district, stretching along the coast from the Golden Gate to the Oregon line.
Atypical of Republican office-seekers, Yoon was once on the other side, canvassing for Elizabeth Warren's presidential bid.
An attorney and tech executive, Yoon said despite his lack of political experience, he's very much ready for office.
"I've had that kind of responsibility before in several different job circumstances. I'm very familiar with high stakes, high, high dollar amount decisions, in no way in any way do I feel there's any thing about this on it's face that is not just like a job that I can do, like all the other jobs I've done."
While says he holds no animus for McGuire, he says the need for change is obvious.
"Results speak for themselves. I've seen so many critical issues about California have gotten worse. You can take anything from homelessness issues, wildfire, water issues, energy issues. Every one of those issues has gotten worse over the last twenty years. If we can't say that there's something wrong here, well, then we're just engaging in willful blindness."
McGuire, counters that he has delivered.
"We've been able to secure millions of dollars to be able to make our communities more fire safe, we've led the legislature on staffing up Cal Fire, that's been a massive priority to invest in fire prevention and response, we're upgrading the entire state 911 system, we're modernizing our emergency alert system."
McGuire, who also named homelessness a top issue, said it's been a growing crisis for decades.
"We didn't get here overnight. Our homelessness crisis actually started when then Republican governor Ronald Regan dismantled our mental health system, and we saw dramatic decreases in housing investments from the feds and the state government."
But he senses we're turning a corner.
"I think you're going to see residents coming off of the streets, into permanent homes in the next 24 to 30 months, unlike previous plans, this plan is funded. We are going to build tens of thousands of units. We're building them right now," McGuire said.
Both also cited education, a concern around the state. McGuire praises state government for turning things around, at least as far as funding is concerned.
"When I was first elected to the state senate we've gone from dead last in the nation in per-pupil spending, we're now in the top twenty, we'll be in the top ten in the coming few years."
Much of the increase, however, originated with voter-approved Proposition 98 setting a minimum funding limit.
Education is also one of Yoon's top issues. He says schools could help combat divisive and hate filled rhetoric common to American politics today by restoring civics courses.
"This is not about some kind of culture war issue, this is not about screaming about whatnot to teach our children, I don't believe in banning knowledge. But, I do believe we have not done enough to teach our children how to run a good civic society, what our responsibilities are as citizens what our obligations are."
Yoon, who came in a distant second in June's primary, says he put outside fundraising on hold, saying he couldn't in good conscience ask for donations knowing his odds are dim.
"No candidate makes up fifty points between the primary and the general election. As a first time politician, I probably don't know the rules of this game. I'm supposed to say some, you know, talk about how it's possible to overcome that gap. I don't believe it is."
While he didn't call it corrupt or dysfunctional, Yoon said companies seeking contracts with state agencies seem to contribute heavily to political campaigns---something he wants stopped.
"I might be naïve here, but I'm just so surprised that people who are seeking to do business with the government are allowed to simply contribute to state legislative campaigns and get what they want by buying the decision makers. To me, that is a core issue that we've got to resolve," he said.
Environmental concerns and climate change are big issues for McGuire, he says he takes both seriously and is making progress on.
"We're building more clean energy power plants which will help shore up our grid at a faster pace, we've established enhanced setbacks from oil wells to protect vulnerable neighborhoods and schools and hospitals," he said.
While housing costs and availability remain in crisis--something both acknowledge, McGuire said he is proud of recent legislative moves to slash some local oversight and jurisdiction that has been used to torpedo housing construction.
"I can't talk about what's happened in the past, but what I can talk about is now. It's time to cut the crap, cut the bureaucratic red tape, and let's tackle these challenges with innovative solutions."
Voting is already underway in Sonoma County, with ballots being returned by mail. Seven vote centers open Saturday, and two dozen more on November fifth.
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