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Elections

Santa Cruz City Council

Vote for four.

Sandy Brown

Occupation: University Instructor/Council Member

Relevant Experience:

  • Current City Councilmember
  • Community-Labor Organizer, Community Action Board
  • Instructor, San Jose State University

Personal Information:

  • Santa Cruz resident for 30 years
  • Former UC Santa Cruz student

Website: https://sandybrownforcitycouncil.com/

Social Media:

Sandy Brown has spent the past four years on the Santa Cruz City Council. She is also an instructor at San Jose State University and has taught subjects such as Geography, Public Affairs and American Studies. She also spent about ten years working as a Community-Labor Organizer with the Community Action Board Monterey Bay Central Labor Council.

In her time on the city council, Brown said she has focused on policies to increase the number of affordable housing units in new developments, renter protections, living wage jobs and supportive services for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Going forward, she plans to focus on an equitable recovery from COVID-19, affordable housing, rethinking the city's approach to policing and environmental justice if elected.

Brown holds a PhD in Geography from UC Berkeley, and she said her research on farm labor took her from the strawberry fields of California to cooperative banana farms and plantations in Central and South America.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Sonja Brunner

Occupation: Downtown Community Operations Director

Relevant Experience:

  • Commissioner and Board Chair, Housing Authority of Santa Cruz County
  • Member, City of Santa Cruz Downtown Improvement Task Force
  • Citizen Academy participant, Santa Cruz Police Department

Personal Information:

  • Age: 50
  • Bilingual
  • Cabrillo College graduate
  • Santa Cruz resident for 28 years
  • Single mother of one son

Website: https://www.sonjabrunner.org/

Social Media:

Brunner said she believes that her work on the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz and the Housing Authority of Santa Cruz qualify her for the position of Santa Cruz City Council member. She has been a citizen academy participant for both the Santa Cruz Regional 911 Dispatch Center and the Santa Cruz Police Department.

Some of Brunner's top priorities include housing and economic recovery. If elected, she hopes to work to get part of California's $4 billion in affordable housing funds and work towards equal rights and social justice.

Brunner graduated from Cabrillo College with a degree in Liberal Studies.

See her full candidate statement here.

Kelsey Hill

Occupation: Media/Intern Directive

Relevant Experience:

  • Social Media Specialist/Intern Director, Romero Institute
  • Editor, City on a Hill Press

Personal Information:

  • Southern California Native
  • Current Santa Cruz resident

Website: https://kelseyhill4council.com/

Social Media:

Hill has spent four years at the Romero Institute. Initially, she was a social media specialist, but now she is an intern director. During her time at UC Santa Cruz, she was the editor of the student-run newspaper City on a Hill Press. She was involved with Indigenous communities opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, and she has also been involved in Santa Cruz for Bernie, the climate strike and efforts for housing justice.

Some of Hill's top priorities include recovery from COVID-19, affordable housing, climate solutions and community justice. She said her time struggling with housing insecurity during the 2008 recession especially attuned her to some of the issues. If elected, she hopes to prioritize actions to lower carbon emissions, adapt to a changing landscape and center communities most affected by climate change. She also hopes to pursue policies favoring social justice and reexamining what constitutes community safety.

Hill holds a degree in History from UC Santa Cruz.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Maria Cadenas

Occupation: Economic Opportunity Director

Relevant Experience:

  • Founder, UndocuFund Monterey Bay
  • Associate Director, ACLU of Wisconsin
  • Executive Director, Cream City Foundation

Personal Information:

  • Age: 42
  • Santa Cruz resident of nearly 10 years
  • Single mother
  • Immigrant

Website: https://www.votemaria2020.org/

Social Media:

Cadenas said she currently works as the Executive Director for Santa Cruz Community Ventures. She said she also founded UndocuFund Monterey Bay, which helps support undocumented workers affected by the pandemic, and helped Santa Cruz Community Ventures launch Santa Cruz SEEDS, which created a college savings account program for newborns in the county. As the Associate Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Cadenas said she fought against 9/11 racial backlash and supported Muslim and Latino Communities.

She said her vision for Santa Cruz's future includes thriving locally-owned businesses, affordable housing, living wage jobs and strong public transit. Cadenas said she will work with local, state and federal governments to bring resources to the area.

Cadenas said she holds an MBA from Alverno College and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Beloit College with Bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Creative Writing.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Elizabeth Conlan

Occupation: Scientist

Relevant Experience:

  • Researcher, Driscoll's
  • Volunteer, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County
  • Studied agricultural practices in Papua New Guinea

Personal Information:

  • Age: 32
  • Originally from Arlington, VA
  • Santa Cruz resident

Website: https://www.conlanforcouncil.com/

Social Media:

Conlan said she came to Santa Cruz through her job as a scientific researcher at Driscoll's in Watsonville. She said she is also a leader of Santa Cruz Yes in my Back Yard and a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County.

She said she wants to focus on housing, which she believes is the most urgent issue the city is facing. If elected, she said she will fight for new housing for all income levels, an outreach-focused approach to homelessness and safer streets. Conlan said she believes housing is also central to addressing income and racial inequality, homelessness and climate change.

Conlan holds a Master's in Horticultural Sciences from the University of Florida and a Bachelor's in International Agricultural and Rural Development from Cornell University.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson

Occupation: Nonprofit Strategic Manager

Relevant Experience:

  • Grant Writer
  • Project Manager
  • Co-founder, Impact Launch

Personal Information:

  • Age: 42
  • Originally from northern Iran
  • Two sons: Darioush and Syon

Website: https://www.shebreh.org/

Social Media:

Kalantari-Johnson said she has secured more than $30 million in grant funding over the last 15 years to address immigration rights, mental health, substance use and youth homelessness in Santa Cruz. She also worked as a Leadership Practitioner Coach through the Radical Transformational Leadership framework and co-founded Impact Launch. To support young adults experiencing homelessness, she said she co-led an emergency response team to find them a safe space to shelter in place.

She said she hopes to bring in funds and form partnerships to address issues such as immigration rights, juvenile justice, youth homelessness and substance abuse prevention if elected. She said she will commit to economic recovery, affordable housing, community wellness and social equity.

She holds a Master's in Social Work from San Jose State and Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and French from UC Santa Cruz.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Alicia Kuhl

Occupation: Case Manager

Relevant Experience:

  • Case manager
  • President, Santa Cruz Chapter of the California Homeless Union

Personal Information:

  • Age: 41
  • Three children

Social Media:

Kuhl said she currently works as a case manager and as President of the Santa Cruz Chapter of the California Homeless Union.

One of her main priorities if elected is addressing the issue of homelessness in Santa Cruz. She said she hopes to work with the community to support housing, mental health and substance abuse rehabilitation. Kuhl says she will work to preserve the beauty of Santa Cruz and make it an affordable city so families can thrive.

KION has reached out to Kuhl for more information and is waiting for a response.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Kayla Kumar

Occupation: Development Director

Relevant Experience:

  • Developmental Director, "Food, What?!"
  • Board Member, Santa Cruz Community Ventures
  • Board Member, Salud Para La Gente
  • Member, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission of Santa Cruz

Personal Information:

  • Age: 31
  • Originally from Fremont

Website: https://www.kumarforcouncil.com/

Social Media:

Kumar said her first job in Santa Cruz was at Barrios Unidos, and in that capacity, she said she was involved in national research projects on decarceration, restorative healing in state prisons and reentry efforts in Juvenile Hall. She currently works as the Development Director of "Food, What?!" and has worked to launch a crisis assistance fund for local youth and their families in need of financial help.

If elected, Kumar said she hopes to bring marginalized groups front and center and identify pathways away from youth incarceration in Santa Cruz. Kumar said she believes leaders must develop a model of public safety that does not rely on police to respond to mental health crises, poverty, lack of housing, trauma and other social problems. She said she also supports the Tenant Opportunities to Purchase Act and the prioritization of alternative modes of transportation.

Kumar holds a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from Saint Joseph's University and a Master's degree in Applied Economics from San Jose State. She has also taken classes at Cabrillo College.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Martine Watkins

Occupation: Councilmember/Educational Coordinator

Relevant Experience:

  • Current Santa Cruz Councilmember
  • Former mayor

Personal Information:

  • Age: 40
  • Husband: Brandon
  • Two daughters
  • Grew up in Santa Cruz

Website: https://www.martinewatkins.com/

Social Media:

Watkins, a Santa Cruz local, currently serves as a councilmember and was previously the mayor. While on the City Council, she said she has served on several committees that include: the Santa Cruz Housing Blueprint Recommendations, the 2x2 Homelessness City/County Coordination Committee, the City/City Schools Committee, the Community Programs Committee and the Health in All Policies Committee. While serving as mayor, she said she co-sponsored a resolution to formal adoption that supports the rights of cities and efforts to mitigate damage from climate change and protect taxpayers from related costs.

If re-elected, Watkins said she hopes to build on what she has already done and prioritize identifying and interrupting systemic inequalities, investing in a green economy and climate change solutions, supporting local businesses as they recover from COVID-19, support affordable housing, address homelessness, increase access to childcare and create a safe and inclusive environment.

Watkins holds a Bachelor's degree in Legal Studies from UC Santa Cruz and a Master's in Public Policy from CSU Monterey Bay.

Read her full candidate statement here.

Local Politics / Politics / Voter Guide Santa Cruz County

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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