By Gillian Moran, contributing reporter
A labor union activist, a public relations expert and a preschool educator are competing in the June 7, 2022 primary contest for the open 40th Assembly District seat which represents the Northwest San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita area.
Assemblymember and Republican Suzette Martinez Valladares, currently representing District 38, faces two Democrat challengers in AD 40 who also know their way around politics.
Pilar Schiavo is a first-time candidate, while Annie Cho ran for AD 38, but ultimately lost to Valladares.
Cho and Schiavo are both hopeful due to new redistricting lines for AD 40 that give Democrats an almost 13-point advantage. AD 40 covers some of the same cities from AD 38 such as Porter Ranch and Santa Clarita, but the newly redrawn district cuts ties with the Simi Valley and its Republican-leaning voters, giving AD 40 a new purplish tone that bleeds bluer than red.
For Schiavo, having an endorsement from the California Democratic Party was a sigh of relief. The single mother views her candidacy as a leap of faith, having quit her job working for the California Nurses Association. She touts that she is the only candidate with “clean money” and views herself as an independent voice, supported by the California Teachers Association and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta.
Californians’ biggest concern is the hell-raising gas prices. Cho proposed gas rebates instead of gas tax relief. “I would much rather see cash relief for Californians right now.”
Valladares proposed cutting the gas tax as a viable solution. In an opinion piece published in The Signal, Valladares addressed the pain at the pump as a bipartisan issue. For her, it’s all about serving the community that built her.
A third-generation San Fernando Valley resident, Valladares is eager to continue delivering to her community. “I get it because I’m one of them” said Valladares.
Schiavo, Cho and Valladares all believe in multifaceted approaches to addressing homelessness, such as investing in mental health facilities and services aimed at the unhoused community. All three voiced their frustrations with the lack of accountability and transparency from officials in Sacramento in addressing the housing crisis.
In her recent opinion piece Valladares, a former Six Flags employee, was not afraid to call out other California officials, including Governor Newsom and L.A. District Attorney George Gascon, for letting crime ramp up in the streets. She doesn’t hide her endorsement from the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs since she’s a strong supporter of law enforcement and their role in protecting the streets.
“If we don’t have bold responses and bold leadership to actually step up and take care of the problem, let’s be real,” said Valladares. “I have to be bold in speaking up against failed policies.”
According to Cho, anyone should be able to afford housing, even in such areas as Porter Ranch which she knows is an affluent community. She’s an outspoken proponent of transferring generational wealth through homeownership, a luxury she knows is not doable for the marginalized, the low-income and communities of color. As a Korean immigrant who comes from a family of six, Cho knows how hard it is to beat the odds.
Cho and Schiavo could not talk about the housing crisis without addressing one a major issue for AD 40 – fire season.
“Fire season is year-long now,” said Cho. Cho and her husband were evacuated from their Granada Hills house in the middle of the night due to the Saddleridge Fire of 2019. She remembers seeing the orange glow of fire and the fear that crept in her throat.
Growing up in Yosemite showed Schiavo how crucial it is to have fire insurance. “For many Californians, investing in a home is investing in the financial future,” said Schiavo. A few years ago, Schiavo lost her fire insurance when her house in Chatsworth was rezoned as being within a high fire danger area, which hiked up her homeowner association fees. She proposes to bring creative and efficient fire mitigation and fire management policies if elected to the AD 40 seat.
The trio of mothers know that the climate crisis is now and not merely a future concern. Their interests align in leaving behind a better environment for their children.
“We need to figure out, how do we deal with drought? We need to educate the public about water conservation. How do we have water to fight fires?” said Cho. Cho served on the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power from 2001 to 2005 when the city of Los Angeles created Green LA, an initiative for renewable energy. She cites this experience as evidence that she is all for building a better environment for future generations.
Schiavo makes the point that as California transitions to a greener economy, job security is important for workers of all skills. She supports creating more jobs with transferrable skills that leaves no one behind.
The nature lover can be spotted hiking on the Santa Susana trails making campaign calls on her cell phone. “I’m about solutions and not wasting money and not wasting time,” said Schiavo.
Valladares and Cho also gave their two cents on education.
As a preschool educator and mother, Valladares witnessed firsthand how the pandemic affected schooling and the learning loss that came out of it. She understands how necessary it was for mothers to have childcare. She remembered often seeing young children pop into Zoom meetings that their mothers had to attend for work, and the mothers would profusely apologize. But she would tell them she gets it. For this, she’s a strong proponent of universal childcare and preschool.
Cho emphasized that “Public education needs to be a top priority because, again, for many of us in marginalized communities, getting an education is the equalizer, right?” While Cho supports a college education, she is grounded in the difficult reality of student loan debt. She advocates for more opportunities in learning technical skills that will lead to high-paying careers.
The trio are awaiting for voters to make their choice.
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 40 RACE AT A GLANCE
THE DISTRICT: Northwest San Fernando Valley (Chatsworth, Porter Ranch, Granada Hills, Northridge) and Santa Clarita.
THE RACE: Two Democrats, one Republican. Democrat Pilar Schiavo is endorsed by the California Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood and California Teachers Association. Democrat Annie Cho is endorsed by Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans 21, Korean American Democratic Committee and California API Legislative Caucus. Republican Assemblymember Suzette Valladares is endorsed by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
CONTRIBUTIONS as of April 28, 2022:
- Total contributions: $66,940
- Total expenditures: $108,984.28
- Ending cash: $85,194.69
- Total contributions: $190,067.06
- Total expenditures: $169,991.32
- Ending cash: $270,817.75
Suzette Martinez Valladares
- Total contributions: $233,054
- Total expenditures: $344,540.79
- Ending cash: $321,732.22