Pasadena native Gilbert Gonzales, 35, is running for his first office in the 25th Senate district. The Republican candidate is running against incumbent Carol Liu (D-Pasadena) and Democratic candidate Ameenah Fuller.
Born in a migrant farmer family near Fresno, Gonzales graduated from Pitzer College and is currently the Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Vons/Safeway. His resume also includes extensive public service on community boards such as the Valley Economic Alliance Board of Directors, the Central City Association and the Pasadena Accessibility and Disability Commission.
Veteran Liu is favored to take one of the two open spots on the ballot for the 25th Senate district, which includes Glendora, San Dimas, Claremont, La Verne, La Canada Flintridge, Monrovia, San Marino and South Pasadena.
While Gonzales is running against two Democrats in a district that is majority Democratic, the moderate Gonzales remains confident in his chances in June 5 Primary.
Patch interviewed Gonzales by email and he explains why he believes he can effect the change California is looking for.
1. Why are you running for the 25th Senate district? What experiences has prepared you for the Senate?
I am running for the newly drawn 25th Senate District because our community and our state are facing a serious fiscal downturn and I can’t stand idly by without doing my part to help.
My personal and professional experiences have prepared me well for this next step, and I am confident I have the tools to be successful.
While attending Pitzer College, I started an afterschool tutorial program for homeless children in the Ontario Montclair school district. After college, I created and ran a literacy program for incarcerated youth in the LA County Probation camps and the LA County Office of Education. The program, which is still running today, has been a great success and continues to increase the literacy levels while decreasing the recidivism rates on youth offenders. I understand the challenges our children and teachers face, and I’ve demonstrated that new ideas can create positive results. Doing more of the same simply doesn’t work – a truism that is proven by the fact that our state’s educational system ranks 48th in the nation.
We need to deal with a lot of these issues pragmatically, and it is imperative that the district have a representative that seeks solutions over ideology. Having worked as State Senator Bob Dutton Legislative Director in Sacramento, I have a solid foundation on how the state capitol works. I am proud of the fact that I was able to navigate the legislative process on a number of issues that required me to work closely with both sides of the aisle in reaching practical solutions.
Also, as a Senior Director for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles, I helped push policy at the local and state levels that resulted in attracting and retaining companies in the region.
2. What do you think has contributed to the state's current fiscal situation? What would you do to help with the state's recovery?
The answer to this question is, paradoxically, simple and complicated. It’s simple because the causes of our current fiscal state are obvious. Our state government is spending more than we are taking in and our tax base is shrinking as companies and jobs leave the state. The math is simple, but the courage to do what it takes for Sacramento to “live within our means” to get us back on track is what’s complicated.
My experience working in the office of Mayor Villaraigosa in Los Angeles put me at the center of sound policy and negotiation to ensure we attracted new businesses and retained successful businesses in the region.
3. What needs to be done to boost economic recovery in California?
In order to have long-term sustainable growth in our state we must not pass policies that will stifle business growth and results in further layoffs. The state must continue to work towards business-friendly policies that will attract investment into our state. Also the imposition of additional regulations and state mandates will further hamper business expansion and job growth in California. With sustainable growth, we will see a corresponding decrease in the jobless rate of our state, and this will get our state moving forward again.
4. Would you have an instrumental role as previous local representatives have had in bringing funds to the Gold Line extension project? Why or why not?
Yes. The voters approved Measure R because they support local public transportation projects and were willing to give up hard earned tax dollars to ensure that this project came to fruition. I stand with the voters and see the value in providing local public transportation projects for the district.
5. Schools have long struggled with dwindling state resources. How do you think the state should treat funding for public schools and higher education? What should be done to maintain quality education?
There are a number of proposals currently being discussed regarding school funding. It’s important that we seek creative ways to increase funding for both K-12 education as well as higher education. Regarding maintaining quality education for K-12, I believe there needs to be a system in place to ensure data-driven accountability for schools, funding for achievement, school choice for families, as well as rewarding effective teachers in the classroom.
6. What specific issues would be a high priority for you if you were elected to Senate?
Education will be a top priority. It’s important that we create ways to increase school funding for K-12 education, as well as higher education. The importance of funding should always be a non-partisan issue. I will work closely with others to provide practical solutions to our current fiscal crisis.