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Silence Broken in State Assembly Race

Campaign events surrounding the race for the State Assembly’s 29th District, which covers the bulk of the Monterey Bay Area have been sparse. That’s because Democrat incumbent Mark Stone hasn’t really had anyone to run against.

His opponent, Republican Sierra Roberts is on the ballot. But beyond her Republican Party label, there’s little information out about her. Just a few days before the election, her campaign website is unfinished, still just a template.  The ‘About’ page reads, “this is where you tell everyone about the candidate.” The 18 people who left comments have more to say, one asking, “Is she a fake candidate?”

Reporters at other local media outlets who wanted to write about her candidacy repeatedly and unsuccessfully reached out to her. She did agree to an interview with KAZU six days before the election, her first sit-down interview.

“I’m currently a student at CSUMB,” says Roberts. “I’m also taking classes at MPC, I’m doing both. I’m a Global Studies major, which I really enjoy. I’m very active in politics. I’ve worked on other races, I’ve worked for the county party for several years now, and so this is like the next step for me.”

The 23-year-old moved from the Central Valley to go to school here in 2010.  She decided to run for office after being encouraged by the local Republican Party.

“If no one else is going to do it, then I think I can step up to this and absolutely do the job that needs to be done,” says Roberts. “So now I’m running for State Assembly.”

Roberts says her biggest concerns are education and water, but says she hasn’t had the time to get her messages out.

“It’s hard when you’re the only person working on a campaign,” Roberts says. “Again, I’m a full-time student. I work full-time with stuff on the weekends and extra work on the side. One of the biggest things I’ve noticed, this is a learning experience.”

Opponent Mark Stone says it has been an unusual experience. He’s the incumbent Democrat in the 29th Assembly District, vying for his third term in the office. Prior to being an assemblyman, he was twice elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and says he has never been in a situation where he hasn’t met his opponent.

“I don’t know why someone would want to file papers at this level and then not have any visibility, I’m not quite sure,” Stone says.

Other than that, this race has been business as usual for Stone - participating in forums, making rounds at local luncheons and talking about what he wants to accomplish.

“Continuing the work that I’ve done, the Continuum of Care Reform and the child welfare system is an ongoing implementation and I know I’ll be running a bill there,” Stone says. “I will continue to shed light on coastal challenges and continue to work on policy there. Plastic ocean pollution is a big issue and we’re looking for next steps there as well as policy changes to address the ocean, the changing ocean chemistry and impacts.”

Stone was elected to the state legislature in 2012, when the rules changed allowing legislators to serve a total of 12 years in the legislature. Stone hopes to do just that.

“I chair a very significant committee, the Judiciary Committee, that has oversight for the entire legal system in the state of California, so I’ve built up a certain amount of credibility,” Stone says.

Credibility he hopes will help him beat his opponent Sierra Roberts at the ballot box.

Political Reporter Phil Trounstine says Stone also has the advantage of being a Democrat in a heavily Democratic district.

Trounstine has covered California Politics for 30 plus years and is the co-founder of the political news web site Calbuzz. He says he still thinks this will be an interesting race to watch because we’ll see what the pure, generic Republican vote is in Assembly District 29.

“There are people who will just automatically vote for the Republican whether they know anything about the race or not, and they’ll just pick party label,” says Trounstine. “Party labels are by and large the number one cue people use to make a decision in most elections.”

Trounstine says when there’s virtually no campaign, all voters have to go off of is a party label.