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Campaign takes flight

Eileen JoyceMarianne Smith watches her 3-year-old twins, Andrew (left) and Eric, play in her backyard near the Nevada County Airport.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Election 2002

The Union begins a two-part series on the candidates for the state Senate District 4 seat in today’s edition.

Today: Democratic challenger Marianne Smith



Saturday: Republican challenger Sam Aanestad

All election stories that have run since Sept. 25 and that appear in today’s paper can reviewed on our Web site, http://www.theunion.com.




Marianne Smith had twins several years ago. Three weeks later, she was working 50 hours a week in the Bay Area and thinking something had to give.

Little did the small-town Ohio native know she would soon be running for the state Senate District 4 seat out of her home near Nevada County’s airport.

Raised a Democrat, Smith had “licked envelopes for 20 years,” as part of helping the party as much as she could. When she and her husband decided to move their software firm to the county, the pilot, engineer and business owner made Democratic connections again. But it was very different.

The Bay Area abounds with Democrats. Here, the party was trying to find someone to run for the state Senate against GOP Assemblyman Sam Aanestad of Grass Valley. Although Smith had never even waged a battle for a school board seat, much less the state Senate, she decided she could do it when someone in the party asked her to run.

“That’s how it came to be. It’s not some grand plan to be a politician.”

Smith’s plane came in handy last spring when she began to traverse the district, which stretches from here to the Oregon border in the middle of the state.

“I don’t think I was prepared for the political side of politics,” she said. “I wasn’t comfortable promoting myself like a product. Going to (county) fairs was like going to trade shows, but I was the product. Being on TV was something I had to get used to, too. I’m much more comfortable with it now, though.”

With little over a month to go in the campaign, “I’ve been to every county five times or more,” often driving.

“It’s important to get out to Hayfork and Happy Camp and Tulelake. What’s the point of being a legislator if you’re not willing to get out and listen to the people?”

Smith has found votes, but she hasn’t been able to agree with everyone on the campaign trail.

When she went to Siskiyou County, the cattlewomen’s club “wanted to secede” from the state.

Although she admired their spunk, “I told them, ‘I really can’t support your desire to secede because so much (infrastructure) money comes from Southern California.'” If they split from the state, “They couldn’t keep their schools open.”

In Glenn and Sutter counties, government has its hand out for development.

“They’re happy to get it. But they’re building on flood plains. Ten years from now, we’re going to have flooding and problems. This is what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to see another Roseville. God bless Roseville, but I don’t want to live there. We need to figure out where we need growth.”

She also knows that issues affecting seniors are important to a major part of her potential constituency.

Her mother, who lives with her, spends almost half of her Social Security income on prescription drugs. Her father-in-law is a Pearl Harbor survivor veteran.

So when it comes to senior health issues, “I know all about this. And people ask me how I support veterans. I’ve got one at home.”

As for the election, “I hope people will take a look at me and think about the race. People need to get out and vote. If you’re going to complain about something, get out and vote. If you want to be patriotic, get out and vote.”

Q&A with Marianne Smith

Q: What brought you into politics?

I had volunteered as a Democrat in the Bay Area. I licked envelopes for 20 years, and then we came up here and found the Democratic Party was just so forlorn. I can understand that feeling, but at the same time, that’s just not something I like. I said “Yeah, yeah, let’s get moving, let’s get something done.” We were looking for somebody to run for the seat, and somebody asked, ‘Why don’t you run?” I’ve never run for office before. So my husband and I decided we were going to put our money and time where our mouth was. If you’re not going to do something to affect change, why bother?

Q: So what qualifies you to run for this office?

I have been running a campaign since the primary. I’ve had quite a bit of business experience. I worked at Lockheed for quite a long time; I was an engineer. I worked on and managed big projects. I also started a consulting business after I left Lockheed. That was a wonderful experience for me.

Q: Do you think you have a real chance?

Actually, yeah. I didn’t think so, starting out. People were saying, “Come on, you’ll never win.” But I thought, “We have to try.” I thought I’d be running against Dick Dickerson. I actually like him, although we disagree on things. He did a good job trying to take care of his people. Now that I’m running against (Assemblyman Sam Aanestad), I really feel much more like this is the right thing to do. It couldn’t be any more right for various reasons.

Q: Why is this the right thing to do?

His voting record and how he (hasn’t) supported Nevada County and just the nastiness of his primary campaign. Of the three of us, Dick was the most qualified. I don’t really think Sam cares about people and his job. I think he’s caught up in this thing way over here. You can say I’m not going to vote on the budget, but what’s that doing to the people of your area? He’s an obstructionist. He’s not about making a deal, and that’s what you have to do in Sacramento. That’s what it’s all about. He’s not even willing to sit down at the table at all and participate in coming to terms. Why even show up? Voting and participating is what you are supposed to be doing, and that’s what I can offer.

Q: What are the major issues?

Water in general. What’s going to happen to our resources in this part of the state? All these different entities want a piece of that. I want to get all the local water districts in this part of the state to begin working together. What we have is a federal water bureau, Fish and Game, Calfed, and then all the local water districts, and everyone is saying this is my water. Everyone is like an island. This is my island and I will do X,Y and Z with it. We need to work together and not fight each other regionally. Let’s work together and be a broker for our resources.

Q: There’s been talk of protecting watersheds in the Sierra. How do we do that and allow logging?

There’s ways to go about logging. I think it’s integral to this economy, but the heyday is over. I think there’s good practices going on. You don’t clear-cut next to a stream. We need to make sure logging is done right. I would like to go into burns and log the small trees and underbrush. People logging on their own property is fine as long as they don’t hurt the water system. It’s important to have wild areas, too, but let’s keep them far away from humans. Both sides, frankly, make it so emotional and so crazy. There’s a way to come to the middle. There’s a way to do logging that’s sustainable and still protect the environment.

Q: We’ve heard for the last 20 years that people would move to the Sierra and now it’s a reality. How do we keep up?

Each locality has a responsibility. But not very many cities in the districts are being planned. County government is influenced by development because it brings money in. But I look at development this way: Counties and local government should make decisions on where they want that development to occur. Developers need to make sure that the schools and roads and sewers are there. All the infrastructure has to come back to the developer. All of that has to be in place. Where’s your school, where’s your sewer system, if you’re going to put in all these homes here?

Q: We have a large elderly population here. What are their concerns that we need to address?

Health is the major issue. I think the senior center here could be expanded. Some counties have no senior citizen services. Northern California has a higher population of seniors than anywhere else in the state. A lot are retiring up here. Many veterans are moving up here. In-home services are really critical. Those mobile health vans are very practical and cost-effective. It’s the same thing throughout the district.


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