Rowen, Baird seek to challenge Gaines’s state senate seat |

Rowen, Baird seek to challenge Gaines’s state senate seat

Ted Gaines
Submitted Photo |

It’s a three-way race to fill California’s District 1 senate seat, with two challengers vying to unseat Republican incumbent Ted Gaines.

Rob Rowen, a self-proclaimed “moderate democrat,” and Steve Baird, a Republican, will face off against Gaines when voters in District 1 hit the polls for California’s June 7 primary election.

Of the three candidates, Gaines boasts the most extensive political experience. He’s held the District 1 state senate seat since 2011, when he won a special election to replace David Cox, who died of prostate cancer while serving in office.

In 2012, Gaines was re-elected to that seat, defeating Democratic challenger Julie Griffith-Flatter by receiving more than 63 percent of votes.

Prior to serving in the state senate, Gaines represented the 4th State Assembly District from 2006-2011, and also served on the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

During his time as a member of the state senate, Gaines, 58, of El Dorado, has been outspoken against tax increases, championed the private sector’s role in economic stimulation and denounced California’s high speed rail project and recent legislation passed to increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $15 in 2022.

In an email, Gaines wrote his re-election bid is motivated by a desire to continue his work limiting tax increases, government growth and “the endless barrage of burdensome government regulations.”

“Taxes in California are too high and this climate is forcing business and jobs out of our great state,” Gaines wrote.

Gaines said as state senator, he’s been successful in stopping “billions of dollars in new tax increases,” noting he’s worked with Assembly Member Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) to pass regulatory reforms that make it easier for landowners in District 1 to responsibly manage their land.

He also pointed to his continued opposition to California’s high speed rail project — in April, he said the project “is on pace to be the most colossal waste of taxpayer money in California history” — and his support for legislation that would repeal a fire-prevention fee of $150 levied on many rural property owners.

Though Baird and Rowen are running on different political platforms, both said they entered the race because they feel the district needs a representative who will more aggressively fight for the rights of rural communities in a way Gaines has not.

Rowen, 51, of Cottonwood, was a late entry to the state senate race. The former professional baseball player and Army veteran, and chair of the Democratic Central Committee of Shasta County, was asked to run by party leaders to fill the open Democratic slot on the ballot.

District 1 has “lacked effective representation for a long time in Sacramento,” Rowen said, largely because government focus — led by the Republican party — has been on representing corporate America.

Baird, 52, a Placer County resident who works for the Sacramento County Department of Technology, entered the political arena through his involvement with the State of Jefferson movement, and his frustrations with what the majority of the state’s representative seats going to more populous areas of the state.

More equal representation not only allows those elected to be more attentive to the needs of their constituents, but “it would be more government toward the people instead of monied special interests,” he said.

Baird said it became clear through his work with the State of Jefferson movement that Gaines did not believe the movement would be able to win the support of the California Legislature’s Democratic majority.

“I thought, OK, somebody’s got to run against this guy,” he said.

Over the past several months, the two challengers have carved out stances on some of the top issues facing District 1; chief among them is stimulating job growth in the region.

Rowen said a job creation strategy for rural areas like District 1 needs to involve light manufacturing and recruiting of the technology industry. Job growth depends on improving access to high speed internet and improving infrastructure, he said.

Rowen also advocated for tax incentive programs to lure industry.

“You make it so attractive that a business can’t turn down your invitation to either relocate or have a start up in the area,” he said.

Baird said stimulating the District 1 economy starts with rolling back governmental regulations and getting rid of non-governmental organizations that restrict industries, such as the timber industry. Those in charge of regulating those industries, he said, are motivated by a political agenda and not the best interests of the people whose livelihoods depend on those that work.

He advocated for referring back to the U.S. Constitution, and a government that says, “look, you’re able to use your property as you see fit in order to benefit yourself and your family.”

Baird firmly believes in the legality of creating a 51st state. He maintained there is an avenue for winning state legislative approval; one bargaining chip in trying to reach consensus, he said, is the idea that the Democratic party would have a clear super-majority in the legislature if some of the northern districts left to be part of a 51st state.

Rowen said his stance as a moderate Democrat would more realistically enable him to fight for the rights of rural areas within the existing political system. He noted that his late entry into the race means he did not receive the endorsement of the Democratic party, and would be working for strictly for the people he represents — something he said should appeal to voters in the historically Republican-leaning District 1.

“I would hope that Republicans would say, maybe we can find a moderate Democrat that’s willing to fight for us, that he has a better opportunity and better chance of working in a Democratic controlled legislature to accomplish the things that this district needs.”

All three candidates will continue campaigning in advance of the June primary; according to campaign finance filings with California’s Secretary of State office, Gaines appears to have the advantage of resources. Gaines has raised $64,252 in campaign contributions from Jan. 1-April 23. Rowen reported a total of $1,626.13 in campaign contributions during the same period; Baird did not file any documents showing campaign contributions during that time.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email or call 530-477-4230.

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