State Assembly race pits incumbent Brian Dahle against write-in candidate Donn Coenen | TheUnion.com
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State Assembly race pits incumbent Brian Dahle against write-in candidate Donn Coenen

District 1 Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, has run unopposed to reclaim his seat in the lower house of the California State Legislature throughout the entirety of the election. That is until long-time Nevada County resident Donn Coenen decided to pitch in his voice by becoming a write-in candidate.

District 1 contains all of Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Siskiyou and Shasta counties and portions of Butte and Placer counties.

Coenen, a 64-year-old president of the Nevada County Libertarian Party and strong proponent of a 51st state, said his primary objective for throwing a hat into the ring is to stir up dialogue. He has nothing bad to say about Dahle, though he felt the assemblyman has danced around on his thoughts on the State of Jefferson initiative.



“It’s an opportunity to bring some of these issues up front; if he runs unopposed, maybe we won’t have these conversations,” Coenen said. “Win or lose, I want to generate some of the conversations that I think we should be in.”

Coenen, a Nevada County resident for over 30 years, said he has gone through an array of jobs. Before retirement, he worked as a locomotive engineer for 43 years at the Southern Pacific Railroad and has also sat on the Board of Directors at the Western Valley Federal Credit Union.




He now owns a Christmas tree farm. If he were elected to the state Assembly, he would focus on pushing the State of Jefferson initiative forward, which he said would help northern rural counties regain their financial stability.

“Twenty northern counties have about 5 percent of the population, while Los Angeles has 20 percent … so they have much more representation than we have,” Coenen said. “In our northern country because we have no jobs, we are losing our population.”

“It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it ends up to be the only choice that we have,” Coenen added.

He labeled himself as a conservationist and argued that the numerous laws and regulations that environmentalists used to get things done are burdensome and unnecessary.

One thing in common between Coenen and Dahle is his opposition to raising the minimum wage; something that Dahle has also spoken ferociously against.

“We usually lose countrywide about $400,000 to a million for every $1 the minimum wage goes up. So are you really helping these people?” Coenen asked. “The only one who makes out is the state,” he added.

Dahle describes himself as a third-generation farmer in Northern California as well as a businessman. He served four terms on the Lassen County Board of Supervisors before stepping into his role as the assemblyman for District 1.

As the incumbent in the race, Dahle has had a rather smooth journey since his 2012 election into the state Assembly. After raking in 65.6 percent of the district vote, Dahle emerged against fellow Republican Rick Bosetti, a Redding City Council member.

Dahle’s victory over Democrat candidate Brigham Smith, a 21-year-old student from College of the Siskiyous, was one of the most lopsided wins in the state in the 2014 statewide election. Dahle captured 70 percent of the district vote.

The 2016 race for District 1 could potentially follow a similar path.

Dahle said he has yet to meet his opponent, and has only heard about Coenen’s bid for the seat through social media. But he will be happy to defend his position.

“We are just going to wait through the primary, if he qualifies, he will be on the ballot on the general,” Dahle said. “I always take elections very serious, as it happened in the past, I will be happy to defend my record.”

He said he has yet to make a decision on the State of Jefferson initiative because his constituents have different opinions on it.

“I’m interested in seeing how that plays out at least in my county. There are a lot of controversies on that,” Dahle said.

Personally, he said he doesn’t believe a one-size-fit-all legislation works for the entire state, adding that there are still a lot of issues that need to be fleshed out.

Dahle counted his efforts to help streamline biomass power generation, and his ability to generate jobs and vitalize thelocal economy as some of the biggest accomplishments in his tenure. He touted his success in passing the AB744 bill, a bill which introduces a fuel reduction pilot program within the boundaries of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and increase the size of trees that can be removed under the Forest Fire Prevention Exemption from 18 inches to 24 inches.

Dahle’s campaign filing records show that he has received $72,416 for the period between Jan. 1 and April 23. Dahle’s expenditure for this period totals $83,829.

Coenen, on the other-hand, said whether he launch an actual campaign is contingent upon the election result in the June primary, but he has several supporters who promise to lend a helping hand financially.

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email tliu@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4236.


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