State senate candidates Baird, Rowen face off in election forum |

State senate candidates Baird, Rowen face off in election forum

California State Senate District 1 candidates Rob Rowen, left, and Steven Baird participate in a Nevada County League of Women Voters forum on Monday.
Emily Lavin/ |

Know & Go

Upcoming League of Women Voters forums:

April 28: Candidate Forum — Nevada County Board of Supervisors District 2

Moderator: MaryJane Huenergardt

6:30-8:30 p.m. at Higgins Diggins Lions Club, 22490 E. Hacienda Drive, Grass Valley

Candidates: Richard Harris, Ed Scofield

May 5: Candidate Forum — U.S. Congressional District I

Moderator: Dottie Schmidt

6:30-8:30 p.m. at Eric Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City

Candidates: Gregory Cheadle, Jeff Gerlach, Doug LaMalfa (Incumbent), Joe Montes, Gary Allen Oxley, David Peterson, Jim Reed

May 19: Measure W forum

Moderator: TBD

6:30 -8:30 p.m. at Eric Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City

Speakers: Don Bessee, Smart Approaches to Marijuana,Hezekiah Allen, California Growers Association

The two candidates hoping to wrestle the California State Senate District 1 seat away from incumbent Sen. Ted Gaines discussed their views on a variety of topics — ranging from climate change to the State of Jefferson movement — at a candidate forum Monday hosted by the Nevada County Chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Republican candidate Steven Baird and Democratic candidate Rob Rowen fielded questions from local media members as well as from members of the crowd of about 20 people in the audience at the Eric Rood Administrative Center in Nevada City.

Gaines, a Republican who has represented District 1 since 2011, declined an invitation to participate in the forum, according to the League of Women Voters.

Both Baird and Rowen in their opening statements expressed a similar motivation for running for the District 1 seat — a desire to give rural residents a stronger voice in Sacramento.

“I believe rural California can make a resurgence with proper leadership and I believe I have a pathway in providing that leadership and working with the legislature in Sacramento,” said Rowen, the current chair of the Democratic Central Committee of Shasta County.

Baird, who currently works as the information technology division chief for the Sacramento County department of technology’s customer support department, said he chose to enter the race for state senate because he felt District 1 has “no voice” in Sacramento.

“I got into the race to change that dynamic, to get more representation for the northern state,” Baird said.

The candidates expressed differing viewpoints on a myriad of issues affecting California, including climate change.

Baird told the audience he would be considered a “climate change denier,” noting he believes that reports of climate change both in the government and the media are based on “false science,” and that the earth has historically cycled between warmer and colder periods.

Rowen disagreed, calling climate change “a threat,” noting there’s little debate on the topic among the world’s top scientists. He advocated for a movement toward renewable energy and becoming less dependent on “big oil” to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

“To deny that human action has not played a major role in its rapid movement and progression, I think it’s dangerous for us to think that way,” Rowen said.

The candidates also disagreed over the viability of the State of Jefferson movement. Baird has been at the forefront of that movement, and noted it as one of the first pieces of legislation he would attempt to pass if elected.

Rowen, however, emphasized that he doesn’t believe the key to making sure rural California is having its concerns heard and its needs met is forming a 51st state. He said he believes representatives in Sacramento can work together to pass legislation that is reasonable for both urban and rural districts.

“It’s just going to take leadership from someone in the rural areas to get that process really rolling,” Rowen said.

Both candidates also briefly touched on Measure W, which in June will ask Nevada County voters if they want a ban on outdoor marijuana grows.

Baird said he believes regulation of medicinal marijuana grows should be done at a local level.

“Each county should decide for itself,” Baird said.

Rowen said he prefers to see the will of the voter carried out, noting that Californians voted to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana. He said he’s not a fan of the big “100-200-500 plant gardens,” but said if individual counties can’t come to compromise on legislating cultivation, then “it becomes inherent upon the state to see that the will of the voter is carried through.”

If elected, Rowen said his top priorities in office would be stimulating job creation in District 1 as well as improving or repairing infrastructure such as roads, tunnels and bridges.

In addition to working toward creating the State of Jefferson, Baird said he would make it a priority, if elected, to dismantle non-governmental organizations that have “stripped northern county of timber, mining and fishing industries.”

One thing both candidates did agree on was a disapproval for much of Gaines’s voting history as District 1’s state senate representative. Gaines, Rowen said, perpetuates “partisan politics” that “gets nothing done.”

“You have to find consensus, you have to work together to build some common ground and you have to make compromises,” Rowen said. “I think with the right person in Sacramento, that can be done in our area.”

The primary election for the state senate race will take place on June 7; the general election will be held Nov. 8.

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

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