North Bay State Assembly race draws 3rd candidate

A Sonoma County contractor will participate in the June 7 primary to replace MP Marc Levine.

“I want to take the work I’ve done at the community level to another level,” said Steve Schwartz of Sebastopol, who founded the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative in 2012 and California FarmLink in 1998.

Schwartz, 56, executive director of the food program, is the first person living outside of Marin to participate in the race.

Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly and Sara Aminzadeh, a lawyer with the California Coastal Commission, announced in the fall that they would join the race.

Levine, a Democrat from Greenbrae, has decided to forgo the possibility of a sixth and final term in the Legislature to run for the post of state insurance commissioner, a post held by Ricardo Lara, a fellow Democrat. . Levine is nearing the end of his term.

Much of the work Schwartz has done over the past 25 years with leading nonprofits is about producing healthy food.

The Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative aims to connect religious people to a food system through their congregations and to expand the sustainable agricultural movement to improve public policies. The collaboration has fostered the development of community gardens by Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Jewish congregations.

Schwartz founded California FarmLink with the goal of helping farmers access land and capital. He organized a program to help beginning farmers save money for equipment and assets needed to grow their business. Securing bank capital, FarmLink has matched farmers’ savings three to one.

Schwartz’s work in the area of ​​food production has included working with land trusts. He said training provided by FarmLink in 2009 led the Marin Agricultural Land Trust to add language to their easements requiring development protected lands to continue to be used for agriculture.

Schwartz said he would like some of the money from Measure A to continue to be used to help fund MALT easements.

Schwartz’s father was one of the youngest children to survive the Auschwitz concentration camp. The elder Schwartz grew up on a small farm in Czechoslovakia and arrived in the United States with a suitcase full of food.

“We learned from our father how crucial it is for people to have something to eat,” Schwartz said.

Andy Naja-Riese, Managing Director of the Marin Agricultural Institute, said: “Steve is a truly thoughtful, dedicated and accessible leader who strives to build a better food and agricultural system in the face of growing inequalities in the face of hunger. I am delighted that we have a local organic farmer applying for a position to serve our farmers, food manufacturers and eaters in North Bay.

Schwartz holds a BA in Economics, Politics and Government from the University of Puget Sound and an MA in Public Administration, Intergovernmental Management and Human Resources Management from the University of Southern California.

Schwartz served more than two years in the United States Peace Corps as a community development volunteer.

After Schwartz completed his master’s degree, he spent more than three years working as chief of staff for two members of the State Assembly.

“I have the best training possible to be a member of the Assembly,” said Schwartz. “I was in the room when the agreements were negotiated. I learned how you negotiate a bill and gain the support of committee members to achieve your priorities.

Schwartz has had some experience as an elected official. He served a four-year term on the Gravenstein Union School District Board. The board oversees a K-8 transition school district with an enrollment of approximately 750 students.

Schwartz’s policy proposals extend beyond agriculture. When it comes to addressing the shortage of affordable housing in the state, he said new state laws removing local zoning barriers to new development won’t do the job.

“Just because the state says we need more units doesn’t mean people will be motivated to build the units without the funding they need,” Schwartz said.

One way to provide the necessary funding could be to reduce property taxes for landlords who rent their homes to teachers or other essential workers with low wages, he said.

When asked if he finds the prospect of competing against his two Marin County opponents intimidating, Schwartz noted that 47% of voters in the district are in Sonoma County.

The redistricting of the Assembly District, which was just completed this month, has ruled out the possibility of Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers being a candidate.

“I ended up about 500 feet from the district,” Rogers said.

Regarding Schwartz’s outlook, Rogers said, “Most of what I know of the work he’s done has been more at the state or regional level. I don’t know to what extent this translates into name identification in the district. “

Rogers said Connolly is recognized in the district and Aminzadeh appears to be on the cusp of raising enough funds to advocate for her case with voters.

“The real question is, will Steve be able to raise enough money to tell his story?” Rogers said.

Schwartz believes he will need to raise a minimum of $ 200,000 to be competitive. He declined to say how much he had raised, but said: “I am happy with the progress made so far. We will be able to achieve the goal.

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