SAN MARCOS — As the June 7 primary approaches, The Coast News is introducing the candidates for the 76th State Assembly District seat and asking them to share their thoughts on key issues including taxes, homelessness, crime and the environment.
Among this year’s candidates is Democrat incumbent Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, who has represented the 77th District since 2012. New district lines have moved much of what was previously the 77th, including the inland communities of San Marcos, Escondido, and Rancho Santa Fe, into the 76th.
Despite changes to the district he has represented for a decade, Maienschein is confident he can serve this new constituency just as well by continuing to focus on many the same main issues — abortion access, homelessness and law enforcement.
“Throughout my career in both local and state office, I have represented different communities and populations. I am proud that I have always focused on representing the people who have elected me,” he said. “I think the issues are the same, the issues that I intend to focus on — protecting women’s rights to choose, homelessness and law enforcement issues. I think that’s the same in the old version of the district, if you will, and the new version. There is obviously significant crossover.”
Maienschein is seeking reelection for a sixth two-year term in the Assembly against two Republican challengers — Olivenhain Water District director Kristie Bruce-Lane and attorney and political fundraiser June Cutter, who also faced Maienschein in 2020. The top two candidates will advance to the November general election.
Both of his challenges have heavily criticized Maienschien as a classic Sacramento politician invisible from his constituents, a characterization the incumbent dismissed as political fodder.
“That is just a political talking point, coming from opponents who have either failed to vote in elections or never had to balance the time demands of being both a candidate and an elected official,” Maienschein said.
“The work of an elected official is not always about being at center stage or self-glorifying. For example, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I focused my efforts on working with constituents on their very real needs and concerns, such as assisting people with obtaining unemployment and disability payments, connecting constituents with social and community services, advocating for veterans to obtain health care services, and helping applicants obtain their professional licenses when public agencies have been unresponsive. While it may not seem as glamorous, this is the work that has been front and center for me over the last two years,” he said.
Maienschein believes his track record in the legislature over the past 10 years, including bringing millions of dollars in funds to San Diego County organizations, speaks for itself.
The incumbent has introduced 24 bills into the legislature so far in 2022, including Assembly Bill 1641 increasing post-release restrictions on sexually violent predators, AB 1836 establishing an Officer Wellness and Mental Health Grant Program within the Board of State and Community Corrections, and various gun violence prevention bills.
In 2021, Maienschein saw seven of his bills signed into law, focused on issues including reducing foster youth homelessness through reporting, preventing elder abuse by expanding information sharing between agencies, establishing a mental health crisis prevention voluntary contribution fund, and requiring parents and youth to be informed about COVID-19 risks and guidelines.
“I’ve shown an ability to get things through the legislature. I have over 100 bills passed into law, and I’ve brought millions of dollars back into my district,” he said.
The Assemblyman also serves on the Assembly’s Health, Communications and Conveyance, Rules and Judiciary standing committees.
If reelected in November, this will be Maienschein’s last term in the state legislature, as members are limited to a maximum of 12 years of service in the Senate, Assembly or both in their lifetime.
Homelessness, taxes and affordability
The Assemblyman has singled out homelessness prevention and support as one of his top priorities in the legislature and his campaign. He noted that this work began even before taking his seat in the Assembly, with the creation of Project 25 while serving as a commissioner on homelessness with the United Way of San Diego.
Launched in 2010, the pilot program provided wraparound services including permanent housing and individualized support to 25 chronically unhoused people in San Diego County whose level of need cost taxpayers the most money.
“In addition to significant decreases in public costs and service utilization, Project 25 helped people become more independent, including helping them secure their own income,” Maienschein said. “Two years after the conclusion of the pilot in 2015, all Project 25 participants were still participating in the program and were housed in their own apartments, had acquired health care insurance, and were receiving health care on an ongoing basis.”
Despite the program’s success, local leaders opted not to renew funding after its three-year pilot run.
Within the legislature, Manscheien has supported several homelessness-focused bills and programs and introduced various bills of his own, including AB 2483 introduced earlier this year and AB 546 signed into law in 2021.
“I’ve had a number of bills through the years. I have one currently that would help with finding housing for seniors — they are one of the largest-growing segments of the homeless population. This would provide additional funding and help with planning to provide affordable housing for seniors,” Maienschein said of AB 2483.
He also noted his support for the eviction moratorium throughout the pandemic to prevent more residents from becoming homeless, and sought opportunities to increase funding for San Diego County to implement their own homelessness programs.
“In the legislature, we have provided local governments significantly increased funding to help address homelessness over the past several years. I support continued state funding to localities in their efforts to combat homelessness,” he said.
As California, and particularly San Diego County, grow less affordable, housing and taxes have become a major talking point in California’s legislature races. Maienschein defined himself as a candidate who will continue fighting for affordable housing and against tax bumps.
“I have consistently and successfully pushed for more affordable housing. I believe that home ownership should be attainable for all, which is why I am committed to adding housing to our region. Similarly, I will continue to oppose increased taxes. I voted against raising the gas tax and opposed the reduction in Californians’ ability to deduct local taxes and homeowner property taxes from our federal income taxes,” he said.
However, Maienschein’s opponents have criticized the Assemblyman for recently abstaining from voting on a bill to eliminate the gas tax presented by Assembly Republicans in March.
For Maienschein, the most important current public safety issues involve preventing gun violence, protecting small businesses and residents from retail and package theft, and supporting proper funding and mental health support for law enforcement.
Earlier this year, Maienschein introduced two bills targeting gun violence — AB 2239, which expands the 10-year ban on firearm possession to include those convicted of child endangerment and elder abuse, and AB 2137, which equips family justice centers in California to assist domestic violence survivors with obtaining a gun violence restraining order.
This commitment to reducing gun violence sets him apart from his Republican opponents, he said.
“While my opponents oppose common sense gun laws, I received the Gun Sense Candidate Distinction from Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action,” he said.
Maienschein also touted his endorsements from several public safety agencies including the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County, California Association of Highway Patrolmen and California Professional Firefighters.
In the past, he worked with law enforcement to develop effective legislation such as AB 1641, and also pursued legislation to provide them with their own resources.
“My legislation AB 1641 to GPS monitor sexually violent predators was developed with law enforcement agencies to help give them tools to protect our communities. I am also proud of AB 1836 which creates a grant program to help police departments improve mental health care for personnel serving in law enforcement,” Maienschein said.
The Assemblyman has also worked to combat the rise in package thefts by “porch pirates” during the COVID-19 pandemic. He introduced the Organized Package Theft Act (AB 1698) earlier this year, which created a specific organized package theft law to help police curb porch piracy.
When it comes to the environment, Maienschein said he will continue to support progressive policies that reduce the state’s ecological footprint and address the ongoing climate crisis, with his voting record earning him an “A” rating from the Sierra Club.
“We are acting with urgency and need to continue to do so. Combatting the climate crisis will take bold and decisive action,” he said. “While the previous Presidential administration rolled back on climate policies, California doubled down to protect our natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate contaminants from our water. We must continue to have a forward thinking approach to our climate policies to protect the planet now and for future generations.”
Maienschein has taken an especially strong stance against single-use plastics, introducing a bill earlier this year requiring there to be one water bottle refill station in all publicly accessible buildings, transit stations, malls and golf courses.
“Despite heavy pushback from special interests in Sacramento, I have been one of the leading voices fighting to reduce our dependence on single use plastics,” he said.
For more information about the June primary, check out The Coast News voter guide. Also, check out the Registrar of Voters’ interactive maps for the newly-drawn voting districts in the California Legislature and U.S. Congress.