Senator-elect Anna Caballero is no stranger to politics, and the new representative for California’s 12th Senate District is looking to make change in the area through the seemingly-simple tactic that got her elected in the first place: listening to her constituents.
“One of our strategies during the campaign was to get out and have conversations with people,” Caballero said. “We had some really frank conversations…it’s a different way of doing things, but it gave me the opportunity to talk about what I’ve done and what I’ve worked on, and then to listen to voters’ needs.”
Caballero made it a point to host town halls in areas all throughout the District as she and Republican Rob Poythress went head-to-head during their respective campaigns to see who would replace Republican Anthony Cannella, who termed out of office. Ultimately, it was the six-year Assemblywoman and former Salinas Mayor and City Council member who won the Nov. 6 election when she received 53.8 percent of the District’s votes. In Stanislaus County, just over 61 percent of voters chose Caballero.
The biggest cities in Caballero’s district are Salinas, Merced, Madera and a piece of Modesto, but she will also represent smaller, more rural areas throughout six counties including Hilmar, Delhi and Ceres.
The diversity of District 12 is not lost upon Caballero. There are larger cities with their own governments, she said, as well as smaller, unincorporated towns that rely on larger State and County entities for governance. Despite their differences, each community throughout the District is facing similar issues, she said.
Topics that came up most frequently in her town hall events were water, healthcare and affordable housing — the latter of which Caballero has worked to bring to the state during her time in public office.
While on the Salinas City Council, Caballero developed an innovative first-time home buyers program, a progressive inclusionary housing ordinance and helped to develop over 2,000 affordable housing units in the city. She also worked to reduced veteran homelessness and to create opportunities for disabled veterans to have accessible housing as the Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency under Governor Jerry Brown during her time in the State Assembly.
While Caballero said she hopes to continue providing affordable housing for California residents, she also wants to make an impact in other areas as well.
“The issue that I’ve done the most work on is the issue of affordable housing, and I’m interested in continuing to do work in that field but I think the biggest issue is going to be water,” she said. “Without water, rural California is at great risk.”
During drought years, Caballero traveled throughout the state to learn about regional water issues and to meet the farm workers, farmers and small business owners affected by the state’s lack of water. Storage is important, she said, as is ensuring that those living in rural areas have access to clean drinking water for both themselves and their livestock.
“In this state we should be able to turn on the tap and get clean, drinkable water,” Caballero said. “We’ve got to do something about it.”
Caballero has co-authored water bond legislation titled the “Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010,” and both wrote and voted for a series of bills to create a statewide ground water monitoring program. She’s also wrote and voted for bills to restore the ecosystem in the Delta while still fighting to stop illegal water diversions, and while in the Senate plans to reduce rates for irrigation district customers by reducing current restrictions on hydropower as a renewable energy source.
Caballero plans on adding to her already-lengthy list of political accomplishments once she’s sworn in as Senator on Monday, and just as with bills she helped pass during her time in Assembly, she knows there’s one key factor for getting laws passed in the State Legislature — bipartisanship.
“I don’t just do the party line. I’m not interested in that — I’m really interested in solutions,” Caballero said. “I’ve got a long history of working on issues people are concerned about, and you may end up with different parties representing similar areas but I think it’s all related to are you going to work together with people you disagree with and who may disagree with you, and are you going to work toward getting things done that people in the community think are important as well.”
Residents in other parts of Stanislaus County were able to vote for who would represent Senate District 8, of which Senator Tom Berryhill termed out, and overwhelmingly selected Republican candidate Andreas Borgeas for the seat. The fact that Stanislaus County voters elected representatives from two different parties signifies voters in the areas look at the issues candidates are passionate about, Caballero said, rather than whether a candidate identifies with red or blue.
“What I saw is that people really are looking for someone that’s going to listen, and who they think is going to best represent their interests,” she said.
One issue that Caballero and her opponent disagreed on during the campaign was Senate Bill 1, or the gas tax, which Poythress promised to repeal if elected. While serving in the Assembly, Caballero voted in favor of the tax and still supports it, saying the “proof is in the pudding” after voters in the Nov. 6 election decided not to repeal the law which will produce funds for infrastructure improvements throughout the state.
“I think that we have such a desperate need for safety improvements on our roadways, and people saw that,” she said. “I don’t see anything changing, and I’m going to make sure the money gets spent in the way it’s supposed to. I think people will be happy as improvements roll out.”
From serving at the city level in Salinas to making her way into the State Assembly, Caballero has embraced each new role with open arms, she said, and is looking forward to her newest role as State Senator.
“Going from City Council to the Assembly was a lot more work, and I would expect that’s going to be the case in the Senate as well,” Caballero said. “The district’s bigger with more people I have to listen to and communicate with, and there are incredible needs all over.”