Greeted by a raucous San Luis Obispo Guild Hall crowd of more than 100 people, Dawn Addis opened her run for state Assembly on Nov. 7 like she did her political life in 2017 as a Women's March SLO organizer: surrounded by energized local progressives.
"In 2017, millions of us took to the streets knowing that the fabric of America was about to be torn in ways we couldn't fathom," Addis told SLO Progressives Club members at their annual Friendsgiving dinner on Nov. 7. "We came together to demand a more positive and just future. Together we laced up our shoes."
- Photo By Peter Johnson
- STUMP SPEECH Flanked by supporters, Dawn Addis announces her candidacy for state Assembly at a SLO Progressives Club event on Nov. 7.
Addis' experience co-founding the local Women's March propelled her into office in 2018 as a Morro Bay City Council member. Now, just a year later, the longtime public school teacher is taking a crack at higher office.
"The truth is, at the state level, we have urgent work to do," Addis told the audience.
Addis will challenge incumbent Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-SLO) for the 35th District seat, which covers SLO County and Northern Santa Barbara County.
District voters will cast their ballots for the race in November 2020.
Addis told New Times that the Women's March changed the trajectory of her life, showing her the power of "everyday people" in politics.
"I decided to take a chance in 2017," Addis said. "I saw what happened with the election, and the writing was on the wall that people I care about were going to be attacked—LGBTQIA people, people with immigrant backgrounds. ... I realized I needed to step out of my comfort zone, get off the sidelines, and do something a little bit larger.
"It was incredibly successful," she continued about the Women's March. "We woke up the next day and my inbox was full, my social media was full, with people saying, 'I had lost hope, and coming out on Jan. 21  gave me hope again.' That was not a message I could walk away from."
A Democrat, Addis said she's "hungry for change" on the Central Coast. As "a mom who knows how to juggle," she said she's prepared to balance her duties on the Morro Bay City Council with her state candidacy.
"We need someone at the state level who's going to advocate for real people, for real policies, and who's going to take actual action," Addis said. "I'm going to be listening to people in a different way. I'm not going to pick the softball issues."
Cunningham, who was previously a SLO County deputy district attorney and Templeton Unified School District board member, ran and won his first Assembly campaign in 2016. He was re-elected in 2018, beating Democratic challenger Bill Ostrander. He's one of just 18 Republicans—with one seat vacant, Democrats fill 61 of the remaining 62 Assembly seats.
In his three years in office, Cunningham's focused on regional issues like the Diablo Canyon Power Plant closure, local highway funding, and human trafficking.
"Assemblyman Cunningham has been an independent and bipartisan fighter for the Central Coast," read a statement from Cunningham's re-election campaign following Addis' announcement. "We are confident that the voters will continue to recognize his efforts to fight human trafficking, fund career technical education, and fight for jobs and infrastructure."
With national politics at the forefront of the Women's March movement, Addis said she won't shy away from discussing the Trump administration and its policies during her run.
"All politics are local," she said. "Everything that's happening at the national level is happening right here in our communities."
Earlier on Nov. 7, a SLO Tribune editorial came out opining that local Democrats shouldn't "play the Trump card" against Republicans in local races.
The editorial board said, "It's dividing our community and burning us out even more on presidential politics in general and Trump in particular."
Speaking to the Guild Hall crowd, Adam Hill, SLO County's 3rd District supervisor who's running for re-election, twice called the position "bullshit." Hill is facing a Republican challenger, Stacey Korsgaden.
"I have a tough opponent," Hill said, "who has been able to convince even some people locally that somehow, despite the enormously punitive and terrible things that the Trump administration is doing to California, that somehow we should not talk about it. Bullshit!
"That's what we're fighting against, and we're not going to let someone tell us, 'No you can't bring up Trump locally,'" he continued. "Bullshit."
As part of the editorial, The Tribune asked local Republicans in office to go on record about whether they support Trump. Both Cunningham and Korsgaden declined to weigh in.
"The voters will have an opportunity to express their opinion of the president and his policies 12 months from now in the next election," Nick Mirman, Cunningham's chief of staff, told The Tribune.
But questions about the president aren't likely to go away, if the atmosphere in the SLO Guild Hall is any indication. Addis ended her campaign announcement with a widespread call to action.
"In 2018, millions of us went to the polls to make our voices and votes heard," she said. "I want the people in this room and the people who stand for progress across the 35th District to look back knowing that we left nothing on the table in the fight for democracy." Δ
Assistant Editor Peter Johnson can be reached at [email protected].