The race for California’s 33rd District Assembly seat has suffered its first campaign casualty.
On Oct. 15, Marty Mariscal—former Santa Maria City Council member—told New Times’ sister paper the Santa Maria Sun he’s no longer running for the seat, which is being vacated by current Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee in 2010.
“The bottom line is I can’t afford it,” Mariscal said. “It’s not that I don’t have the desire, or the drive, or the abilities—I just can’t afford [to campaign] in this economy.”
For the past decade, Mariscal has been the president and CEO of his own insurance brokerage agency, Mariscal-Rumbaugh Insurance in Santa Maria.
During that time, the self-proclaimed “policy wonk” has taken on— and continues to occupy—a number of public positions, including a seat on the Santa Maria City Council, the Air Pollution Control District of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, the Santa Maria Valley Economic Development Commission, and others. He currently serves as a delegate to the Republican National Committee, as well as a governor-appointed member of two state health boards.
However, Mariscal said, all of those public service positions are partly responsible for his withdrawing from the Assembly race.
“Honestly, the economy has caught up with me. I’ve spent too much time in the past focusing on public service and not enough time on running my business,” he explained. “You can’t make a living as a candidate.”
Mariscal said his financial situation is a perfect example of the restrictions the country’s political system puts on potential campaigners.
“I’m from the private sector, and I can’t run anymore because A) I have to make a living, and B) to be considered a top candidate in today’s political structure you have to raise buco bucks,” he explained.
Now that his name will no longer be on the ballot, Mariscal said, the livelihoods of the remaining candidates, to some degree, “depend on the public sector or are generated by the public payroll.”
For the record, Republican Katcho Achadjian is San Luis Obispo’s current 4th District Supervisor and owns a string of local gas stations. Fellow Republican Etta Waterfield is a member of the Santa Maria Planning Commission, and coordinator for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Commission. Democrat Hilda Zacarias is a member of the Santa Maria City Council, ran her own tax accounting service, and now works as a nonprofit administrator and consultant. Fred Strong is a member of the Paso Robles City Council.
“The way we set up the party system, we don’t want the political wonks in office,” Mariscal said. “We want people who can raise money and tell everyone what they want to hear.”
A person’s ability to fundraise, he said, does little to show whether or not he or she is qualified for office.
“It’s more important that the person is willing to go into what I like to call the ‘den of lions,’” Mariscal said. “Is the candidate willing to go outside of his comfort zone and talk to the people who don’t like him?”
In the future, Mariscal said, he would consider running again—this time as an Independent—if the economy improves and the political system becomes more favorable for multiple parties.
“Like a lot of people, I feel strongly about how things should be, but I think my voice would get lost in a traditional party system,” he said.