A local climate change activist, Heidi Harmon, has announced her candidacy to challenge incumbent Republican Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian.
To win the seat, Harmon, a Democrat, will not only have to beat a popular local incumbent, she’s also facing a district with a Republican majority. Assembly District 35, which Achadjian has represented since 2010, gives a slight edge to Republican candidates with 39 percent of voters registered Republican and 34 percent registered as Democrats, according to the California Secretary of State. Another 21 percent of voters have no party affiliation.
“We were delighted to have Heidi put her name forward because we wanted a Democratic candidate,” said Pat Harris, chair of the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party.
However, Harris admitted that Harmon will face an uphill battle in the race. When Gerry Manata challenged Achadjian in 2012, he lost handily, with about 39 percent of the vote compared to Achadjian’s 61 percent. But Achadjian will term out in 2016, if elected again this year.
“I think our chances are better in 2016 because historically we’ve not had good luck in this seat, but Heidi is a good candidate,” Harris said. “Her main issue is [the environment] especially climate change, and I think that sticks out to a lot of people at this point.”
If she wins in November, this would be Harmon’s first elected position. Harmon currently chairs the Climate Change Task Force of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and works with other organizations such as 350.org and the Citizens Climate Lobby.
Asked about her reasons for running, especially on a historically left-wing issue like climate change in a Republican district against a Republican incumbent, Harmon stressed that climate change issues will soon become the predominant topic of conversation in California. Additionally, she said she wanted to ensure that at least one challenger faces Achadjian.
“If no one had run against the incumbent, then it would be a one-sided conversation, and I think we’re at a time that it’s really important to have a conversation about these issues,” she said.
Harmon hasn’t yet begun fundraising, she said. Achadjian, on the other hand, raised more than $150,000 in the last half of 2013 alone, and has a cash balance of $223,616, according to campaign finance statements.