Retail theft and housing are issues in state Assembly race in Stanislaus County

The election in the 22nd Assembly District is a rematch between Republican incumbent Juan Alanis and Democrat Jessica Self, both of Modesto.

Alanis cruised to victory in November 2022 to win his first term in the California Legislature. He captured 58.1% of the vote to 41.9% for his opponent. The same two contestants are on the March 5 primary ballot and will advance to the election in November.

Alanis is vice chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and also serves on the Business and Professions, Labor and Employment, Public Safety, and Water, Parks and Wildlife committees.

Self declares on campaign materials that she’s committed to better healthcare, education and housing and development of good-paying jobs.

The 22nd Assembly was a new district drawn in 2021, putting Modesto and most of Stanislaus County in a single electoral district. The boundaries also include Turlock, Ceres, Patterson, Newman and a small part of Merced County.

Alanis said he’s working this year on a package of public safety bills on retail theft, including continued funding of anti-theft law enforcement operations and efforts to combat “cargo theft,” or theft of transported goods. He also will resume his work last year on legislation to combat the fentanyl epidemic and make sure the state is tracking tranq-laced fentanyl, which has caused at least three deaths in Stanislaus County.

Asm. Juan Alanis represents the 22nd Assembly District, which includes Modesto and Turlock. Juan Alanis
Asm. Juan Alanis represents the 22nd Assembly District, which includes Modesto and Turlock. Juan Alanis

Other top issues for the incumbent are housing affordability and education. Alanis plans to promote bills related to California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits that are filed to derail construction of affordable housing. Other affordability bills will focus on senior financial assistance and youth homelessness, the assemblyman said.

Alanis favors expanding scholarships for career technical education, with a mandate to notify parents about CTE classes and programs available on public campuses.

“My team and I had a very successful year representing the new 22nd Assembly District,” Alanis said in an email. “We were able to bring home significant wins for the district and get five bills signed into law. I look forward to continued success and am proud to be seeking a second term to represent our communities in Sacramento.”

A former sergeant for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Alanis began his first term while still employed by the law enforcement agency but has officially retired, his office said.

Jessica Self of Modesto, candidate for 22nd Assembly District
Jessica Self of Modesto, candidate for 22nd Assembly District

Cost of living, education, housing issues for Self

Self said she’s running again to give a voice to working-class people and vulnerable members of the community. She said the affordability issue in California and the nation includes families that can’t afford to buy groceries and deserve a quality education for their kids.

The candidate said there isn’t enough housing at every income level in the Modesto area. Her proposal for housing would include development of mixed use and rental housing downtown.

Self also said the district needs common-sense, achievable goals around homelessness. A large portion of the homeless population are working people who resort to sleeping in cars or living with family members to the point there are two or three families sharing a home.

“It’s easiest to provide help for those folks who have stable incomes,” Self said. A combined effort also could assist those homeless people with substance use and mental health disorders, through CARE Court and other programs, she said.

Self noted that the state is distributing money to counties to address homelessness, but there’s not much accountability or coordination to solve the problems. “We are trying to serve everyone with a blanket policy,” she said.

The Democrat recognized there’s a push for tougher criminal laws, 10 years after state voters approved Proposition 47, which reclassified some nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors.

Self, an attorney who does health and human services work for Stanislaus County, suggested that tougher penalties focus on people who repeatedly commit the same crimes, such as retail theft or burglary. That would give police officers and district attorneys more ability to enforce the law to protect businesses, she said, while keeping with the spirit of not-so-harsh penalties for first offenders supported by California voters.

The challenger has endorsements from unions, including the Service Employees International Union representing Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers.

Not much action in 9th Assembly District race

In another contest in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, fourth-term incumbent Assemblyman Heath Flora, R-Ripon, is facing a challenge from another self-described conservative in the 9th Assembly District.

Flora is a member of the Assembly Budget committee, is vice chairman of the Business and Professions, Labor and Employment, and Natural Resources panels and serves on the Health and Rules committees. He did not return messages from The Modesto Bee.

His opponent, Tami Nobriga of Lodi, who has never held public office, said she has concerns about the abuse of children. “My No. 1 priority is to save children,” she said. “I can’t believe how many children are being trafficked. … If elected, I would make sensible laws to protect children, protect our borders and our right to worship when we feel the need, for any religion, not just Christianity.”

Nobriga, who’s on the candidates list as a member of the American Independent Party, said the connection to that right-wing party resulted from her mistake on registration paperwork. She said she stated her party preference as “independent” instead of identifying as “nonpartisan,” which is the designation in California for someone not registered with any party. The American Independent Party is a right-wing political group associated with the third-party presidential campaign of George Wallace in 1968.

Nobriga said she was a longtime Republican until the financial collapse around 2008, but the partisan fighting in Congress during the economic crisis caused her to drift away from the GOP.

She is still conservative. “I lean all the way to the right,” said Nobriga, who worked in newspaper and radio advertising. “I am for God, country and family. I have been praying for the last eight months about what I can do.”

The 9th Assembly District includes more rural communities in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and other counties.