Jordan Cunningham’s election story
October 27, 2016
Special to CCN by Kaylee Bingham Zaccone
Jordan Cunningham, the Republican candidate for the 35th District Assembly race, says he is the best candidate because he has a background in education, public safety and tax regulation which are all aspects of the larger issues at hand, such as the drought, infrastructure and education.
He is a criminal defense attorney who decided he wanted to help stop things he saw going wrong and help push forward the things he saw that were working. He decided to run for office after Katcho Achadjian, the current 35th District Assemblyman, was termed out and he realized that all of the people he respected and would have gotten behind were not running.
“With my background in education, public safety and tax regulation, I thought I had something to offer the voters,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham and his democratic opponent, Dawn Ortiz-Legg, have been butting heads since the start of the race. Turn on a local radio station and you will hear advertisements about how one or the other is not a viable option. They have very different political stances and have been taking every chance they have to knock each other down. Ortiz-Legg’s campaign most recently sent out mailers to residents of San Luis Obispo County saying that because Cunningham defends criminals who do terrible things, he must not have the voters’ best interests in mind and so he is unfit to be the assemblyman.
Cunningham defends his career as an attorney, because in the United States everyone has a right to a lawyer and a fair trial and he is helping to provide that. His campaign website also responded to some of the mailers that Ortiz-Legg sent out with case documents on them detailing how Cunningham defended a man who attacked his girlfriend with a knife so that he could “get back on the street.” The website says that the documents on the mailers are fabricated and are not accurate.
Cunningham believes that he has the knowledge and experience required to tackle the main issues the district is facing.
As for the issue of the drought, Cunningham says that the district needs to focus on expanding the water storage infrastructure. With Lopez Lake, SLO’s water storage lake, at only 23.4 percent capacity, the district is in dire need of a solution. If the area doesn’t receive significant rainfall this year, Lopez Lake could be totally depleted in the next few years.
“We are at the tail end, I hope, of a very bad drought, but it won’t be the last one. We are a community that revolves on tourism and agriculture. We grow a lot of strawberries, we grow a lot of grapes and other things that people don’t even think about. We have mostly been relying on groundwater for a long time and because of the drought, we have depleted our resources,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham says that there is a way to fix the lack of water there is in storage, and that is the desalination plant at Diablo Canyon. With the closure of Diablo Canyon in the next eight to nine years, he wants to see the desalination plant stay open. The plan to expand the desalination plant was effectively killed after the closure of the power plant was announced, but some wish to see the desalination plant remain functioning. Cunningham says that desalination is going to be the way to ensure the county has water during the drought.
“We could have a private investor fund that desalination plant and pipe it right into Lopez Lake and recharge that aquifer, fill up that reservoir and pipe it back up here into the north county. The technology exists for us to solve this problem with that one plant, especially if we expand it. We could solve all of our water problems on the Central Coast, we just need the political will to do it,” Cunningham said.
He also believes that the storage infrastructure capacities should be expanded.
“We don’t have the water storage and conveyance infrastructure to capture even the average snow pack melt. I mean all of this free water falls from the sky and it goes into rivers and lakes, but we don’t even have the infrastructure to capture all that. So, I think we are losing out in that regard,” Cunningham said.
The final issue he discussed was education. Cunningham says that the cost of college is a “pet issue” of his. In the last 20 years since he graduated high school, the cost of tuition has tripled. He says that way too much money is going to administrators and an expanding bureaucracy.
“The cost of college tuition has increased so rapidly that we are pricing the middle class out of a college education and that is shameful,” Cunningham said. “A lot of the increased cost is being pushed on to students and their parents and it’s going on to expand a very large bureaucracy. It’s not going to scholarships or to hire better professors and that to me is a huge problem.”
Cunningham says that education will be an issue he tackles while in office and it is one he has a solid grasp of, because of his background in education.
“We are saddling an entire generation with a lot of student debt and that to me is a huge public policy problem that should concern everybody,” Cunningham said.
All of these issues touch on a larger topic, and that is the issue of jobs. The area is losing about 1,500 jobs with the closure of Diablo Canyon. Cal Poly is pumping out a lot of highly skilled and trained people ready to contribute to local jobs, but without the creation of more jobs, there is nowhere for these people to go. Cunningham says his focus will be to help build new skills and create more jobs, especially for Cal Poly graduates who want to stay in the area and generate more local business.
If Jordan Cunningham wins this election, he plans to work towards tackling the drought issue by pushing to keep the desalination plant open, creating more storage infrastructure and work to stop the pricing out of middle class students from their education.