Everything you need to know about the California State Senate candidates

Reporter Cedrik von Briel interviewed the seven candidates running for the 2020 District 13 nomination.

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Cedrik von Briel

All Seven candidates will be up for election Tuesday to see which of the two will compete for the California District 13 State Senate seat during the the general election

By Cedrik von Briel, Woodside High School - CA

With the primaries coming up on Tuesday, many of Woodside’s seniors will be voting in the primaries for the first time. While the presidential election is the one most will pay attention to, there are other high-profile races that affect people at the local level. One of these is the California District 13 State Senate race to replace Democrat Jerry Hill, who will be termed out next year.

In the Senate race, two candidates regardless of political party will be elected by the people during the primaries on Tuesday, and the winners will then face-off against each other on the November ballot to see who becomes State Senator. The candidates running for the District 13 nomination are:

  • Republican Alexander Glew
  • Libertarian John H. Webster
  • Democrat Shelly Masur
  • Democrat Mike Brownrigg
  • Democrat Josh Becker
  • Democrat Anne Oliva
  • Democrat Sally Lieber

The Paw Print interviewed most of the candidates to find out their views on general high school topics and some various other candidate-specific questions for some. The interviews are placed in the order that their candidates will presumably appear on the primary ballot. While they are mostly copied word-for-word, some edits were made in regards to grammar, punctuation, and flow.

More information on each of them can be found on their individual websites, which are linked to their respective names and titles above the interview.

Engineer and Business owner (R) Dr. Alex Glew:

WPP: What field do you think to be your specialty (i.e. climate change, education, etc.)?

AG: Clearly, my technical specialty, and something that I bring a lot of value to, is in technologies and infrastructure. If you think about dams, we haven’t built a dam in over forty years. We can’t do transportation, the bullet train was a disaster, so there is a lot of infrastructure issues that as an engineer, and scientist, and business owner, I think I have extremely strong expertise in. I also have extensive education and great experience with educational institutions. I do very well in education, and especially in STEM education.

How well do you know Woodside High School? 

AG: Not well.

WPP: What is your strategy for reaching out to high school students?

AG: I haven’t really thought about [reaching out to high school-age students] a lot, but generally, my policies reach out to them because I’m setting up a solid base, and I think that I am like a back-to-basics person, so that there’s a strong state going forward, and they don’t inherit a mess. The future is for them, and I’m more on the other end of the spectrum at this point in my life, so I try to just do things right so that the foundation is there for their future. 

WPP: What would you say to any voting age Woodside High school student who has no idea about the race but needs someone to vote for? (What would you say to get them on your side?)

AG: I would say, in general, make yourself really educated on the topics. Don’t let other people tell you what to think, what to believe, or what to feel. Just be your own judge.

I would say, it’s sort of, again, a back-to-basics answer. As they leave and go to college, then leave that and go to the working world and have a life ahead of them. The way society has sort of, organized living now, there [are] just too many difficulties for young people. The commutes are terrible, the job opportunities are random, and education is too expensive.

WPP: Is there anything else you’d like to say to potential student voters? 
To students, I would say this: Don’t ever tell yourself you can’t do something, [or] that you’re not good at math, or not good at English, or you’re not good at music. They recently found that almost anyone can learn math, but the problem is when they teach it, they say ‘The next step is…’ but they’ve left out five steps, and you have to figure it out yourself. So, with the right instruction, and the right discipline on [the student’s] part, you can do anything! Just make sure that you don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.

Software Engineer (L)  John H. Webster 

WPP: So, you affiliate as a Libertarian. Can you give an overview on what that is? 

JW: Do you know [what] self-ownership [means]? Basically, it means that each person owns [themselves]. One of the things that is wrong with democracy is that it basically becomes a majority-rule thing where representatives of the majority make the laws. So if you don’t fit in, you’re illegal, you’re against the law. So basically, [we]’ve got too much majority rule in democracy and not enough [of] allowing people to be different. For example, twenty years ago, I was arrested for making a statement about how I would like to raise my children, simply because that was not politically correct the way I wanted to raise my kids. So, we’re talking about [supposed] freedom, guess what? You don’t get freedom from [the] government, you get freedom from the free market.  The other thing is, the government…says that before you get your rights, you have to be either 18 or 21. In reality, the Libertarian view is that you get your rights when you express them, [or] when you demand them. One of the [consequences of] the government making laws is that…you don’t even get your rights until you’re 18, and that’s stupid. If you make a choice and demand that choice for something else, that’s when you get your rights. Right now, one of the big things is that you don’t even own yourself. You can’t even decide to run off and have sex, even though your body is gone through puberty and your body is ready for it. The whole thing is screwed up – particularly for people under the age of quote, ‘majority’…

WPP: So, I’m just going to ask you a few questions on your strategy for reaching out to high school students and your views, is that okay? 

JW: First of all, you realize that all [education] should be paid for by tuition, not taxes. Maybe they should come up with a way in which the parents can [pay for the tuition] alone, and when the student gets old enough, [the responsibility] can get transferred over to them to pay the loan back. The problem with the state paying for the schools through taxes, is guess what? The schools end up…representing the government as something you need, and you don’t. The schools should be going after and teaching what the parents want the schools to teach, not what the government wants to teach.

By the way, a lot of people know that the Libertarian Party doesn’t believe in taxes, well a lot of the time, they don’t say what the Libertarian party actually does believe in. If everything was as it should be, when you reach 18 and aren’t under your parent’s contract anymore, a salesman from the government should come to you and try to convince you how much you need the government…and ask you what programs you want. And then you’ll decide from [those] programs…That shouldn’t be based on taxes and how much money you have, it should be based on how much you want to use the services of government. The other thing is, the top two [system in which the top two vote-getting candidates regardless of party are nominated during the primaries and compete against each other for the general election] is stupid. It’s absolutely absurd and it was done to keep third-parties like the Libertarian party from ever getting any real votes. For example, in [the District 13 senate race], there [are] [five] Democrats, one Republican, and then me. The thing is that the most likely scenario is that the top two will be two Democrats, and I don’t care which one of those wins because they’re both wrong. I don’t even have a reason to go to the November elections because I can’t even vote for anything that counts.

By the way, a lot of the elections are done by a majority vote by district, and in reality, in a two-house legislature, one of the houses should be done by proportional representation…If a party like me, for example, if I got ten percent of the vote, then I should have ten percent of the effect in the legislature. For example, right now, let’s say that the death penalty was on the ballot. By district, maybe 30% of the people are against the death penalty. The problem is that right now if that were true, they’d all lose, and the only representatives that would be elected would the ones that were for the death penalty. In reality, in a representative house…30% of the vote in the legislature would be by those people that were against the death penalty. The idea of elections being won by majority rule by district [just] doesn’t work…You know about the company vs. workers dispute with… [Uber]? Well, whatever a company and its workers – whatever agreement they come to consensually – should override anything the state governments dictate. They should be able to come up with their own idea of their relationship, and the state should stay out of it. If [rideshare] workers want to be contractors, and if the company wants them to be contractors, then they can be contractors. The problem is, you get these unions… that give minimum wage and certain benefits, and that’s mull. None of that should occur. It should only be what the company and the workers decide on. 

WPP: What field do you think to be your specialty (i.e. climate change, education, etc.)?

JW: My whole emphasis is about freedom and not having things done by the government. Essentially, it’s the free market. For example, [I] basically believe that the global climate change thing is blown out of proportion. That is, in fact, they shouldn’t even be doing anything about the carbon part of it, but [should rather] be dealing with the oxygen part of it… It’s free to take stuff out of the air, but it shouldn’t be. If you’re using oxygen in your production of electricity, then you should be paying for the oxygen you use [as well], and not just for the fuel… If I decided to burn coal, but I had to pay for the oxygen, then somebody else is earning money for producing the oxygen. [Therefore], you’re paying for the true cost, you should be free to make [any] choice you [want to] make. That occurs in the free market, while governments tend to enforce politically correct decisions. If you make a different decision, you’re breaking the law somehow. Basically, my thing is understanding the free market and how it works and what you need to get government out of the way so that the free market will work. 

WWP: How well do you know Woodside High School? Do you happen to have any connections?

JW: I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve worked in that area before. I’m a software engineer in Palo Alto, [and] I have a masters [degree] from Santa Clara University for computer science.

WWP: What is your strategy for reaching out to high school students?

JW: Last time I ran around four years ago, I had a Facebook ad and all that stuff, but this time I’m just depending on newspapers to publish my various views and where I stand on the issues. 

WPP: What would you say to any voting age Woodside High school student who has no idea about the race but needs someone to vote for? (What would you say to get them on your side)

JW: [Here I would say] some of the stuff I’ve already mentioned to you, which is the main thing about how our democracy does not really represent the people. It’s certainly not even representing the people in high school. The idea that if you’re under 18, you have no ability to make any kind of choice for yourself because they’re all made for you by your custodian or your parent, or the government. For example, they’re trying to put in laws… so that you can’t buy vaping [products]? That’s stupid! The main point is that minors – somebody 15, or 16, or whatever  have acquired their rights when they demand them. They are the ones that decide when they have their rights, not the government. Incidentally, just as an afterthought, somebody [at any age]… can actually join the Libertarian party and voting rights within the Libertarian Party. They don’t have to wait until the government recognizes them as having rights.

WPP: What do you think is the biggest issue affecting Local High schools and what would you do to help mitigate that once in office?

JW: As I said, the big thing is that [schools] now – since they get their funding from the government –  that they’re really only responsible to the government for being what [the] government wants. [Schools] should be paid for by tuition, which is then passed on to the student later [in loans], so that the students and the parents are the ones who should then drive what happens in schools.

WPP: You also ran for this same seat in both 1992 and 2016. How will this year be different? 

JW: The last time, I didn’t get much attention because of the top two voting thing, and I think even the League of Women Voters only had one [forum] on schools. The point is, my whole idea on schools [are] that the government shouldn’t even be running [them] to begin with. I didn’t even have much to say on that discussion with the League of Women Voters. At least [this time], they wanted to know my position on a number of issues. One of the best interviews I had was actually one with The Mercury News, where they actually got my views and the other candidates[s’ views] too.

Educator and non-profit director (D) Josh Becker:

WPP: What field do you think to be your specialty (i.e. climate change, education, etc.)?

JB: Climate change for sure, but as I said up there, I spent a lot of time on education [at the candidate’s forum] today, and I’ll definitely spend time on it up there [in Sacramento].

WPP: How well do you know Woodside High School? 

JB: Well, my daughter’s in high school, so I know Menlo-Atherton the best, but a lot of her friends go to Woodside, so I know Woodside High School reasonably well as well. 

WPP: What is your strategy for reaching out to high school students?

JB: Well, I do have a number of high school students working on my campaign right now, and I’m really proud. Especially over the summer, it was a lot easier, but even now, we have folks coming to Canvass (establish direct connection with voters by meeting them in person, such as by knocking on doors), coming to farmers markets with me, You know, I started as a kid, going door-to-door, so I think just being approachable and caring [is how I reach out to high school students.] I try to give high school kids an issue as well. ‘What’s in it for them?’ I mean, they want to help me, they want the state to be better. But, what’s in it for them too, something that they can put on their resume, something that they can talk about, something that they can own. 

WPP: What would you say to any voting age Woodside High school student who has no idea about the race but needs someone to vote for? (What would you say to get them on your side)

JB: We have such an opportunity in California. We are the fifth-largest economy in the world if we were our own country, and that means we can make a difference in things like climate change. We can lead the country and lead the world in education. We can do things like start new UC Campuses! We’ve done it, it’s not easy, I’ve done it, and it’s not hard. But only if students get out and vote and advocate, it’s not going to have education, we’re not going to have more capacity in our UC system, we’re not going to be leaders in climate change that we could be unless kids get out there.

WPP: What do you think is the biggest issue affecting local high schools, and what would you do to help mitigate that once in office?

JB: It’s hard to pick one, but I see mental health, with the things I’ve seen just with my own family and their friends, and not enough counselors. I think not [having] enough adults in the school [is also one of the main problems facing high schools] – our teacher ratio. But that also goes for nurses, guidance counselors, and mental health counselors, But there are just not enough adults in our schools.

Redwood City Vice-mayor and former Redwood City School Board President (D) Shelly Masur:

WPP: What field do you think to be your specialty (i.e. climate change, education, etc.)?

SM: I do think education is my specialty, but to add another one because it’s important to me as well, I have a masters degree in public health, so public health and access to adolescent healthcare [as well]. [For example], have you had Teen Talk yet? I wrote the original Teen Talk curriculum [for the Sequoia Union High School District], so I’ve been working in access to health care as well, and I think that is another specialty that I bring. And then, you know, I’ve worked as a city councilwoman, I’ve worked really hard on housing and increasing affordable housing in Redwood City, so that’s another area of specialty. 

WPP: You wrote the original Teen Talk curriculum? 

SM: Well, I wrote the first one – it’s been updated significantly since I first wrote it – but I wrote the first one in 2000. In fact, I will tell you just a little fact – I worked with Woodside High students primarily, who wanted to advocate to have comprehensive sex ed in the Sequoia Union High School district, so we did a two-year advocacy training, they went to the board and asked to have sex ed required, and it is now required!

WPP: How well do you know Woodside High School? 

SM: Well, my kids went to Sequoia, so hopefully the Woodside High kids won’t hold that against me, but I worked with kids at Woodside High. As an… elementary school board member, we worked across the two districts, and my kids at school was actually next to Woodside High, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time there. 

WPP: What is your strategy for reaching out to high school students?

SM: So, we’ve actually been working with high school students as interns. We had a bunch of high school students, but then they all graduated and went to college, but… in 2018, I actually worked with students from M-A [Menlo-Atherton], Woodside, Sequoia, [and] Carlmont [high schools] on the March For Our Lives [rally] in downtown Redwood City. So, I helped them plan it – stayed in the background because it was their thing – but I wanted the person to sort of facilitate it and made everything happen. So, I’ve been working with young people, [and] helping them be successful advocates for a long time

WPP: What would you say to any voting age Woodside High school student who has no idea about the race but needs someone to vote for? (What would you say to get them on your side?)

SM: It depends on what your issues are, but I will say if you want somebody… who’s been working with young people, who’s been an advocate for and with young people for a good portion of [their] adult life, who is committed to advocating for issues that they care about, I’m your person.

WPP: What do you think is the biggest issue affecting local high schools, and what would you do to help mitigate that once in office?

SM: I’d like to add one thing to the last one: I’m the only one who got the endorsement of the Peninsula Young Democrats and the California Young Democrats, so I think that shows something about how young people view my ability to work with and for them. Now, I think your question was about what I think is the biggest issue facing local high schools? Well, we talked about in [the library at the Candidate’s forum] that funding is a significant issue. I think for individual high schools, it’s different. Different campuses have different issues that are facing them, depending on what’s happening with the kids, what’s going on with your administration. Sometimes it’s course access, sometimes it’s what is going on with sports, or do you have access to music or theatre, do you have teachers who should not really be in the classroom anymore but they’re still there. But, I think overall, it’s just a reflection of how we need to fund our schools better so that the adults have the resources they need to serve the students well. 

Burlingame Council Member and former US Diplomat (D) Michael Brownrigg

WPP: What field do you think to be your specialty (i.e. climate change, education, etc.)?

MB: I think my expertise is [in] problem-solving and getting hard things done in government. I actually think that’s a skill, and I’ve demonstrated it over 30 years of public service. The issues that I think are crucial and hard are affordability, climate, and education.

WPP: How well do you know Woodside High School? 

MB: Not well. I know the community of Woodside very well, I mean, I grew up around here. I grew up in Los Altos Hills and went to Gunn High School, so I know Woodside as a community, but I wouldn’t say I know Woodside High especially well.

WPP: What is your strategy for reaching out to high school students?

MB: Well, I think my approach has been to organize groups around themes. For example, I met with a bunch of high school students about a week and a half ago on climate and recycling. You know, I like organizing it based on issues that high school kids care about, and so that’s what I’ve done before. We have listening sessions here in Burlingame with groups of high school youth. I have a high schooler at home, so I’m familiar a little bit with the demographic. You know, I think if I was lucky enough to be senator, I would try to build on my experience here in Burlingame of having listening sessions with different groups including high school and young adults.

WPP: What would you say to any voting age Woodside High School student who has no idea about the race but needs someone to vote for? (What would you say to get them on your side?)

MB: I would say that the issues that I am focused on [are] affordability, making sure there’s a place you can live here; climate, which is making sure there’s a planet to live on; and education. which you are in the middle of, are all crucial to your generation. I think we have been let down by prior leaders who think about themselves and their own political standing rather than the future and the younger demographic. I have, in my career, consistently taken on hard problems that are going to be tomorrow’s problems, to try and find solutions today. That’s true about sea-level rise, it’s been true about funding our infrastructure, it’s been true about paying down pensions. I have consistently taken on hard challenges so that your [lives] will be better, and that’s what I want to do in Sacramento.

WPP: What do you think is the biggest issue affecting local high schools and what would you do to help mitigate that once in office?

MB: I think there are two big issues, but to be honest, I would be more interested… in your take on what the big issues are. But to me, the two issues that I’ve heard from my interactions with high schoolers and young adults, maybe three, [are] mental health services in high school, creating safe space and more support, and I think there’s a question for some about how they’re going to pay for college, and I think that’s an important question. Like I said a minute ago, climate change is really important to many, many high school students I’ve talked to. That’s a general issue, not a high school specific issue, but I think it’s an issue that your generation cares a lot about, as it should. 

WPP: During the education forum, you called for the reform of CA Proposition 13. What is Prop 13 and why reform it?

MB: Prop 13 was passed 40 years ago in order to make sure that rapidly appreciating – meaning growing in value – homes with then-bought higher property tax wouldn’t drive out mostly senior citizens. To put it in its simplest, it was to make sure senior citizens wouldn’t get driven out of their homes by rising taxes. It basically fixed the valuation of a home, letting it rise just two percent a year, so property taxes wouldn’t rise. That has done a really good job over the 40 years in making sure that people don’t lose their homes or have to move out because of escalating property prices. The thing that the people, I don’t believe, focused on at the time – and I was a kid when Prop 13 was passed here – is that it didn’t just cut the residential or apartment building [taxes], it also covered businesses and industrial properties. As I explained… at the debate, when Prop 13 was first passed, two-thirds of all property tax dollars paid to the state, or counties, or cities or school districts – if you added up all the property tax money – two-thirds came from business and one-third from homeowners. Now today, 40 years later, two-thirds of the property taxes are paid by homeowners, and only one-third by (inaudible due to phone connection). I think that tells you all you need to know about an unfair allocation of paying for government and school services. To reform Prop 13, you take industrial and commercial property out from under the ‘shield’ of Prop 13, and you let them work it, and over time, that means they pay higher property taxes. That means that our schools and cities and communities will have more money.

WPP: Is there anything else?

MB: I will say this: If they have the possibility of voting – obviously not all of your readers are of voting age – but if they have the possibility of voting or have older brothers and sisters, you absolutely should vote. If you want to know why politician talks about social security and medicare, it’s because senior citizens vote, and they want to make sure senior citizens like them. If you wonder why politicians don’t always talk to young people, it’s because young people don’t vote. So change that. I want you to vote for me, but what I really want you to do is vote. I want your older brother and your older sister to vote. I want your older cousins, and I want you, and everyone else in your age group to vote. That’s what’s most important.


Millbrae city councilwoman and Housing advocate (D) Annie Oliva:

WPP: What field do you think to be your specialty (i.e. climate change, education, etc.)? I saw that you’re big on homelessness [prevention] – is that correct?

AO: I’m big on homelessness? I don’t know if I’m big on it, but I have the experience to it in regards to my son. So it’s a very personal issue for me, So in regards to the issues I stand for, I am a housing advocate. I have spent my entire personal life trying to find affordable housing for people, and to date, I’ve helped over 700 first-time homebuyers purchase their first home.

WPP: How well do you know Woodside High School? 

AO:I do not have any connections other than [the fact that my family] used to have a horse in Woodside, and I passed by Woodside many times to [visit] the horse when my children were little.

WPP: What is your strategy for reaching out to high school students?

AO: Well, this is one perfect strategy – to answer a phone call of anybody who might show interest – but I also have a large amount of high school students that are working on [my] campaign. In fact, I just left the campaign office, and I left six [students] there [to make] phone calls. So that’s been super, super rewarding with our campaign to especially have youth with influence, and youth [who] are interested in the future of who’s being elected, and youth willing to roll up their sleeves to take action on it…I especially am very appreciative to [those youth] that are willing to take the time to help me get elected.

WPP: What would you say to any voting age Woodside High school student who has no idea about the race but needs someone to vote for? (What would you say to get them on your side)

AO:  Educate yourself. Meet the person. Ask the question. Talk about [the] future. And most importantly, ask what their plan is for the issue that they stand for.

WPP: What do you think is the biggest issue affecting Local High schools and what would you do to help mitigate that once in office?

AO: Well, it is part of my platform, and I hope it’s not the largest problem, but I know it’s an issue, and that is something [that] I would like to address, and that is the issue of mental health. I feel for the young. [They] are under so much pressure. There is so much competition for colleges and for the day-to-day of high school. I think that we need to address that stress for the youth, and I think that is directly related to drug abuse and mental health issues that are leading to homeless issues that are on our… beautiful streets of Woodside and Redwood City. I would like to address that issue in the schools. Trauma plays a huge part in people’s adulthood lives, and high school is at an age that so vulnerable and so subjectable to many sorts of trauma, that I would like to think that we could address that in our schools.

WPP: I noticed you have a couple of signs near Woodside High. What made you put them there?

AO: Thank you for noticing. With over 150 volunteers, we have put over 3000 signs. I don’t think that it is unique that you have seen them [near school], but I’m happy you noticed, and hopefully, it will be enough for [viewers to] Google the name and pick up the phone to call and see who I am.

Democrat Sally Lieber could not be reached to share her opinions.

The Paw Print does not specifically endorse any political candidate, party, or view expressed in any of these interviews.

This story was originally published on The Paw Print on March 2, 2020.