September 2, 2016

Legislator Profile Senator Mike McGuire represents California’s 2nd District which stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon Border

(Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been paraphrased for clarity and brevity.)


Mike McGuire first ran for elective office at the age of 19 and became a state senator in 2014 at the age of 34.  In both instances he was one of the youngest ever elected to such a position in California. (Senator McGuire was interviewed prior to the devastating August Lake County fire.)


Where did you grown up and tell us about your early years?

I was born and raised in Healdsburg (CA) and graduated from Healdsburg High School.  I was raised by my grandma and mom as my parents divorced when I was very young.  My family on my grandmother’s side were prune growers and then we transitioned into grape growers.  I can’t say enough about what my grandmother did for us.  She took us in and helped raise me.  My mom worked full-time so my grandmother was there for me.  I was always involved in agriculture on our farm and FFA (Future Farmers of America).  It changed my life.  I was doing what I loved—I was outdoors, in the dirt and raising animals.

What did you do after high school?

From a young age I was expected to contribute and I did.  I worked full-time in high school.  I started by working at the local radio station where I stayed seven years and then I went to the local television station where I was for six or seven years.  I loved it.  I was working in production and marketing and thought my career would be in that industry.


You were elected to School Board at a very young age.  How did that happen?

When I was in high school, it always bothered me that our high school had a lot of problems.  The roof was leaking.  The boiler would go out.  I thought it was strange that the teachers, administrators and everyone else expected success, but we were operating under difficult conditions.  So a year after I graduated from high school, I ran for the Healdsburg School Board in 1998.

My grandmother always told me to do three things: work hard, work together and never take no for an answer.  I ran against two incumbents and worked harder than anyone else.  I walked the district and knocked on a lot of doors.  I ended up getting the most votes and becoming one of the youngest school board members ever elected in California.

I am very proud of the fact that during my service to the School Board we were able to get a bond passed to rebuild the high school and rebuild the middle school.


Did you pursue your education at the point and what was the focal point of your life?

I went to Santa Rose Junior College for two years and then on to Sonoma State to get my bachelor’s degree.  And then I received my masters at USF (University of San Francisco).  I was very focused on the community.  After serving on the school board I ran for city council and served for six years.

It was during that time that I quickly realized the importance of agriculture to our state and my community.  Ag is the heart of the California economy.  Family farms are the backbone of our community.


In 2014, you decided to run for the State Senate. Tell us about your district.

My senate district is the largest district in the state of California.  It goes from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border and encompasses parts or all of seven counties.  My district contains 40 percent of the state’s coastline.  It is a very diverse district.  I have Marin County, which is the richest district in the state and Lake County, which is one of the poorest.  My district has a lot of wealth and very low unemployment at its southern end in Marin, but as you go north, we have more unemployment and poverty.  Mendocino has the second highest percentage of homeless people per capita in the state.

My district also has many valuable assets.  We grow more oysters than anywhere in the state especially in the clean bay water in Humboldt.  That industry has brought a lot of jobs to Humbolt.  We have the most craft breweries and the most wineries in the state.  We also grow the most marijuana.  Sixty percent of all the marijuana in the state is produced in four of my counties: Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino and Trinity.


When you ran for the State Senate did you have a signature issue?

My number one issue was to improve our public school system and make it very strong.  I am very grateful to have graduated from Healdsburg High School and to have participated in FFA.  I’m not sure what I have would have done without it.  We need to provide similar opportunities for every child in the state.  I came into office wanting to make more investment in our schools.  We need to bring funding up to pre-recession levels.  And I am especially passionate about improving our technical education in high school.  Seventy-two percent of our high school graduates will not end up getting a degree from a four-year college.  We need to have more career training classes for these students.

I had a big ask when I came into the Legislature.  I was looking for $1 billion to invest in education and especially in career training and job skill classes.  We were able to secure $900 million and that is going to be able to fund many new programs.  We need ag science classes throughout the state.

In my district, Marin and Sonoma’s economies are on fire, but the further north you go, the more unemployment you see.  We have to focus on the rural economies and focus on job creation in those communities.  That includes bringing high-speed internet to rural California.

We also have to invest in our infrastructure.  We have crumbling roads, streets and highways in our state, especially in the rural communities.  For every $1 billion we invest in infrastructure, we create 14,000 jobs.

Poverty is an area I am very concerned with, especially in the rural areas.


You saw eye to eye with agriculture on the overtime exemption for ag work.  Explain your position?

The California economy is very much dependent on a healthy agricultural community.  I have significant agriculture in my district, including pear orchards and the wine industry.  I am very focused on the health and well-being of that sector.

But I did vote to increase the minimum wage.  Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and they need our help.  We have had record economic growth in California and there are a couple of major reasons for that.  One is low gas prices, which puts more money in the pockets of consumers and they spend that money to buy things.  And we have also had higher wages.  Higher wages result in a more robust economy.


As you mentioned earlier, marijuana production is a driver of the economy in your districts, what are your thoughts and concerns about legalizing marijuana?

I do have concerns about the recreational marijuana proposition.  Five of us were able to put together and pass historic rules, regulations and safeguards for the cultivation of medical marijuana.  We were able to get marijuana designated as an ag crop regulated by California Department of Food & Ag.  It must be regulated now including pesticide and fertilizer use.

We were able to limit cultivation to one-half acre plots indoors and one acre outdoors.  The proposition (on the November ballot) does not include that restriction.  There are enormous concerns in the North Coast, (that once the proposition is passed) large commercial production will take over.

We also prevented the farming, distribution and retail to be in one hand, just as it is restricted for alcohol.  The proposition does not address this issue.  That concerns me.

And of course, under federal banking law, there are still rules restricting direct deposits of receipts from marijuana business.  The ‘Feds’ need to fix that.

I do have significant concerns about marijuana and its production, but at the same time it is here to stay.  It is one of the highest grossing crops in California.  I do think we need to puts caps on the size of farms and discuss the integrated model of growing, distributing and selling.


Water is another issue that your district looks at a little differently.  What is your take on California’s water situation?

The southern areas of my district were hit very hard by drought.  Yet in Del Norte County, drought conditions no longer exists.  It makes no sense that people in that district are exposed to the same conservation measures.  I think it proves that the one-size-fits-all concept doesn’t work.

I see several approaches are necessary.  We do need to continue to do as much as we can in conservation.  We also need to replenish our underground aquifers.  But I also think we do need additional storage.  We are not going to solve our water shortage problems without more storage.  Storage has to be part of the argument because 60 percent of our water comes from snow melt.

I’d also like to see more use of reverse osmosis systems so that we can better utilize waste water.


You are new to the Legislature, what is your take on the partisan approach that seems to dominate politics?

We do have to work together to solve our problems.  I like to say potholes don’t know political boundaries.  We have to focus on working together and solving problems.  Sure there will be differences, but there are many things we can work together on.  California is better off if we do so and the state will be stronger.  If we focus on good policy rather than partisan politics we can get a lot done.

One area where that is particularly true is in rural California.  I was able to secure a lot of Republican support for career training because it is important in all parts of the state and especially in rural California.


Our members and your constituents produce some of the finest agricultural products in the world.  Do you consume those products?

How can you not love California produce?  There is nothing better than a California peach or a gravenstein.  That is my favorite apple.  At my home we have two gravenstein trees and they produce the best tasting apples.  They don’t have much of a shelf life and they bruise easily but they are very good tasting.  And of course there is nothing better than a Lake County pear.  On the vegetable side, I don’t think you can beat a California tomato with Italian dressing on it.