Oct. 11, 2012
By Hannah Guzik
A Republican from Los Olivos is trying to unseat the Democratic incumbent in the 37th Assembly District race this November.
Das Williams, who is seeking his second term, is campaigning against challenger Rob Walter, a business and estate-planning attorney.
Williams represents the 35th Assembly District, but as part of redistricting, most of that district — which includes Santa Barbara County, Ventura and Oxnard — will become the 37th Assembly District next year. The 37th District will include Santa Barbara County, Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore.
Williams lives in Santa Barbara but spent most of his childhood in Ojai, attending Topa Topa Elementary, San Antonio Elementary and Matilija Junior High schools.
He is a third-generation Ojai resident, and his aunt, Suza Francina, is a well-known yoga teacher and author who served as Ojai’s mayor and an Ojai City Council member in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Williams said his family, which is of Dutch-Indonesian descent, immigrated to Ojai from Amsterdam through the Marshall Plan, a U.S. plan to help rebuild Europe after World War II.
“We feel deeply blessed by God that our sponsor happened to live in Ojai,” he said. “That’s how we came to Ojai.”
Williams, who worked as a community organizer and served on the Santa Barbara City Council before being elected to the Assembly, holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and management from UC Santa Barbara.
He is campaigning on a platform of creating green energy, protecting the environment and ensuring a quality education for children.
Williams said he is also working on some issues specific to Ojai. He attempted to create legislation that would outlaw oversized trucks on Highway 33 and said he is still working on the issue.
“This is definitely not an issue I’m planning on giving up on,” he said.
Williams is also working on open-space preservation and water issues. He worked on a bill this year that would create a state funding mechanism for grants to help prevent infestations of harmful mussels in lakes, such as Lake Casitas.
The redistricting will make the new district slightly more Republican than before, but Williams said he isn’t too concerned.
“A lot of those Republicans are my relatives, so I think the balance will work out for me,” he said.
This will be Walter’s second attempt at winning political office, but his first in California. In 1972, he ran as a Democrat for the Legislature in Michigan, where he grew up.
At the age of 7, Walter went to work in his father’s lumber yard, and was running his father’s coal yard seven years later to help support the family of nine, he said.
“I’m no stranger to hard work,” Walter said. “It’s the core of who I am and the core of how I’ve been rewarded.”
He holds a law degree from Regent University School of Law and an advanced degree in tax law from the University of San Diego School of Law. He has lived in California for the past 21 years.
Walter said he has visited Ojai but hasn’t held campaign events there yet.
“I have not had anybody from Ojai contact me with a particular Ojai issue and I have not had the opportunity to have a town hall meeting there,” he said.
Walter said he does feel that his platform of promoting business, conservative social issues and lower income taxes will appeal to voters regardless of their city. He also is an advocate for a voucher program that would allow parents to enroll their children in the school of their choice.
If elected, Walter said he would focus on cutting spending at the state level and attracting businesses to California, primarily by reducing the corporate income tax. He said he would also try to end controversial social sciences curriculum in public schools, such as celebrating Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay man to be elected to public office in California.
“This is nonsense, it’s misplaced and it’s a big negative,” he said. “I have monitored the legislation coming out of Sacramento for the last seven to eight years and sometimes it seems like one of the least safe places culturally to have your children is in government schools.”