Santa Cruz Sentinel

By PK Hattis

Transportation advocate and community activist Lani Faulkner announced Thursday that she intends to run for the 1st District Santa Cruz County Supervisor seat up for election in March.

Faulkner, a longtime Live Oak resident, is the founder of Equity Transit – an organization that works to ensure affordable, equitable and environmentally wise public transit is available to all, particularly those from underserved communities.

According to a campaign release, Faulkner also serves on the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s Santa Cruz chapter, the Community Traffic Safety Coalition, and the local chapter of the NAACP.

“I’m running for supervisor because the 1st District deserves a representative who is professional, competent, and compassionate,” said Faulkner in the release.

The 1st District seat, which represents regions in Live Oak, Pleasure Point, Soquel, Happy Valley and the Summit area, has been held by Manu Koenig since 2020.

Koenig confirmed in an email to the Sentinel that he intends to defend his seat and will seek a second four-year term.

Faulkner has made transportation issues a key component of her campaign, something she and Koenig differ on in some significant ways.

She was an outspoken voice against last summer’s Measure D Greenway Initiative, which her campaign said “would have derailed public transit in Santa Cruz County forever.”

Conversely, Koenig strongly supported the measure which, if passed, would have changed a section of the county’s General Plan to support development of an interim multipurpose trail at the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Corridor in place of where the rail tracks currently sit.

The measure was defeated by a large margin, with 56,342 or 73% of the county voting against and 20,616 or 26% voting in favor. In the 1st District specifically, 12,478 or 67% voted against and 5,655 or 30% voted in a favor – a difference of 6,823 votes.

Late last year, as a member of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission which owns the rail corridor, Koenig voted in favor of pursuing a concept report for an electric passenger rail project stretching 22 miles from Watsonville to Santa Cruz.

“I will fight to bring your state and federal tax dollars back to our district to support vital infrastructure projects, whether that’s disaster response, affordable housing, bridge repairs, or the regional Coastal Rail and Trail,” said Faulkner, adding that she believes a light rail system will stimulate local economies and “literally tie our community together.”

“As a mom, youth mountain biking coach, and mentor, I am invested in equitable access to opportunity through programs like California’s Cradle-to-Career System, that ensure our young people develop, thrive, and enter satisfying careers as they become adults.”

Faulkner earned two degrees from UC Davis where she later taught courses in physiology, biotechnology. She went on to manage clinical trials for biotechnology companies for nearly 15 years, facilitating collaborations between government agencies and the private sector, according to the release.

The 1st District race will appear on the ballot in the March 5 statewide primary next year. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in March, they will secure an outright win, but if all candidates fail to exceed the 50% mark, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff in November.

County Supervisor districts 2 and 5 will also be up for election in March.

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