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Tuesday March 3, 2020 — Primary Election
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California State AssemblyCandidate for District 37

Photo of Elsa Granados

Elsa Granados

Nonprofit Executive Director
10,840 votes (7.1%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Expand access to affordable housing and health care
  • Strengthen education from pre-K through college
  • Protect our coastline and stand up to the oil and gas industry



Profession:Social Justice Advocate
Executive Director, Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (formerly known as the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center) (1997–current)
More experience, (not availa–current)
Fellowship Social Service Program, San Francisco Foundation (1995–1996)
Social Worker, San Diego County Social Services (1991–1995)
Researcher, San Francisco Mayor's Office of Children Youth and Families (1993–1995)


San Francisco State University Master of Arts (M.A.), public administration (1995)
University of California Santa Cruz Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), psychology (1989)

Community Activities

Board Member, Santa Barbara Women's Political Committee (1999–current)
Board member, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) (1999–2007)
Affirmative Action Commissioner, Santa Barbara County (2004–2007)
Board member, Fund for Santa Barbara (2000–2007)


 Elsa Granados has dedicated her life to social justice and spent her career working to end violence against women and children.

She was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents and it was her mother’s work in the Los Angeles garment industry that left a lifelong impression. Watching her mother work extremely long days for $1 per dozen pair of pants sewn taught Elsa the value of hard work and advocating for those who need it most. 

At age 23, Elsa began working with migrant farmworker students in the community of Watsonville, CA. Although she was hired as a tutor, she served as their main math and language arts teacher because the school did not have any bilingual teachers. While tutoring, Elsa also noticed students coming in with purple hands stained from picking fruit, others didn’t have adequate housing, and some experienced domestic violence in their homes. This experience led her to start volunteering to help survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

But Elsa knew volunteering was not enough. She wanted to change people’s lives and have a say in the policies that affected the lives of the people for whom she was advocating. So, she decided to pursue her studies at UC Santa Cruz receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and later earned her Master’s degree in Public Administration at San Francisco State University.

While in college, Elsa became interested in how America’s policies were affecting our neighbors in Mexico and Central America, and the impact it would have on our future. She joined a group called Somos Hermanas, a group of feminist activists who drew the connections between the injustices that were committed abroad and the social injustices in our own country. It was these stories, combined with her childhood experiences, that prompted Elsa to champion social justice causes.

For the past 22 years, Elsa has served as the Executive Director of Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA), formerly called Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. She has worked on public policy that affects survivors of sexual violence on a local, state and national level, such as creating a Tax check-off which provided funds to rape crisis centers in California and support services to survivors of sexual assault, providing language for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to provide services to farmworker women, indigenous women, and women who were incarcerated, and lobbying members of the California Senate and Assembly to support legislation pertinent to survivors of sexual assault.

While this work is of vital importance, Elsa knows she can make a difference on a larger scale for our community and that is why she has decided to run for State Assembly in District 37. She has experienced and seen first-hand the struggles people face in our community, and she will champion issues like social justice and equality, women’s rights, and protect our beautiful coastline and environment.

Today, Elsa lives in Santa Barbara with her partner, Mark, and 3 pitbull mixes, Cinnamon, Flora, and Jake. Over the past several years, Mark and Elsa have fostered almost 30 shelter dogs to prepare them to find their forever homes. 

Elsa is beholden only to constituents of the 37th District.  She is ready to take on special interests, large corporations, and anyone who gets in the way of caring for each other and our natural resources. Elsa Granados will work to build on the strengths of our community just as she has her entire life. 

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of California (4)

Describe what proposal(s) you would support to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing for all income groups in California?
Answer from Elsa Granados:

The issue of affordable housing is a longstanding issue in our communities. Many middle-class families have been priced out of the area and must live in other communities. For many years, we have heard that Santa Barbara's first responders, teachers, and others have been priced out of the housing market and that they have moved to the north and south of Santa Barbara because those communities were more affordable. Unfortunately, people in those communities have been priced out, too. They are moving to communities further south and east. This situation does not serve the communities of the central coast on many levels (overburdened transportation corridors, poor environmental outcomes, problems with staffing in emergency situations or natural disasters, etc.)

Recently, the City of Santa Barbara Council passed an ordinance which required 10% inclusionary housing for high-density projects. This ordinance caps the rents that can be charged for the 10% units. The Council also passed “Just Cause,” a tenant protection measure ordinance that requires landlords to offer a one-year lease option for renters. It precludes landlords from evicting renters unless they have engaged in one or more of a list of violations. Although these are examples of ordinances that could help with the affordable housing crisis, they are but a drop in the bucket.

The State has recently passed several mandates to meet new housing quotas. But we must do what we can to retain local control, not all communities are the same. We need a plan in order to determine how many housing units will be built and where they will be built. We must create more affordable housing stock with higher density. Developers must be held to produce more than 10% affordable units. Further, these must truly be accessible to low and middle-income families. We can use models from other states and countries which have done this, but in order to do so, we must let go of the concept of single-family homes and build in higher densities.

As we consider building more affordable housing, we must consider the effect of climate change on our communities. Until we address climate change, we will continue to experience extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, and greater threats from fire. We must be mindful not to build housing up against the coast, in flood plains or in the urban-wildland interface. We must balance our need for housing with the availability of natural resources like clean water for commercial and residential use and firefighting needs.

What programs or legislation would you support to meet the water needs of all Californians?
Answer from Elsa Granados:

We have too often seen how a contaminated water supply can devastate ecosystems and have long-lasting impact. In our district, drought conditions have forced us to learn about water conservation and about how to manage this resource; however, we can do more. We must learn how to better manage water resources used for agricultural purposes, we must build better water storage facilities, explore creative ways to enhance our existing water resources (ex. use recycled water to recharge groundwater). Taking these steps will help improve our environment, economy, and the health of our communities. We must not choose people over environmental needs because they are highly connected.

To reach a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, as set forth in a 2018 executive order what, if any, proposals, plans or legislation would you support?  Please be specific.
Answer from Elsa Granados:

To reach this ambitious goal will be a major step forward in the fight against climate change. California will be a leader in our country and in the world by spearheading this movement. The approach must be a multi-pronged and an integrated combination of government entities, private companies, non-profit organizations, utility providers, and individuals.


Without question, we must reduce and eventually eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources. I support community choice aggregates (CCAs) in their efforts to provide power from renewable sources. We must encourage individuals to install solar panels, update appliances, and purchase zero-emission vehicles through continuation of tax incentives and programs such as the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, which is part of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). However, the disparity of socio-economic classes must be recognized with incentives accessible to all members of our communities. Projects, such as “Drive the Arc (Advanced Recharging Corridor),” help support needed infrastructure.  There are government, non-profit and private partnerships directing attention to issues of transportation and land use in the 37th district. These partnerships have promoted alternative methods of transportation such as carpools/vanpools, intercounty bus transit, commuter busing, rail, bicycle, and pedestrian access.  


Unfortunately, the Santa Barbara and Ventura County regions are still highly reliant on the use of cars. The traffic congestion on Highway 101 points to the need for a regional approach to transportation.  In creating a regional approach, the challenge is that there are disparate agendas of what needs to be done. In addition, natural disasters have further emphasized the lack of transportation coordination.


There are several current projects in the district which address transportation needs.  However, more resources are necessary to ensure they are followed through to completion and comprehensively address issues of concern. The current collaboration between SBCAG (Santa Barbara County Association of Governments) and VCTC (Ventura County Transportation Commission) to fund and sustain the Coastal Express is a positive effort to help mitigate the vehicular nightmare that impacts Highway 101 for commuters traveling between Santa Barbara and Ventura. 


On a state level, it is positive that SB 1 was signed into law in 2017 and avoided repeal.  It provides at least ten years of ongoing funding that addresses some of the transportation needs in terms of road maintenance and repair and includes street improvements for bicycles and pedestrians.  However, the focus is on roads, which again points to the district’s reliance on cars.


SB 100 and the 2018 executive order continue to drive innovation. I support legislation that encourages companies in industries across the state, including those in agriculture, manufacturing, and petroleum to create new technologies, upgrade out-dated equipment, and transition to green jobs. 

According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, we spend over $81,000 per individual who is incarcerated.  Other than incarceration, what ways can the State address safety and justice?
Answer from Elsa Granados:

We need prison reform, in particular, we need to take the profit out of our prison systems.  California’s governor has taken bold steps in eliminating additional for-profit prison contracts. Legislation such as AB 109, Prop 47, and Prop 57 have worked to reduce the burden of overcrowding in our jails but has increased the stress on local systems. Early or commuted release needs to be combined with additional support services, such as substance abuse programs, vocational training, and other transitional programs.

Prison reform requires a systemic overhaul.  We need to address the reality of why so many people are incarcerated in order to adequately address safety and justice.  In the U.S., we focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation. When compared to other countries, the U.S. has much longer sentences.  Further, incarceration disproportionately affects people who are poor and ethnic minorities. In order to properly address prison reform, we must provide inmates with training and education, jobs after incarceration, provide programs and support for those with mental health issues, and provide family and community support.  From a long-term perspective, affordable housing, providing employment that provides a living wage, and providing healthcare for all will help lift all members of our communities, making them safer.

Governor Newsom recently announced a Youth Offender Program that offers educational, therapeutic, and vocational opportunities to offenders incarcerated prior to the age of 22. As the governor states, “the goal is to reduce recidivism and protect everyone’s safety by equipping individuals with the tools and skills necessary to return to the community as good neighbors.” 

More innovative and forward-thinking programs like this are necessary.


Who gave money to this candidate?


Total money raised: $58,600

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

Elsa Granados
Employees of NFP
Democratic Women of Santa Barabara County
Santa Barbara Women's Political Committee
Quantum Investments

More information about contributions

By State:

California 95.28%
Alabama 1.76%
Pennsylvania 0.97%
District of Columbia 0.44%
Idaho 0.44%
Other 1.10%

By Size:

Large contributions (96.72%)
Small contributions (3.28%)

By Type:

From organizations (21.00%)
From individuals (79.00%)
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

I am a lifelong Democrat and believe in democratic values. But more than just believing in these, I strive to live the values of social and economic equality.  I have been a public servant for three and a half decades. As a social justice advocate, it has been my goal to make sure that everyone I interact with recognizes that they are valued.

One of my core beliefs is that by working together, we can raise everyone up. Too many members of our community are being left behind, whether from the burden of high housing costs, overwhelming debt from healthcare or student loans, or not making a living wage. I believe that it is the duty of the government to ensure basic human rights for all.

My decision-making process is to look at issues from an intersectional perspective to see how they interact with other oppressions in our society and reveal root causes. This leads to solutions that are both viable and long-lasting. This process takes a willingness to work with and truly listen to others. It also means that all parties need to have a seat at the table. I am committed to making sure that everyone’s voice is heard.  

As your assemblymember, I will work on the issues most important to you and your family. I will not forget that you sent me to Sacramento, and will be an advocate on your behalf.

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