John Laird (American politician)

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John Laird
John Laird CA Assembly.jpg
Member of the California Senate
from the 17th district
Assumed office
December 7, 2020
Preceded byBill Monning
Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency
In office
January 5, 2011 – January 11, 2019
GovernorJerry Brown
Preceded byLester Snow
Succeeded byWade Crowfoot
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 27th district
In office
December 2, 2002 – November 30, 2008
Preceded byFred Keeley
Succeeded byBill Monning
Mayor of Santa Cruz
In office
Preceded byBruce van Allen[1]
Succeeded byMardi Wormhoudt
In office
Preceded byJane Weed[2]
Succeeded byMardi Wormhoudt[3]
Personal details
Born (1950-03-29) March 29, 1950 (age 72)
Santa Rosa, California
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)John Flores
Residence(s)Santa Cruz, California
Alma materUniversity of California Santa Cruz
WebsiteLaird for Senate

John Laird (born March 29, 1950), an American politician, is the California State Senator for District 17, since 7 December 2020,[4][5][6] and was Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency[7] from 2011-2019 and a former legislator who represented the 27th district in the California State Assembly until 2008. The 27th district included parts of Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County and Monterey County. Laird (along with Mark Leno) was one of the first two openly gay men to serve in the California legislature. Laird became one of the United States' first openly gay mayors in 1983 when he took over the mayoralty of the city of Santa Cruz, California.[8]

Early life[edit]

Laird was raised in Vallejo, California, and educated in Vallejo public schools. Laird's parents were both educators. He graduated from Adlai Stevenson College of the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1972 with an A.B. in Politics with general college honors, honors from the Board of Politics, and honors on an undergraduate thesis on the history of water development in California.

Laird served for two years on the district staff of United States Representative Jerome Waldie, and worked during the summer of 1974 for Rep. Bill Gunter of Florida in his run for the U.S. Senate. Laird moved to Santa Cruz, California and joined the staff of the Santa Cruz County Administrator in 1974 and later served in the personnel and social services departments.

City Council and Mayor[edit]

In 1981, Laird received the most votes in a field of eight to be elected to a seat on the Santa Cruz City Council. He was re-elected as top vote-getter in 1985, serving until term limits ended his Council service in 1990. He was elected by the City Council to one-year Mayor's terms in 1983–84 and 1987–88.[9] During his time on the Santa Cruz City Council, he worked with the environmental organization Save Our Shores to lead local governments in the fight against proposed offshore oil drilling and in favor of the designation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.[10]

State Assembly[edit]

Laird ran unopposed in the 2002 Democratic primary and easily won election to the California Assembly. Laird served as chair of both the Assembly Budget Committee and the Special Session Committee on Budget Process. He also served on the Judiciary Committee, the Labor and Employment Committee, and the Natural Resources Committee.

Before being elected to the assembly in 2002, Laird served as an elected member of the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees from 1994 to his election to the Assembly in 2002. He was re-elected to the assembly in 2004 and 2006 before being termed out in 2008. While serving the maximum three terms in the Assembly, Laird authored 82 bills that were signed into law.[11]

His election campaigns have often won the backing of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.[12]

2010 State Senate Run[edit]

Laird ran for the 15th District California State Senate seat previously held by Republican Abel Maldonado, whom Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger named as Lieutenant Governor in November 2009.[13] He lost to Republican state Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee in a special election primary held on June 22, 2010 and subsequently in the runoff election held on August 17, 2010.[14] Laird lost by a 7.59% margin in the primary and a 3.93% margin in the runoff.[15] Laird changed his domicile to Aptos for these 2 elections of this "Aptos" 15th District State Senate seat from his very long term City of Santa Cruz owned King Street home and residence. Aptos resident Douglas Deitch at this time in 2011 filed a formal complaint with the Secretary of State Election Fraud Division, with no investigation conducted.

California Resources Secretary[edit]

Laird was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. on January 5, 2011 as California's Secretary for Natural Resources.[7][16] In the Brown administration, Laird oversaw a $10 billion budget and 25 statewide departments, commissions and conservancies, including the departments of water, state parks, fish and wildlife, and Cal Fire, as well as the California Coastal Commission, California Energy Commission, and California Coastal Conservancy.[17]

2020 State Senate Run[edit]

In January 2019, Laird announced his intention to run for the 17th District state Senate seat in 2020. He pledged to focus on a range of issues if elected, from managing the impact of climate change and wildfires, to protecting California’s ocean policies, supporting the middle class and expanding access to health care, education and affordable housing.[18] California's 17th State Senate District spans the northern Central Coast, including the counties of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo and part of the counties of Monterey and Santa Clara.

Community activism[edit]

Laird has been active in the Santa Cruz community, serving as Vice Chair of the City Charter Review Committee, a founder of the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, and a board member of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce. He has been active on a variety of community boards.

He has been active with the lesbian and gay community, as a columnist for the Lavender Reader, a commentator on "Closet Free Radio", a founding member of the International Network of Gay and Lesbian Officials—and was an original board member of BAYMEC, the gay and lesbian political action committee for San Mateo, Santa Clara, Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. In the Assembly, he served as chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.

Laird was a founding member of the founding member of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project. He served as executive director of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project from 1991 to 1994.[19]

He also has served on the Santa Cruz Community Foundation's Advisory Committee for the Lesbian and Gay Grants Partnership. Laird lives in Santa Cruz with his spouse John Flores.[16] He is fluent in Spanish.[16]


  1. ^ Brown, James (23 October 2014). "Former mayor Bruce Van Allen makes another run for Santa Cruz council". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  2. ^ Salamon, Kathy. "Weed chosen as Santa Cruz mayor · SCPL Local History". SCPL Local History. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  3. ^ Baine, Wallace (21 October 2009). "Former Santa Cruz mayor, county supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt dies". The Mercury News. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  4. ^ "John Laird". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  5. ^ "John Laird sworn in as State Senator, announces staff". Paso Robles Daily News. 8 December 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  6. ^ "John Laird Sworn in as State Senator". Atascadero News. 7 December 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Laird, Sierra Fund board member, appointed to CA Resources Agency". Retrieved 2013-12-03.
  8. ^ Reti, Irene (2003). "John Laird". University of California, Santa Cruz. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
  9. ^ "Biography". Senator John Laird. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  10. ^ Sierra Club. " "Candidates"". Retrieved 2013-12-03.
  11. ^ "Laird to run for State Senate seat to replace Monning". 17 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Candidates" Archived 2006-12-14 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "San Jose Mercury News, "Schwarzenegger chooses Maldonado for lieutenant governor"". Retrieved 2013-12-03.
  14. ^ Alexander, Kurtis (2010-08-18). "Blakeslee bests Laird in Senate runoff". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  15. ^ Special Election Results, archived from the original on 2010-11-25, retrieved 2010-12-07
  16. ^ a b c "John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources". California Natural Resources Agency. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  17. ^ "John Laird Running for California State Senate in 2020". 17 January 2019.
  18. ^ "John Laird to run for state Senate in 2020". 18 January 2019.
  19. ^ "John Laird | University Library".

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce Van Allen
Mayor of Santa Cruz
Succeeded by
Mardi Wormhoudt
Preceded by
Jane Weed
Mayor of Santa Cruz
Succeeded by
Mardi Wormhoudt
California Assembly
Preceded by California State Assembly, District 27
Succeeded by