Before January 6, Max Steiner says, he thought of himself as slightly left of center but had real reservations about Democratic priorities. 

Steiner, a former soldier and diplomat now working in the Army Reserves, was, at the time, also studying policy analysis at RAND, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that works to improve policy through research and analysis.

His partisan affiliation, and his plans for the future shifted, Steiner says, when he saw violence unfold in the nation’s capital early this year. “On January 6,” Steiner says, “we saw part of our country fold to the totalitarianism of Trump. When I see a crowd of people waving Confederate flags and beating the police with a hockey stick, I’m going to join the other party.”  But Steiner did more than join the other party, he jumped into politics.

Steiner says he decided to run for office because he saw California Congressman Doug LaMalfa as a big part of the problem behind “stop the steal” rhetoric and action. In the days following the November 2020 election, LaMalfa alleged voter fraud, saying he would not consider Biden the winner of the election until he was sworn into office. Then, on January 5, 2021, LaMalfa opposed having the Electoral College certify Biden’s presidency, saying, “There has been an endless dripping of reports of mishandled ballots, numbers not adding up and outright violations of the U.S. Constitution’s clear direction for setting election rules. These questions must be answered and no amount of media spin or declarations of ‘nothing to see here, move along’ will change the concerns that many of us share.” While claims of election fraud in the 2020 American presidential election have been frequent and pervasive, no compelling evidence of such claims has been found, despite audits.

The next day, January 6, during the Electoral Certification held in the U.S. Capitol, the building was breached by a crowd of pro-Trump protestors. But in the days following that attack, LaMalfa downplayed the incident, suggesting that it might have been carried out by “antifa.” Claims that “antifa” was responsible for the attack on the Capitol have been debunked.

Those events, say Steiner, inspired his campaign to unseat LaMalfa in California’s District 1. “I wish I had an answer,” Steiner says, “for the willingness of large parts of our voting bloc to say the election is not true. My solution is to take people like that out of power.” Steiner says in the process he wants to be part of combatting the divisiveness of America’s political landscape. ”Political polarization is profitable,” Steiner says, “We have a system that rewards and demands high levels of political donations. You get those (donations) by being in a deep red or deep blue state and making crazy statements that get you in a seat.” His antidote? More blue candidates in red districts and red candidates in blue districts. “I don’t think we have enough Republicans in Democratic districts and vice versa,” he says.

California’s District 1 includes significantly more registered Republicans (42.6 percent) than Democrats (29.5 percent). Those numbers could change, at least slightly, when the district’s lines are redrawn this fall by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. As District 1 expands geographically to compensate for its reduced share of the U.S. population as shown by new U.S. census numbers, the direction of those lines could play a role in the next election, increasing either LaMalfa’s or Steiner’s likelihood of success, depending on what kind of voters are added to the district.

Current visualization being considered by the California Redistricting Commission. See more details here.

As a Democrat running in a Republican district, Steiner believes he can create more representation for North State Republicans than they currently experience. He says that’s because at the state level, Republicans “still have no voice.” Calling himself a “constructive Democrat,” Steiner says he’ll work with the California Democratic caucus to help create the change his district most wants and needs.

His platform is centered on wildfire, forests and water, the areas he sees as most critical to District 1’s present and future. That’s in part, he says, because climate change is forcing changes in California’s policy, infrastructure, and personnel. “We have a huge federal footprint here,” Steiner says, “and we need a congressman who can adequately address climate change in ways that make our district more resilient.” Steiner says he’ll do that by advocating for changes in the way California handles water management and storage, working to change how firefighting is managed, and clearing biomass from California’s forests.

LaMalfa is serving his fifth term in Congress. He beat Democratic challenger Audrey Denny by approximately 30,000 votes in 2020. The next election for California’s District 1 will be held in November 2022.

You can find current visualizations for California redistricting here, and provide feedback on the visualizations here.

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