State senate race heats up, Benicia Mayor Young endorses Chris Cabaldon

Mayor Steve Young endorses former West Sac Mayor Chris Cabaldon for State Senate

State Senate District 3 Candidate Chris Cabaldon. | Image from campaign website.

By Nathalie Christian, June 26, 2023

After speaking with two front-running candidates, Benicia Mayor Steve Young has endorsed Chris Cabaldon to replace Sen. Bill Dodd for State Senate District 3.

Benicia Mayor Steve Young

“Having spent a substantial amount of time talking with both candidates,” Mayor Young wrote, “it was clear to me that Christopher is far more familiar and knowledgeable about the many diverse challenges facing Solano County and the 3rd District. He is someone who is both a progressive and accomplished elected official.”

“When I worked in Sacramento, Chris was the Mayor of West Sacramento for more than 20 years,” Mayor Young continued. “Under his leadership, W. Sacramento transformed from a primarily industrial city as shown by the construction of Raley Field and the redevelopment of the riverfront across from Sacramento. We were both active in the League of California Cities, where he chaired the Asian-American caucus and was the first Filipino LGBTQ Mayor in the US.”


The endorsement was first announced in the Vallejo Times-Herald last week, where Cabaldon responded: “I am honored to have earned the support of Mayor Young. Benicia is a beautiful community, and I look forward to working with Mayor Young to protect access to clean drinking water, create good paying jobs, and invest in the infrastructure our Delta communities – and cities throughout Solano County – need to thrive.”


District 3 includes all or portions of Solano County as well as Contra Costa, Napa, Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties. The district has been represented by Sen. Dodd since  2016. State senators are limited to serving two 4-year terms, which disqualifies Dodd from seeking another term.

Only the top two candidates in the March 5, 2024, primary will advance to the general election next November, regardless of party affiliation.

The candidates

Per the best of my web sleuthing, three candidates have announced their candidacy for the opening seat: former West Sac Mayor Chris Cabaldon, Vallejo Vice-Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga and Rohnert Park City Council Member and former Mayor Jackie Elward. All three candidates are running as Democrats.

Dr. Rozzana Verder-Aliga

State Senate District 3 Candidate Rozzana Verder-Aliga. | Image from campaign website.

Dr. Rozzana Verder-Aliga is the first Filipino-American woman elected to public office in Vallejo and Solano County. She is a mental health professional and licensed marriage and family therapist, and serves Vallejo as Vice-Mayor.

Verder-Aliga served on the Vallejo School Board for 12 years and the Solano County Board of Education for 6 years before being elected to a partial term on the Vallejo City Council in 2013 and re-elected to full terms in 2016 and 2020.

According to various press releases, Verder-Aliga has been endorsed by sitting State Senator Bill Dodd, CA State Treasurer Fiona Ma, CA Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, former CA Superintendent Delaine Eastin, Napa Mayor Scott Sedgley and current West Sacramento Mayor Martha Guerrero, as well as Benicia Independent‘s very own Roger Straw. Lionel Largaespada, a former Benicia council member, also endorsed Verder-Aliga. A full list of Verder-Aliga’s endorsements was not available on her campaign website.

“My goal is to reinvigorate the California dream and strengthen the opportunities it promises its people in the state Senate,” said Verder-Aliga in a press release announcing her campaign.

Jackie Elward

State Senate District 3 Candidate Jackie Ellward.| Image from campaign website.

Jackie Elward is a first-generation immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although she has been described as a relative political newcomer, she is a veteran labor organizer and activist as well as a professional educator.

Elward was elected to Rohnert Park City Council in 2020, unseating a six-term council member in the process, and was unanimously selected to serve as mayor by her fellow council members. As the leader of a diverse and progressive majority on City Council, she was the first Black, immigrant woman to serve Rohnert Park.

Elward has spoken openly about the discrimination she has encountered as a Black woman in office, but said that the support of community and labor groups encouraged her to run for higher office regardless.

A list of Elward’s endorsements is available at her campaign website, although it is unclear if the endorsements included there are for this upcoming race and not previous campaigns.

In news releases, Elward has described herself as a “bridge builder” focused on uniting people from different backgrounds  even around the most fractious of issues, and she has said she would work to fill a similar role in Sacramento.