.Dis-Assembly Required: Rusty Hicks’ dual role as party head and candidate questioned

By any measure, Rusty Hicks should be one of the strongest candidates of the seven in the running for Assembly District 2 in the upcoming primary election, March 5.

He has the endorsement of a passel of labor organizations—always a key indicator for a Democrat—as well as many of the public officials in the northern part of the assembly district. And not only did he win the endorsement of Jim Wood, the current assembly seat holder who is retiring at the end of his current term, but last week he also received Gov. Gavin Newsom’s endorsement to add to his credentials.

Hicks’ home is now in Arcata, where he lives “with his wife, Sandra, and their chocolate Labrador, Charlie,” according to his campaign website at rustyhicks.org. He serves as an associate professor at College of the Redwoods, a community college in Eureka, and teaches American government to incarcerated students at Pelican Bay State Prison.

But he only moved into the district in 2021, making him a relatively late arrival, the most recent of the seven candidates. As the chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP), Hicks has access to significant cash and other resources that the party doles out to candidates in elections.

That favored status has raised questions about the suitability of a candidate being in a position to hand out party support, and questions about one person’s ability to have two demanding party roles. A growing number of CDP members have signed a petition urging Hicks to step down from his party seat, saying that his divided interests and energies make him unable to fully perform his party role.

“It is simply impossible for any human to simultaneously manage the campaigns for every county, assembly race, Senate race, statewide race and so much more all at the same time as running their own more-than-full-time campaign for assembly,” said Hélène Rouvier, an executive board member of the CDP. “He is cutting corners, and we will all pay the price.”

Hicks, 44, received his law degree from Loyola in 2014, following deployment to Afghanistan, where he served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy. He ran for and won the party chair seat in 2019, after the previous chair resigned. Prior to that, he held the position of president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor for almost five years.

But his recent decision to run for the state assembly seat did not sit well with some party members. Rouvier pointed out that the CDP “sends more Representatives to Congress than any other state. From Crescent City to San Diego, control of the House of Representatives goes through California.”

In December, Rouvier and two dozen other CDP delegates urged Hicks to resign the party chair, citing party bylaws that present the dual role as a “conflict of interest and neglect of duty.” Going further, the statement says, “Hicks has engaged in misconduct and neglect of duty by placing his ambition ahead of the interests of the Party.”

Hicks’ initial response to the letter was his own statement: “The claims are baseless and without merit. I will not resign.”

Since the initial 27 signers of the complaint, said Rouvier, there have been an additional 134 signatures—70 of whom are delegates. While this is not by any means a majority of the party delegates, it is a growing number.

Rouvier intends to submit the delegate signatures on Feb. 28 to petition the party to agendize the issue at their next meeting, which is not scheduled until May (“although a special meeting could be called earlier,” she said). However, with the primary election set for March 5, it’s quite possible that Hicks will find himself running for the assembly seat for the following eight months, until the November general election.


  1. Hicks got his start in politics with Rod Blogojavich, who did time in federal prison for trying to sell Barak Obama’s Senate seat. He obviously moved into the district to run for either the assembly or senate seat. It makes me sad to see our district disrespected by his candidacy.

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  2. Working for intelligence in the embarrassing US military land grab of Afghanistan is not impressive. Moving to the area in order to make a grab at the district seat is not impressive either. He should go back down to Los Angeles where he originally got recruited by some important Dem influencers and get a little more experience. We should know by now that anyone who old Gavin supports is the wrong person for the job.

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  3. My disappointment in our current Assemblymember’s endorsement can’t be overstated. But I suppose it shouldn’t come as a shock considering that he also endorsed and donated $1,000 to Cloverdale’s current MAGA mayor in 2020.

    How a sitting Assembly member who came up through the Healdsburg City Council and served on our regional boards, knows how complex and varied our Assembly district is (stretching from north Santa Rosa to the Oregon border), and campaigned on being a champion for our environment endorses a candidate with ZERO municipal or county government experience would be baffling—but for how it’s an obvious, cynical handover to another major Sacramento fundraising machine.

    Governor Newsom got into the action by saying “we can count on [this candidate] to protect our air, water, forests, and coastline—and tackle the climate crisis head on.” If this guy can’t even find our coast, rivers, and forests without directions, how is he going to partner with local policy makers to protect them? And how will he have any credibility in the region after running his own campaign from his own office at the CDP?

    Let’s tell this guy to take a hike. Preferably back to Texas where he should be working to take back the Texas statehouse. And let’s send one of our locally grown, capable, and experienced candidates to represent us in Sacramento.

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