After nearly three decades as Santa Cruz County’s chief election official, Gail Pellerin has joined the other side of the political aisle.
Pellerin, a Democrat, won 67 percent of the vote in November 2022 to best Republican challenger Liz Lawler. The primary was tighter, where Pellerin still led all challengers with about 36 percent of the vote but split votes with Lawler, who finished second, and two fellow Democrats, Rob Rennie and Joe Thompson.
Pellerin spent 27 years as the election official, from 1993 until 2020, and also served four terms as Santa Cruz County’s clerk. Prior to this, she worked in the California State Assembly for seven years.
“Given this experience, I know what the job requires and am ready to hit the ground running,” Pellerin said in response to a candidate survey.
Pellerin’s political activities date back to at least her days at Santa Ynez High School, when she served as ASB secretary as a senior during the 1979-80 school year.
She then earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a Santa Ynez Valley News article from June 1983 identifying her as just finishing her senior year. She wrote for the Santa Maria Times the summer before her senior year, with her clips including that a high school there was offering a four-week summer program to teach vocational skills to blind students.
By March 1985, Pellerin was working in the California legislature, with the Gustine Standard listing her as the “new Los Banos area field representative” for Assemblyman Rusty Areias. She later worked as a top aide for longtime Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.
In 1995, when Pellerin was two years into serving as elections chief, she described to a Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter how she’d used her political savvy to expedite $630,000 in reimbursements from the state for four special elections the county had held two years prior.
“We got them to hijack a bill,” Pellerin said. “Hijacking bills was my specialty.”
Pellerin, who will turn 61 in May 2023, has two adult children, Emily and Jacob. She has been open about losing her husband Tom to suicide in November 2018, with her campaign website saying she’s become “an outspoken advocate for suicide prevention awareness and mental health resources.”
Pellerin doesn’t appear to have sponsored or cosponsored any legislation as of the writing of this biography in early February 2023. In the candidate survey linked above, some of her primary issues included addressing climate change, stimulating the economy, and dealing with the housing shortage.
District Boundaries and Office Locations
Pellerin’s district encompasses much of southern Santa Clara and northern Santa Cruz counties. It includes the cities or communities of Los Gatos, Boulder Creek, Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz, and Morgan Hill. Offices can be found in the following locations: