The lone Democrat

Corning olive rancher runs for 3rd District Assembly

Democratic candidate for state Assembly Charles Rouse.

Democratic candidate for state Assembly Charles Rouse.

Photo By tom gascoyne

Charles Rouse is a soft-spoken man with a streak of self-deprecating humor. He’s running for the newly drawn 3rd District Assembly seat against Dan Logue, the incumbent, and Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams. Rouse is a Democrat; his opponents are Republicans.

The candidates will face off in the June primary election, and the two top finishers will go at it in the November general election. There is some controversy in the race, in that the Tehama County Republican Club endorses Williams, while the state party endorses Logue.

The new district is 42 percent Republican, 34 percent Democrat, and slightly more than 20 percent non-partisan or decline to state—virtually the same demographics as the pre-redistricting 3rd Assembly District Logue won two years ago over Democrat Mickey Harrington.

During a recent interview at the CN&R offices, Rouse’s wife and campaign manager, Angelica, slipped into another room to answer her cell phone. Rouse stopped in the middle of answering a question, searching for a certain statistic.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” he finally offered, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb. “My memory is sitting out in the other room.”

Rouse is a retired postal worker who served for 20 years as the rural carrier in Gerber. His wife is a semi-retired Tehama County court clerk who still works part time as a Spanish-English interpreter.

He’s making his first run for office at the age of 68, he said, to help rural citizens who make up the district “regain their once-proud place in the workforce of the six counties I aim to represent.”

Those counties are Tehama, Glenn, Sutter, Yuba and portions of Butte and Colusa, making up a district that runs 200 miles north to south and is 75 miles wide.

He says on his webpage that he will “work with families to gain a living wage, help create local jobs and vigorously promote funding for education so our youth can remain and work in our communities.”

When asked about opponent Logue’s political slogan, “Jobs, not taxes,” that appears on the large blue campaign signs dotting the region, Rouse smiled and shook his head at the vague statement.

“I’m not exactly sure what that means,” he said. “Do you?”

Rouse was born in the Los Angeles County community of Glendora. He served in the Air Force and attended Citrus College in Glendora before transferring to Occidental College, a school in L.A. that’s been referred to as the “Princeton of the West.” Someone named Barack Obama also attended the college for two years, though Rouse is quick to point out that they went to the school decades apart.

And he’s written a book about this time in his life, which he said was very difficult as he tried to adapt back into civilian life. The book is titled Two Years at Occidental College in the Late Sixties.

Rouse also worked for Kaiser Steel and remains a member of the United Steelworkers union.

He and Angelica, who’ve been married more than 40 years, moved to Corning in 1976 and purchased an 11-acre olive farm, which he said he still operates, though one of his two sons does most of the farm labor these days.

Rouse is a member of the Tehama County Democrats and vice president and director of the Corning Healthcare District, a nonprofit that promotes rural health care.

Rouse said education is high on his list of priorities.

“Indeed, it is in a state of genuine crisis,” he said. “The state is great because it has an educated citizenry. If we can’t educate our children, we don’t have much of a future.”

Protecting the district’s water is also important, the candidate said.

“I say this as a farmer. Water supply and water rights are high priority. The other state legislators are jealous of the North State water rights. I say no more freshwater commitments for North State water. We are overcommitted right now. But, that said, of course, we have to honor the contracts and laws on the books right now.”

Honoring those contracts, he said, also means having some say in sending water south of the Bay Delta.

“The Delta itself is not a very efficient conveyance,” he said. “And there are objections to the peripheral canal because pumping the water leads to depredation of the Delta smelt. Now they are talking about a Delta pipe installation, which seems to me like an exotic and questionable piece of engineering. I have my doubts. And it looks expensive.”

He says the state’s prison realignment, which incarcerates some state prisoners in county jails, needs to be assessed to see if it is working as intended.

Rouse said he and Angelica are no strangers to politics; he worked with Democratic congressional candidate Jim Reed two years ago and has worked with local political activist Michael Worley. But he has yet to meet state Democratic adviser Bob Mulholland.

“This is a grassroots campaign,” he said. “We are learning as we go. The Democratic activists are going to go out to get the vote and do mailings. Our campaign is really just starting. The Democratic activists have been enthusiastic, friendly and welcoming.”

“This is not our first rodeo,” he summed up. “Just the first one I’ve actually ridden in.”