Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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March 3, 2020 — Primary Election
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California State SenateCandidate for District 17

Photo of Maria Cadenas

Maria Cadenas

Nonprofit Executive Director
65,525 votes (20.9%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Ensure that all legislation and state plans, including housing, transportation, and economic development plans are held accountable in addressing their climate impact, including any undue burden of low-income and rural communities.
  • Ensure safe, affordable, and quality housing for all, across all income levels and strengthen first-time homebuyer programs, especially in low-income households and communities at risk of displacement.
  • Prioritize universal healthcare coverage, including efforts to increase MediCal reimbursement rates and automatic enrollment.



Profession:Nonprofit Executive Director
Executive Director, Santa Cruz Community Ventures (2015–current)
Secretary, Podiatric Medical Board of California, Department of Consumer Affiars — Appointed position (2017–current)
Senior Community Involvement Manager, Driscoll's (2011–2015)
Executive Director, Cream City Foundation (2005–2011)
Associate Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin (2002–2005)
Consultant, Accenture (2000–2002)


Alverno College MBA, Business Administration (2010)
Beloit College BA, Business Administration (2000)
Beloit College BA, Creative Writing (2000)


Maria get things done by focusing on what matters most – people and planet. She is the only Democratic woman, only immigrant, only Latina, and only candidate in this race who will not accept corporate money.

Born in Mexico and raised in California, Maria is a first generation college graduate who works hand-in-hand across the Agriculture, Tech, Government, and Nonprofit communities to ensure people and planet are at the center of solutions that improve the quality of life for everyone. Most recently, as the Executive Director of Santa Cruz Community Ventures (SCCV), she has focused on supporting local economic development, including the development of local capital and cooperative structures. She has also led efforts to create college savings accounts for all newborns in Santa Cruz County, and design ways to integrate financial coaching and education as a key metric of family health.  Under her leadership, SCCV raised funds and provided support to ensure Dreamers had free resources to apply for DACA status and educated families in danger of deportation on how to protect their assets.

In her role as Associate Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin she oversaw outreach to immigrant Latino communities after the 9/11 attacks. She also worked closely with health and government partners to advocate for domestic partner benefits and environmental justice issues facing the City of Milwaukee.

During her tenure as Executive Director of the Cream City Foundation she led an initiative to address youth homelessness in the area, including the development of new housing units for LGBTQ youth aging out of the foster care system. In that role she also led efforts to successfully adopt LGBTQ inclusive policies and cultural competency training at global companies headquartered in Wisconsin, including Harley Davidson, Manpower, and Northwestern Mutual, among others. She was a key advocate in the Marriage Equality fight and led a three year public education campaign focused on increasing acceptance of LGBTQ families, including her own.

As Driscoll's Senior Community Involvement Manager, Maria focused on investment and partnerships between government, education, and corporate partners to create career pipelines within agriculture that would allow economic mobility for farmworkers. She worked closely to also strengthen benefits and resources for seasonal workers.

Maria is a Fellow of the Women’s Policy Institute and Hispanas Organized for Political Equality Leadership Institute. Maria received her MBA from Alverno College and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Beloit College.

Who gave money to this candidate?


Total money raised: $50,123

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

Employees of Irvine Valley College
Employees of DBA Kevin Murphy
EMILY's List
Employees of Levig Design Group, Inc.
Employees of SCCV

More information about contributions

By State:

California 82.77%
District of Columbia 7.40%
Wisconsin 5.97%
North Carolina 1.10%
Other 2.76%

By Size:

Large contributions (90.29%)
Small contributions (9.71%)

By Type:

From organizations (10.50%)
From individuals (89.50%)
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

People and Planet First



Videos (1)

— February 23, 2020 CTV Santa Cruz County

We want the basics: housing that is affordable, accessible quality healthcare without high deductibles, clean water and clean air, good schools, and jobs that allow us to save and pay the bills. Right now, however, these feel out of reach. As a mom of a 10-year-old girl, a renter, and a woman, this is personal for me. I’ve worked with governments, corporations, growers, farmworkers, nonprofits, and policy makers across the U.S., California, and in our region to thoughtfully develop practical solutions that actually work to improve people’s lives. I’m not a career politician. I get things done by focusing on what matters most – people and planet. I’m the only Democratic woman, only immigrant, only Latina, and only candidate in this race who will not accept corporate money. My personal commitment to service and my love of our communities is what compels me to run. Join me and let’s work together to create opportunity for all families and all people to thrive.

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