Christopher Bradford Monica Martinez
Christopher Bradford (left) and Monica Martinez are candidates running for Santa Cruz County Supervisor District 5. (Contributed)

The year 2024 is going to be big when it comes to politics—not just on the national stage, but on the local level as well.

In Santa Cruz County District 5, which covers the San Lorenzo Valley (north past Castle Rock State Park to the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve), most of Scotts Valley and a small portion of Santa Cruz, Supervisor Bruce McPherson is ready to hand over the reins after serving three four-year terms.

McPherson has an unparalleled record in serving the people of California, including two terms in the California State Assembly, two terms in the California State Senate and as Secretary of State beginning in 2005. He also serves on 10 regional agencies and boards, so he knows the amount of work that goes into making the county operate as smoothly as possible.

Now, a few candidates are looking to get in on the action by succeeding McPherson’s tenure. While five individuals officially pulled papers to run for the seat, only two locals are campaigning hard, showing up around the county and collecting endorsements on their dance cards: Christopher Bradford and Monica Martinez.

On Dec. 13, Bradford and Martinez joined other county district candidates for a forum held at the Mid-County Senior Center. Between their opening statements and providing answers to audience-driven questions, the pair expounded on their goals, beliefs and determination to make the Fifth District shine like the gem it is.

For her part, Martinez feels like this is what she was meant to do. As the CEO of Encompass Community Services, the largest community-based nonprofit in the county, Martinez has spent years working to serve the underserved members of society, including the unhoused, persons in recovery and those with behavioral health needs.

Her own history contributes to her desire to make a difference in her community.

“As a queer, Latinx woman, I know what it’s like to not have a voice at the table, and that’s why I’ve dedicated my life to public service,” said Martinez at the forum.

After filing to run for the seat, Martinez began connecting with other organizations to further her candidacy; as a result, she has been endorsed by a growing number of agencies and individuals and has garnered the support of McPherson as his successor.

“The No. 1 issue that keeps coming up in conversations is disaster recovery and prevention,” Martinez said. 

From mudslides and road closures to power outages and mass evacuations, the San Lorenzo Valley has experienced its share of hardships, and everyone in the area is affected, especially those who live deeper in the forest.

Bradford, a Boulder Creek resident, small business owner and software engineer, suffered the loss of his family’s home in the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires in August 2020. After years of tangling with the Santa Cruz County Planning Department to try and rebuild his home, Bradford and his family were finally able to move into their new house the week of Thanksgiving.

His experiences with the county left him feeling exhausted and unheard, and Bradford decided the best way to mitigate those issues was to run as an advocate for the hundreds of SLV families who have still not been able to return home, even three-plus years after the fire event. 

“I’ve seen our neighbors struggle, and many of them have not been able to rebuild due to the bureaucracy and red tape at the county level,” Bradford said. “I’ve seen directly what happens when government fails you, and I’m driven to move forward and implement policies that will make a difference to the families who lost everything.”

Bradford has found his calling when it comes to rallying around his community and encouraging other fire victim families to continue working their way through broken county systems. As a member of the Board of Directors and treasurer of the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County for 2023 and 2024, Bradford has his finger on the pulse of keeping the district safe from future disasters.

The list of folks who are throwing their name behind his candidacy includes a who’s-who of San Lorenzo Valley residents and leaders, all of whom were somehow touched by the CZU Fires. 

“The Fifth District sorely needs and deserves a fully engaged representative who understands genuine constituent engagement and representation is their primary function,” said Tess Fitzgerald, a Boulder Creek resident and Bradford supporter. “We need a Supervisor who isn’t a professional politician—or aspiring to be one—we need an advocate and a voice that speaks for us. These past five years have been incredibly challenging in the Fifth District, and I am confident having seen Christopher step up and reach out to the community time and time again—long before a run for Fifth District Supervisor was on people’s minds—that he will succeed in providing authentic, effective and thoughtful leadership on behalf of Fifth District residents and the residents of the county as a whole.”

Bradford feels his knowledge as a fire victim insider will be an asset to his run, and he looks forward to using the supervisor’s chair as a jumping off point to advocate for others. 

“There is so much we can accomplish if we just work together,” he said. “I look forward to bringing our community leaders together to benefit those who have lost everything.”

When it came to issues raised by audience members at the forum, the biggest complexities seemed to revolve around low-income housing and unhoused individuals. Both Martinez and Bradford acknowledged that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed, and each spoke to their understanding of the unaffordability of housing in Santa Cruz County. 

While more low-income housing is currently being developed in Santa Cruz, the restricted number of units will hardly make a dent in the growing population of unhoused persons. Thanks to Covid-19, the CZU Fires and the loss of businesses in the area, individuals are finding it ever more difficult to put a safe, affordable roof over their heads.

Martinez is confident that her years of experience as the executive director of the local nonprofit Housing Matters will help her navigate the housing crisis. While at Housing Matters, Martinez co-founded the 180/180 Initiative, a community partnership that housed 180 of the most vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness in less than two years, and her work with Encompass further broadened her understanding of societal issues.

Each candidate brings a set of personal experiences that inform their vision for the Fifth District. Make sure to learn more about each before Election Day 2024. To learn more about Bradford and Martinez, visit and To register to vote, visit for more information.

Previous articleBank of America names Housing Matters as 2023 Neighborhood Champion
Next articleCougars steadily improve during preseason action | Girls basketball
Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here