Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra reflects on journey to state Senate candidacy

Sacramento+City+Councilman+Eric+Guerra+recalls+his+early+years+as+a+student+at+Sacramento+State+on+Monday%2C+March+1%2C+2021.+Guerra+announced+he+is+running+for+California+State+Senate+in+2022.+Photo+taken+via+Zoom.

Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra recalls his early years as a student at Sacramento State on Monday, March 1, 2021. Guerra announced he is running for California State Senate in 2022. Photo taken via Zoom.

Chrissy Martinez

Sacramento State alumnus and five-year Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra announced his candidacy for the California State Senate District 6 seat on Feb. 20. 

Guerra said the College Assistant Migrant Program (CAMP), a program to help students with backgrounds in migrant and seasonal farm working succeed, recruited him to attend Sac State in 1996. To help fund his college education, Guerra said he worked as a janitor for Sac State doing primarily night shifts. 

Guerra served as Sac State’s Associated Students, Inc. president from 2002-2003. Also in 2003, he applied for United States citizenship.

“It was also the same year I became a citizen,” Guerra said. “I grew up as an undocumented immigrant and then all throughout Sac State, I tried to become a citizen.”

As ASI president, Guerra started to venture into his advocacy efforts, working with former Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn to discuss the housing needs of Sac State students.

Noah Marty, current ASI president, said ASI is a “great way to start young careers” and gain experience in public service. Marty said he hopes whoever wins the seat focuses on the needs of Sac State.

It was also the same year I became a citizen. I grew up as an undocumented immigrant and then all throughout Sac State, I tried to become a citizen.”

— Eric Guerra

Guerra said he also was part of the California Senate Fellows Program, saying his experience working at the Capitol is what confirmed to him that public policy was his destined career path. 

“I drafted the first version of the California DREAM Act, SB-160, and I realized there the energy I could put in here could give people so many opportunities,” Guerra said. 

The California DREAM Act, passed in 2007, allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. under the age of 16 to pay resident tuition at California colleges and apply for financial aid benefits if they have attended high school in California for one year.

In 2005, Guerra went back to Sac State to work on his graduate degree and earned his master’s degree in public policy and administration in 2008. 

(left to right) Sylvia Panetta, Eric Guerra and Leon Panetta meet at the Panetta Institute for training on problem solving, governance and leadership in 2002. Guerra served as Sac State’s Associated Students, Inc. president from 2002-2003. Photo Courtesy of Eric Guerra.

In 2015, Guerra became the first Latinx person in 20 years to serve on the Sacramento City Council. 

Guerra said something from his time at city council that he is most proud of is helping to create the Sacramento Family Unity, Education, and Legal Network for Immigrants (FUEL) after  former President Donald Trump was elected to office. 

FUEL offers free immigration legal consultation, mental health services, a rapid raid response hotline and training for school educators on how to handle ICE raids. 

“During COVID, that network has been able to connect people to food and access to resources to make sure their kids are eligible for technology,” Guerra said. 

Guerra joins fellow Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby and pastor Tecoy Porter Sr. in the run for State Senate District 6, which encompasses Sacramento and Elk Grove. Incumbent Richard Pan cannot run again due to term limits.

Guerra said his accomplishments at the city council and his unique life experience inspired him to run for the state Senate seat to represent Sacramento at the state level.  

“Same reason I ran for council, same reason I ran for student body president, same reason I changed my career path from electrical engineering to public policy was because I want to help somebody get the opportunity to achieve their dream,” Guerra said. “Just like the way someone helped me get out of the position of poverty, when I lost hope.”

If elected to the California state Senate, Guerra said he wants to focus on housing, higher education and climate change.

“Everything is interconnected, you have to understand relationships and how all these pieces work together to really make a change for people,” Guerra said.

Mousa Musallam, vice president of communications for the Sac State College Democrats, said he wants Guerra to focus on Sacramento’s rent control and housing. Musallam said he was unhappy with Guerra’s opposition to Measure C, which would have established an elected rent control board in Sacramento if it had passed in November 2020.

“We have a real housing crisis in Sacramento, but more so California, and that is a huge concern if he’s not for rent control at the state level,” Musallam said. 

Although Musallam was not pleased with Measure C’s failure, he said a Sac State alumnus running for office is an accomplishment.

“He’s got to listen to the people who vote him in because you’re working for them, they don’t work for you,” Musallam said.

Brett Roche, president of the Sac State College Republicans, said the College Republicans “wish Mr. Guerra good luck in his election.”

I want to help somebody get the opportunity to achieve their dream.”

— Eric Guerra

Guerra also wants to increase wages and create more local career opportunities, saying he has seen Sacramento college graduates having to commute to the Bay Area for employment. 

“We also need to make sure that we’re creating all those jobs and opportunities in our own area so that when you graduate from Sac State, you can get an opportunity here,” Guerra said. 

Andrew Hertzoff, political science professor at Sac State, said Guerra is a hardworking member of the city council and is fairly accessible to the community, giving him a good chance of winning the seat. 

“He has an excellent record to appeal to the voting constituency in the area, which is reliably center-left, with a strong interest in inclusivity and diversity with support for business and neighborhood growth,” Hertzoff said via email.

Hertzoff said he hopes Guerra would continue being accessible to Sac State students and support increasing resources to Sac State, as well as providing affordable housing in Sacramento.

Guerra said his experience living in poverty and working as a janitor to pay his tuition sets him apart from other candidates running for the state Senate seat.

“All those lived experiences combined together give me a perspective while also knowing the tools of how to get things done to help our future,” Guerra said.

Additional reporting by Sydney Roll.