Benicia Herald Front Page: "Sonoma community organizer takes another shot at congressional seat"

From the Benicia Herald, written by Nick Sestanovich, originally posted April 1, 2018.

Sonoma community organizer takes another shot at congressional seat

 Nils Palsson is an independent candidate in the race for California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Benicia. Courtesy photo.

Nils Palsson is an independent candidate in the race for California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Benicia. Courtesy photo.

Two years after placing third in the congressional primary for California’s 5th District, Sonoma County teacher and nonprofit communications director Nils Palsson is giving it another go.

Palsson, 32, is looking to unseat Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson, who has served in Congress since 1999. This is not the first time Palsson had run for his seat. He had come in third in the 2016 primary, but per California’s top-two primary system, he was unable to advance to the November general election, where Thompson defeated Republican challenger Carlos Santamaria.

Although relatively new to running for political office, Palsson said he has been involved with political activism his entire life.

“I’ve been interested in political change and what’s going on with our planet and wealth inequality,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do something about it all along but didn’t know where to begin.”

For more than 10 years, Palsson was involved in local organizing through nonpartisan projects like food security and protecting local watersheds. One big change was the birth of his daughter Satya, now 5, which gave Palsson more of a need to fight for her future.

“We need to make a big change in order to give a better world, better environment and better economy to our children,” he said.

Palsson, who previously lived in Lake County but now lives in Santa Rosa, works as a communications director for the sustainability nonprofit Transition US and as a science teacher. He was also the host of the Lake County community station KPFZ program “Wake Up and Thrive,” where in 2014, he interviewed James Hinton, then an independent candidate running against Thompson.

“He did OK in the election and planted the seed in me of being an eligible candidate and having what I felt was a pretty serious grasp on the issues and policies,” Palsson said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I have a chance.’”

Palsson went to the Federal Election Commission website to do research on Thompson’s political contributions. The list showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from major banks, telecommunication companies, pharmaceutical corporations and more. This made Palsson, an opponent of corporate financing in campaigns, want to run in 2016.

“No one else who was running against him seemed to be in a position to win,” he said. “I felt like it was a duty.”

Palsson ran as a Democrat in 2016 but is now running as an independent. One advantage, he believes, is that there are no Republicans on the ballot this time.

“That fact, in and of itself, really ups my chances of making it through the primary,” he said.

The candidate describes himself as a “Berniecrat,” with his views closely aligned to those of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Palsson was even elected to serve as a delegate for Sanders at the 2016 Democratic National Convention for the senator’s presidential bid that year. A top priority for Palsson is getting money out of politics.

“I’m accountable to our people,” he said. “I don’t take any money from corporate lobbyists.”

Other goals for Palsson include combating climate change and wealth inequality and protecting the rights of women, people of color, immigrants and LGBTQ individuals.

“I stand in deep and radical solidarity with all oppressed people,” he said.

Likewise, Palsson supports free university tuition, creating affordable housing and helping rebuild infrastructure in the district following the Wine Country Fires in October. 

Palsson said he has not spent as much time in Benicia as he would like but hopes to change that soon with an event planned for the spring. In regards to the allowance of cannabis dispensaries, Palsson believes it cannabis can be a legitimate medicine but also did not support having them too close in proximity to schools.

“There are some compromises we need to make to honor everybody’s needs,” he said. “I could see there being some limits when it comes to schools and things like that, but beyond that I think we need to treat business owners with respect and treat patients with respect as well, especially when the big pharmaceutical industry is doing much more harm to the fabric of our society than dispensaries and cannabis.”

Following his previous campaign, Palsson feels confident he can pull through this time around with the lessons he learned.

“I’m believing in myself and believing that I can win and that we the people can win because it’s what’s needed at this time in history,” he said.

Other candidates on the ballot include Green Party candidate and American Canyon resident Jason Kishineff and independent candidate Anthony Mills. The primary is June 5.

For more information on Palsson’s campaign, go to NilsForCongress.com.