Tesla’s Decision to Open Factory in Nevada Puts a Charge into SD10 Race

SD10 opponents Assemblymember Bob
Wiekcowski and Peter Kuo

STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 10 | In the months since the June primary Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski’s campaign has been virtually silent. With Republican challenger Peter Kuo also retreating to his corner of Santa Clara County, the race for the 10th State Senate District has been non-existent until this week.

The decision of Fremont-based Tesla Motors, Inc. to open a large-scale lithium battery factory in Nevada, instead of California, may give Kuo an opportunity to piggyback on a conservative contention the state’s business climate is pushing jobs out of the Golden State. The battery plant is expected to employ 6,500 workers in Nevada.

Wieckowski, a Democrat who represents the area in the State Assembly downplayed Tesla’s announcement this week. “While I am disappointed in Tesla’s apparent decision to locate its battery factory in Nevada, I am proud of California’s partnership with Tesla resulting in significant job growth in Fremont, Santa Clara County and among the automakers’ suppliers,” said Wieckowski. “I am hopeful that as the company grows, Tesla may build additional battery facilities or other specialized facilities in California as it scales up manufacturing for current and future products.”

Tesla Motors auto plant in Fremont.

During a televised California gubernatorial debate Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signaled a similar sentiment, while noting recent legislation offering Tesla incentives to build the gigifactory in the state were ultimately too costly for taxpayers. Brown suggested the Nevada factory might lower the price of fuel cells, thereby, making Tesla vehicles built in Fremont more affordable.

Kuo, who finished second in the June primary, criticized Wieckowski for his statement. “While my opponent Bob Wieckowski appears to dismiss the severity of this news, I am concerned about the economy and workers in this district. The type of policies that Bob has led on are a root cause of the exodus of businesses to more business friendly states,” Kuo said in a statement. “Tesla’s latest move hits close to home because many of those jobs could have filled by constituents of the 10th Senate District.”

Tesla’s decision is likely to not only dominate this race covering much of the southern Alameda County and parts of Santa Clara County, but also become a frequent talking point for Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, who, like Kuo, has described California’s regulations and tax policies as overly burdensome for business owners.

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