Though still a year and half away, the race for the 35th District State Assembly seat is heating up as two former political allies prepare to square off.

Environmentalist Susan Jordan, the wife of current Assemblymember Pedro Nava, was the first candidate to publicly announce her intention to run for the position. Nava was elected to the seat – which in recent years has consistently been held by a Democrat – in 2004 and will be forced to vacate it in 2010 due to term limits.

Jordan will likely face Santa Barbara City Councilman and UCSB alum Das Williams for the Democratic nomination, but Williams has yet to make an official declaration concerning his rumored candidacy.

“I have not made an official announcement,” Williams said recently of his intentions in the race. “But I am not denying that I am in the race.”

When Jordan first announced that she would be campaigning for the position, it was expected that Williams would support her. In subsequent weeks, however, the two Democrats found themselves on opposing sides of a controversial issue concerning offshore oil and speculation began that Williams would run against her.

Jordan sees the upcoming campaign race with Williams as a way for voters to better understand and become knowledgeable about important political issues.

“I think that everyone has the right to run,” she said. “Elections allow voters to make an informed choice.”

Though they have been fervent allies on the Santa Barbara political scene in recent years, Jordan and Williams maintain that they offer voters two distinctive candidates with very different professional backgrounds.

Jordan, for her part, comes with many years of experience in both business and non-profit work. She co-founded the Vote the Coast organization and has been active in California Democratic politics since 1996.

“My strengths are thirty years of nonprofit advocacy in women’s issues and the environment,” she said. “I will bring a background of both business and advocacy together. These two skills best qualify me to fight for the people in this district.”

Williams, meanwhile, worked for a few years in the Sacramento legislature and has six years experience serving as a member on the Santa Barbara City Council. Williams, who grew up in and around Santa Barbara, said he believes that a true understanding of the community is key.

“I stay really close to grassroots,” he said. “I know what’s going on in our community and the community next to us, and I know what’s important to both.”

Jordan and Williams have slightly different political platforms, yet they both agree that the environment is one of their top three priorities. If elected, Jordan also plans on focusing on healthcare and education, and says that she is concerned with the economy and its effects in this district.

“What I am mainly concerned about is what I have seen happen to working families and young people who are just starting out,” she said. “The economy has suffered so deeply, and we need to get back on track.”

For his part, Williams’ top three priorities are the environment, public safety and education. He says that he fears that the public education system is being destroyed.

“I was going to school in 1996 it was $4,000 per quarter,” he said. “And depending on the school district, eight to ten percent of teachers are being pink-slipped. We are underestimating what it will do to our ability to educate kids and have an educated work force. I believe it’s going to take strong leadership to help avoid total destruction of public education system.”

Although Jordan is married to Pedro Nava, the current 35th district Assembly member, she said she hopes that this will not affect her in the next year’s election.

“I know that voters are intelligent and able to distinguish between two individuals,” she said. “I bring my own record to the table, and that’s what I expect to be judged on.”

Williams says that his reputation for putting action to his words will aid him in this election.

“I think I’ve been effective at not being a wishy-washy politician,” he said. “I’ve really pushed hard, and been an advocate and activist myself, rather than just a wishy-washy politician.”