Port Hueneme City Councilwoman Sylvia Muñoz Schnopp filed for personal bankruptcy on March 12, the same day she dropped out of the race for a State Assembly seat.
Muñoz Schnopp, a Republican, had filed a statement of intent to run in the June primary for the 44th Assembly District. The district covers most of Ventura County, following the Highway 101 corridor from Thousand Oaks to Oxnard. Camarillo Republican Jeff Gorell holds the office now, but instead of running for a third and final term, he is taking on Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park, for her seat in the U.S. House.
On March 12, the last day for candidates to file their final declarations of candidacy, Muñoz Schnopp announced she would not run for Assembly after all. The same day, she filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in federal court in Santa Barbara, declaring $463,793 in assets and $527,756 in debts.
Muñoz Schnopp said her financial trouble was “one of the reasons, but not the whole entire reason” that she dropped out of the Assembly race.
“I prayed about it, and the answer was that I should step aside,” she said.
That leaves three candidates in the race: Democrat Jacqui Irwin, a Thousand Oaks city councilwoman; and Republicans Rob McCoy, a Thousand Oaks pastor, and Mario de la Piedra, who owns an insurance agency in Camarillo.
During her brief candidacy, Muñoz Schnopp won the endorsement of Grow Elect, a political action committee that recruits, trains and supports Latino Republican candidates.
“She has been a successful local elected official in the district, and I think she impressed a lot of people,” Grow Elect President and CEO Ruben Borrales told the Business Times.
Grow Elect sees the 44th Assembly race as one of the most important in the state. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by a narrow margin and the population is more than 40 percent Latino.
With Muñoz Schnopp out of the race, Grow Elect is now supporting De la Piedra, Barrales said.
Muñoz Schnopp, 54, was elected to the Port Hueneme City Council in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. From 1993 to 2001, she worked at AT&T Wireless, eventually rising to the positions of regional director of marketing and public affairs and national director of multicultural initiatives. She was laid off in 2001, and since then she’s run her own consulting business, taught classes at Oxnard College and worked at outdoor gear retailer REI.
Muñoz Schnopp said the income from consulting, teaching and serving on the council never approached her salary with AT&T Wireless.
According to her bankruptcy filing, she has $2,054 in monthly income and $3,822 in monthly expenses. Her largest debts are $421,926 in three mortgages on her Port Hueneme home, and $85,830 in credit-card debt.
“It has been a very humbling experience,” she said. “It’s where I can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my constituents and say, I know what it feels like to be laid off, I know what it feels like to go through these situations.”
She said she hasn’t decided yet whether to seek higher public office someday. For now, she’s dedicating herself to the Port Hueneme City Council.
“Thank goodness we live in a country that recognizes the need to start over, and gives people hope and a future,” she said. “It’s really the only option for me right now. … I believe that my doing what I need to do and getting a restart will allow me to look at other options in the future.”
Barrales said he thinks Muñoz Schnopp still has a bright future as both a City Council member and a potential candidate for state office. “So many Californians have gone through similar situations. It’s a tough economy,” he said. “The one thing I do know about Sylvia is she’s a fighter, she’s a survivor. I’m looking forward to her continuing to serve.”