Ramirez (photo by Al Ramirez)

DOWNTOWN — A Santa Monica businessman has thrown his hat into the ring to challenge longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein when she runs for her fourth term in November.

Al Ramirez, 43, felt that now was the time to challenge the career politician with a fresh perspective and ideas he believes will help turn around the flagging national economy.

“I believe in new types of businesses, new types of opportunities,” Ramirez, a Republican, said. “California is still a place that you can strike gold, and Santa Monica is the perfect example.”

The city and its self-declared “Silicon Beach” became a hub of tech startups and venture capitalists looking for the next big thing.

That energy can be replicated in other places to help bring California back from the precipice of devastating cuts to social services, safety and education and the 11.3 percent unemployment rate impacting the state, Ramirez said.

Many of his ideas focus on freeing small businesses from what he feels are excessive regulations, like dealing with taxes every quarter rather than once a year and finding ways to encourage so-called “angel investors” to give promising businesses a chance.

“Venture capitalists are moving up in the food chain,” he said. “There are not as many VCs that invest in the early seed company and the early rounds.”

Ramirez also plans to run on the issue of illegal immigration, which he believes has unfairly targeted Mexicans to the exclusion of those of other nationalities that choose to move illegally to the United States.

“There are lots of Hispanics like myself that don’t agree with amnesty,” Ramirez said. “It turns into anti-Mexican rhetoric. There are illegal people coming from all over the world, not just Mexico.”

Ramirez moved to California in 1997, and settled in Santa Monica’s Downtown district in 2002. He began his career selling 800 numbers for AT&T, and then worked his way up in that company before switching to Sprint, Samsung and a number of smaller startups.

He rode the dot com wave of the late 1990s, which exposed him to the technological frontier that exists in California.

Ramirez’s own experiences in the telecommunications field and even attempts to launch a mobile media service in a pre-iPhone world shaped his views on how the government should approach businesses.

He’s against the Protect IP Act, a bill in the Senate which would create greater copyright protections for large media companies at the expense of smaller Internet startups — “They’re stifling innovation for the sake of making an easy buck,” Ramirez said — and believes in using existing laws to police businesses rather than creating new, and potentially more onerous, versions.

This isn’t Ramirez’ first run at the senate. He worked the circuit for the 2010 election against Barbara Boxer only to find that he, and other smaller candidates, were shoved out of the running by millionaire Carly Fiorina.

This time will be different, he hopes.

The Field Poll, an independent and nonpartisan survey in California, found that Feinstein had her lowest approval ratings of her tenure in September 2011, with only 41 percent giving her the thumbs up.

“There’s a graveyard of people who have failed to get that fourth term,” Ramirez said.

He will face competition from within his own party. Another political novice, Elizabeth Emken, of Danville, Calif., will be competing against him with a platform that emphasizes lower taxes and reduced government spending.

Whether either of them really have a chance of unseating Feinstein remains a mystery.

A November poll by the Public Policy Polling company found that Feinstein led well-known Republican names including Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Fresno), former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, Fiorina and Orly Taitz, a dentist who put herself on the map for loudly alleging that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.


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