Highland resident Cristina Puraci, president of the Redlands Unified School District board, is the fifth candidate to enter the race to succeed state Sen. Mike Morrell and represent the 23rd District.

Puraci, a Republican who immigrated from Romania, was honored by Morrell in September 2017. Morrell, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga, was elected to the California Senate in 2014. He will be termed out next year.

“The Inland Empire was once an affordable place to live and raise a family,” Puraci said in her candidacy statement. “However, the out-of-control, rising cost of living in our region has diminished our quality of life.

“How much longer must we listen to Sacramento politicians push the same failed policies while our children, friends and neighbors leave California for a better life? As your next state senator, I will advocate for common-sense solutions that will lower our cost of living, strengthen public safety and reduce homelessness, attract high-wage jobs, improve education for our youth, and protect our environment while preserving our Constitutional liberties.”

The other declared candidates are:

• Republican Lloyd Alfred White, a Beaumont city councilman who works at Esri in Redlands.

• Democrat Kris Goodfellow, a former journalist who runs Redlands-based Voyager Search, which provides search and data management solutions.

• Republican Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, a trustee on the Yucaipa-Calimesa Unified School District.

• And Democrat Abigail Rosales Medina, president of the San Bernardino City Unified School District board.

Puraci was elected to the Redlands Unified School District board in 2016, coming in third in a field of eight candidates with 13.99 percent of the vote. She is also a member of several boards and committees including the San Bernardino County Drug and Gang Task Force and the Redlands Cultural Arts Council.

She also is involved in Refresh and Renew, which provides food, clothing and shelter to veterans and the homeless.

Puraci has been given the WHO award (We Honor Ours) by the California Teachers Association.

According to Morrell’s 2017 statement honorng Puraci, spent her childhood in communist Romania, where she and her family were persecuted for their Christian faith. At age 12, she survived the disaster at Chernobyl.

Fleeing communism when she was 18, Puraci came to the United States in 1992 on a fiancée visa to be with her future husband, Adrian, who had moved to the United States as a political refugee in 1983.

“From humble beginnings, Cristina came here with admiration and respect for our Constitution, wanting to embrace the freedoms and opportunities that can only be found here in America,” Morrell said. “It was an honor to acknowledge her and the contributions she and her family have made to our community.”

After attending San Bernardino Valley College, Puraci transferred to California State University, San Bernardino, where she earned her bachelor’s degree before earning her master’s degree in education from National University.

She lives in Highland with her husband, Adrian, who also is a teacher. They have one son, Sebastian, who teaches biology, a daughter-in-law, Simina, and one grandson, Kevin.

The 23rd Senate District includes all or parts of Banning, Beaumont, Big Bear City, Big Bear Lake, Cedar Glen, Calimesa, Cherry Valley, Crestline, Homeland, Hemet, Highland, Lake Arrowhead, Loma Linda, Menifee, Mentone, Nuevo, Phelan, Pinion Hills, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, San Bernardino, San Jacinto, Wrightwood and Yucaipa.

The election will be held on March 3, the presidential primary.

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