Friday, October 24, 2008

19th District race still running hot


It’s perhaps the closest and most hotly contested State Senate seat up for grabs on Nov. 4, and the battle over the 19th District has escalated to a fever pitch as the days tick down toward Election Day.
Democrats are gunning for the district — which stretches from Orcutt to Santa Clarita and includes large chunks of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties — in order to garner a two-thirds, veto-proof majority.

Typically a Republican stronghold in the past, the territory has narrowed in terms of political composition, with less than two points separating the two major parties in voter registration rolls.
Santa Barbara remains a bastion of Democratic support, with 43.3 percent of its registered voters leaning left and 32.7 percent leaning right. Sections of Ventura County, however, give Republicans the edge — 42.1 percent to 35.9 percent.
After adding in small portions of northern Los Angeles County, the district reveals a split of 39.63 percent registered Republicans and 37.82 percent Democrats per a Sept. 5 report from the Secretary of State.
So it’s safe to say the two candidates for the senate seat, Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson and Republican Tony Strickland, have been running themselves ragged during the past months, crisscrossing the sprawling territory in an effort to spread their messages.
Offering up a small window of time amid last-minute campaign events and fundraisers, both candidates gave their take on the race, their opponent and their plans should the fight over the 19th District seat fall in their favor.

Hannah-Beth Jackson“I think it is a transformational year and I think people are tired of the politics of division and tired of the politics that have put big corporations ahead of families. It’s time to put families ahead of big corporations.”

Environment, education and public safety have always been high on the priority list for Jackson, who trumpeted those causes during her six years as a representative of the 35th Assembly District.
But with the crisis on Wall Street looming in the minds of many residents, she said the biggest issue at the moment is the economy.
“We’ve seen it really kind of collapse in the last year, again, I think, as a result of the failed policies of the Bush administration and this putting corporations ahead of the people,” Jackson said.
Jumpstarting the economy will take a comprehensive approach, she argued, one that includes fostering “green” jobs, creating an education plan focused on preparing kids for the 21st century, and untangling the state budget mess.
Despite the challenges ahead, Jackson said she remains optimistic — stating that opportunity emerges from adversity.
“The quote I like the best is that the darkest time of the day is right before the dawn,” she said. “We keep delaying it by infusing money that keeps disappearing almost as rapidly as it is introduced.”
Jackson paired her support of environmental causes as a quality of life issue with her contention that the environment can also serve as an economic engine for the community.
Generating a marketplace for the development and application of new alternative energy sources is one critical step to relieving the economic crunch, she said. As a member of the senate, Jackson said she would support incentives that would motivate people to develop green technology, such as solar and wind power.
She also levied criticism against her opponent, characterizing Strickland’s $5,000 investment in a start-up company focused on wave power as a token gesture amounting to an attempt to “greenwash” himself.
“How does he explain this so-called company of his that has no employees, never put out a watt of power, doesn’t have a payroll and doesn’t have any technology as an actual company that has formed the basis of his entire campaign?” she asked.
Jackson said her opponent voted down bills supporting alternative energy during his time in the State Legislature and denied global warming existed as recently as five years ago.
“It’s interesting that my opponent is trying to run on my record,” she said, “whereas his record is he voted against all those things.”
As far as education’s role in the economy, Jackson said investment in schools and encouragement of research into emerging fields such as nanotechnology and green building is critical to creating new jobs.
She called for promoting math, science and vocational training, encouraging more students to pursue those fields, and giving mid-career and retired workers the opportunity to share their experiences and spark interest.
Asked about the state budget, Jackson acknowledged it has been in major turmoil for years. Officials keep putting off true reform until the next year, she said, and now the state is backed into a corner.
“The gimmicks need to go away and we need to take a hard, cold look at the way we budget and how we provide resources and funding for the state,” Jackson said. “We have to take a look at services and programs, and if they’re not working, we have to end them.
“We have to take a look at some of these huge tax loopholes that we’ve given to huge corporations, like the oil industry.”
California is the only oil-producing state that doesn’t charge a severance tax on oil drilling, she said. By creating such a tax, an idea the County of Santa Barbara is already kicking around on its own, Jackson said the state stands to gain at least a billion dollars annually.
“The oil companies are making enormous profits. This would not impact them, their bottom line, but it would provide money that could very well go to things like education,” she said.
Instead of tax credits for large corporations, Jackson said the state should be offering incentives, if any at all, for those businesses to create jobs in the state, rather than sending them off to neighboring states.
She also took issue with attempts to portray her as a tax-lover, noting she supported $26 billion in tax cuts when the economy was healthy during her time in the assembly.
“At this point, the middle class has been taxed enough,” she said. “I don’t support any increase in taxes on the middle class.
“My name happens to rhyme with taxin’. It also rhymes with action, by the way. And I like action better, because I think, and the people of the community know, that in my six years in the legislature, I was very responsive to the needs of the community.”
Ultimately, she said, the differences between Strickland and herself are stark. While she supports same-sex marriage, she said her opponent is a “right-wing idealogue” who voted against every measure on rights for same-sex couples.
She spearheaded legislation to protect children at a Ventura school from pesticides being sprayed on a nearby farm. Her opponent, she said, voted against that bill.
“With my record and my vision and my values, it’s very clear that I’m on the side of our families and my opponent is on the side of the big corporations, who are continuing to funnel millions of dollars into his campaign,” she said.

Tony Strickland “The No. 1 issue is the economy. If we don’t have a strong, robust economy, we can’t invest in infrastructure, healthcare, schools. California needs to be more business friendly.”

When Strickland first ran for State Assembly, he had education on the mind. But when he arrived in Sacramento, the energy crisis hit. So he changed his focus and filed a lawsuit against then-Gov. Gray Davis, forcing the administration to reveal expensive energy contracts it had negotiated in secret with energy companies.
Now, with three assembly terms under his belt, Strickland has another crisis in his sights: the flagging economy.
“I really firmly believe everything touches the economy,” he said. “Until we fix the economy, we can’t really invest in education like I want to.”
Fixing the economy is obviously no easy task, he concedes. Nonetheless, he said government officials need to take steps to address what he terms a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
One solution Strickland proposes is to create a strict spending cap, allowing the government to increase only by population growth plus inflation. If implemented when Gov. Schwarzenegger took office, he said, “Today we’d be talking about a surplus, not a deficit.”
Another way to rein in spending is to improve bureaucratic efficiency, he said. By way of example, he pointed to a Ventura County supervisor who launched a direct deposit payment system for county employees, saving millions by not mailing out checks.
Taking such an action would save the state billions, Strickland said.
“There are innovative ideas like that that they’re doing in the private sector that we’re not doing in the government,” he said.
Calling California an economic leader in entertainment, he said the state could also be an economic leader in terms of renewable energy. He called his proposal to provide incentives for companies looking to develop new sources of energy a surefire way to liven up the economy.
“I would implement a system to fast-track the permitting process,” Strickland said. “A lot of this renewable energy is proven technology, particularly in other countries.”
Bureaucratic requirements are holding up the process, he contended, giving companies more of a reason to move to business-friendly states such as Nevada and Oregon.
Unless the state develops policies more welcoming to businesses, Strickland said it will continue to have budget woes.
“If we create those jobs here, that means companies will stay here,” he said.
He also addressed Green Wave Energy Solutions, a start-up company focused on harnessing wave energy. Strickland invested $5,000 in the company along with several partners and serves as its vice president.
When asked about criticisms that the company has no employees, payroll or technology, he dismissed those arguments.
“Those who make those criticisms don’t understand the economy,” he said. “It’s a start-up company. If they had said that to Bill Gates, he wouldn’t have started his company. We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”
As a result of his involvement in the company, Strickland said he now offers expertise in the field of alternative energy.
“I bring with me the knowledge of what it takes to grow a renewable energy economy here in California,” he said.
Strickland also noted the recent endorsement of Gov. Schwarzenegger, who he termed the “greenest” governor the state has seen. He said the governor is excited that he is promoting renewable energy and tax credits for businesses.
Queried about his past record on alternative energy, Strickland said he has always been supportive but is placing more of an emphasis on it now.
“Our gas prices are spiraling out of control and we need to invest in an energy plan,” he said.
He called offshore drilling is a band-aid solution, although he might be supportive should it be part of a comprehensive energy package.
Strickland acknowledged there are plenty of other issues to deal with should he be elected to State Senate. The state’s aging infrastructure is a major problem, as is the tenuous water supply.
But ultimately, he said, nothing will change until the state fosters a robust economy. It’s on this point that he emphasized clear differences between Jackson and himself.
“We’ve been talking about our proactive approach to how we’re going to fix the economic problems in the state of California,” he said. “…She’s talking about everything but the economy because she has a poor record on the economy.
“I’m firmly confident that the voters will take a look at the records of both of us and understand that the economy is the No. 1 issue.”

No comments: