The race between incumbent Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen and her Democratic challenger, Christopher Mateo, has played out mostly on paper.
The two candidates, the freshman assemblywoman seeking re-election and her opponent, a sitting Lathrop city councilman, never have met and have held no joint forums.
Mateo has declined to speak with The Bee since the beginning of his uncontested primary. He said in an e-mail that his positions have not changed from the start of his campaign and referred people instead to his Web site, www.chrismateo.com. He has no upcoming events listed on his site.
Olsen, who was was elected to the Assembly in 2010 after serving on the Modesto City Council, has participated in a public forum sponsored by San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools Mick Founts and held her own campaign events.
"I have been surprised there hasn't been (more interaction) between us," Olsen said. "I always think it is a positive thing when in any race for local, state or federal office, there are forums and opportunities for voters to engage with the candidates. I just think that's a healthy part of our democracy."
Olsen and Mateo are campaigning for the new 12th Assembly District, which includes much of Stanislaus County and adds ground in San Joaquin County. The new boundaries have removed much of the Sierra Nevada and part of Madera County from the district.
Olsen said the new district lines haven't changed her priorities if re-elected. Those are to attract and retain jobs in the Central Valley, to improve schools and to reform government to make it more transparent and fiscally responsible.
She said that while the state Legislature cannot create jobs, it creates an environment that will help attract jobs to the area.
"I think as an Assembly member, it's important to work collaboratively to revitalize communities and get back to basics," she said. "We need to reduce spending, lower regulations and can create a climate where businesses thrive."
Mateo, a retired postal worker and business owner now employed by San Joaquin County Public Works, wrote in his candidate questionnaire to The Bee that he is running because of his concern for the "5 E's, which are the economy, education, energy, environment and employment."
"The single most important priority, should I get elected, is to increase employment in my district," he wrote.
Since going to Sacramento two years ago, Olsen said she has learned not to get too entrenched in the capital city.
"It is so important to remain engaged in the communities throughout the district," she said. "You need to continue to live your everyday life so you don't lose perspective on why you are there. Sacramento is a subculture, so it's important to get away from there and live in your home community."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2284.