MODESTO -- Republican Jack Mobley and Democrat Adam Gray are not well-known names to people in Modesto or Stanislaus County.
Local residents are more familiar with Gray's family connections. His wife, Cadee, is the daughter of former Congressman Gary Condit, and his father-in-law attended an election forum for the two candidates Thursday evening at Modesto Junior College.
The forum was held by the Associated Students of MJC and the Freedom Forum Club.
After the event, Gray said Condit was not involved with his campaign but was giving the expected family support to the couple. The former congressman would not grant an interview, his daughter said.
"He hasn't gone on the record for 10 years," she said, alluding to the scandal sparked by the disappearance and homicide of Chandra Levy, a former Justice Department intern.
Gray, a Merced resident, is trying to get elected to state office in what used to be "Condit Country." The new 21st Assembly District includes Merced County, central, south and west Modesto, Condit's hometown of Ceres and the western half of Stanislaus County.
The Democratic candidate did most of the attacking at Thursday's forum. He suggested that Mobley, a Merced small-business owner, is a typical candidate who makes partisan statements during his campaigns and takes marching orders from his party while in office.
Gray, who lists his occupation as a university lecturer and adviser, said the Legislature needs people who can work with members of both parties and take positions that might upset the party faithful. He boasted of being one of three Democrats in the state endorsed by the California Chamber of Commerce.
Mobley countered that he's endorsed by the Merced County Farm Bureau and Merced Chamber of Commerce. He charged that 90 percent of the groups donating to Gray's campaign are from outside the district. Mobley said he's willing to reach across the aisle. There's room for compromise on issues such as water policy, he said, but he intends to stand firm on his core moral beliefs.
The retired Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel said he worked well with pilots from other countries when he flew refueling aircraft during the Persian Gulf War.
The two candidates disagreed about same-sex unions, as well as the Proposition 30 tax initiative on the November ballot. Gray said state law should permit same-sex marriage. Mobley said he doesn't support gay marriage, but supports civil rights for same-sex couples.
Mobley said Proposition 30 is not good legislation. State leaders should balance the budget by looking at spending in each department and deciding "whether we need all of these boards and commissions."
Gray supports the initiative and said the state needs to invest more in education and infrastructure such as high-speed rail. "We can't continue to cut education," he said.
Gray continued to go after his opponent on what his radio ads term the "Mobley sales tax." The GOP candidate has favored a statewide sales tax increase that would replace other forms of taxation. Gray charged that it's impossible to meet a $100 billion state budget with a sales tax, and invited Mobley to give more specifics.
Mobley said Gray's camp has twisted something he had said at a League of Women Voters forum, though he acknowledged he might not have spoken clearly. He said he supports reforming the tax system and that the state should move toward a consumption tax.
Mobley stressed that the private sector is crucial to bringing down the jobless rate and restoring California's fiscal stability. Excessive regulation and taxes are driving companies from the state, he said.
The GOP candidate said he also liked Congressman Jeff Denham's idea to raise the height of dams, which he said would greatly increase water storage capacity in California.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.