Four candidates for the state legislature faced off Monday night in the Merced County Supervisors' chamber over job creation, business regulation, high-speed rail and the state's budgetary gridlock, among other things.
While the candidates tried to paint themselves as either Sacramento outsiders with fresh ideas or knowledgeable legislators with the experience needed to get things done, the tenor of the candidates forum strayed little from what have become typical points of friction between the state's two major political parties.
While the candidates agreed on some issues -- opposition to the legalization of pot, increased water storage and supply and support for a medical school at UC Merced -- much of the night was taken up with disagreements on core issues. Those issues circled around the degree to which government has a hand to play in solving the state's problems.
Jack Mobley, a Republican Merced businessman calling for a reduction in regulation, taxes and government waste, squared off against Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani for the 17 assembly district. This will be Mobley's second run against Galgiani, who beat him two years ago. If re-elected, Galgiani, a moderate Democrat who holds up high-speed rail and the jobs it will bring to the Valley as her signature achievement, will face her last term in office.
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The two candidates running for the Senate seat in the 12th distinct, Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella and former Salinas mayor and state assembly women Anna Caballero, are both vying for the seat vacated by Jeff Denham who is making a bid for congress.
Cannella, a Republican whose father, Sal, served in the assembly, painted himself as a no-nonsense, pro-business candidate who will "clean up" government waste and help end the gridlock in the legislature. Democrat Caballero described herself as an experienced legislator with the know-how to bring jobs and prosperity to the Valley.
All of the candidates agreed that there needs to be a solution to the budget gridlock that has plagued the state. But they disagreed about how to solve that problem. "We've got to change the way that we do our budget process," said Caballero in a statement echoed by all.
Caballero said she supports reforming the state's two-thirds requirement for the passage of a budget.
Mobley advocated connecting pay to budget passage, which Cannella echoed. Both opposed changing the two-thirds rule, saying it would mean one party rule.
Galgiani, who also opposes changing the two-thirds rule, said that pension reform and other cost-saving would be good starts to fixing the budget impasse.
All four candidates said there needs to be changes regarding the tax structure and regulation of businesses, but the two Republicans were outspoken in their disdain for what they called excessive taxes, regulations and the "anti-business" climate in California. "We have regulations in this state that are strangling us," said Cannella.
Both Democrats said they have met with their Republican colleagues in order to keep businesses in California.
When asked about Measure C, a local initiative that will limit rampant growth on farmland, the candidates all said they support protecting ag land but none backed the measure. Both Caballero and Cannella took no positions, demurring to voters. Mobley and Galgiani said they did not support the measure.
The four candidates also agreed that there needs to be some kind of public pension reform. Caballero said she backs efforts to stop the spiking of salaries before retirement. Galgiani said working with the unions for future concessions could help the problem. Mobley and Cannella proposed giving the best retirement deals to public safety personnel and setting up for the rest a two-tierd system for current and future employees.
Mobley stood alone in his opposition for high-speed rail, saying the project will be an albatross around the state's neck.
The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or email@example.com.