Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, and her Republican opponent, Jack Mobley, are not going to agree about the role of government.
They also disagree about California's high-speed rail project, which would carry passengers between major cities in the Bay Area and Southern California on a route through the San Joaquin Valley.
Galgiani is a champion of high-speed rail. Mobley thinks the proposal should be shelved.
The incumbent said that building the system for trains traveling 220 mph will create 600,000 jobs and provide efficient transportation for up to 41 million riders. Without high-speed rail, the state will need to spend billions to build more highways and airport runways to meet transportation needs, she said.
Never miss a local story.
"As early as January 2012, we will have tens of thousands of jobs for Central Valley residents, which will put our economy on a fast track to recovery," said Galgiani, who is seeking a third term in the Legislature.
Mobley said the state can't afford to build the $42 billion rail system and will have to count on taxpayers across the country to subsidize the fares.
"Too many experts, including the legislative analyst's office, are saying the numbers don't work," he said. "The state treasurer says he can't sell bonds to fund the project. We can't afford it, and we don't need it."
The 17th District race is a rematch of the contest two years ago. Galgiani got 65 percent of the vote to easily defeat Mobley.
She has raised more than $435,000 for her campaign; her opponent does not expect to raise one-tenth of that. Mobley hopes to ride a conservative backlash against Democrats in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
High-speed trains are not the only priority for Galgiani. She is chairwoman of the Assembly's Agriculture Committee and has pushed for a medical school and other programs at the University of California at Merced.
Galgiani has no hands-on farming experience, but farming was the life blood of her ancestors who emigrated from Switzerland to settle in Stockton, she says.
If elected to another term, she said, her goal will be to protect valley agriculture as it's brought into debate over air pollution and water quality rules.
She recently fought to keep convicted killer Loren Herzog from being paroled to San Joaquin County. In 2001, Herzog and friend Wesley Shermantine were convicted of the 1998 murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden and the slaying of three men in 1984. Authorities suspect they could be responsible for more than 20 homicides.
Herzog's sentence was reduced when his first-degree murder convictions were overturned on appeal. He was released from prison this month to live in a trailer on prison grounds in Lassen County, far from the victims' families in San Joaquin County.
"There were so many men and women who went missing in many of those years," Galgiani said. "He served less time in prison than the entire length of his 14-year killing spree."
Mobley chides his opponent for abstaining from key legislative votes, such as a vote on the farmworker overtime bill, and for supporting the causes of liberal Democrats.
He said his top priority is to address the staggering jobless rates in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.
"Cathleen is a nice person, but I don't think she understands what needs to be done to create jobs," he said. "Companies are leaving the state because of taxes and regulations. And she has voted for tax increases and increased regulations."
Mobley, an Air Force veteran, was stationed at the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater in the 1980s and served with the reserves in Operation Desert Storm and in Kosovo. After retiring from the military, he started three ServiceMaster cleaning franchises with 100 employees in Merced County.
He said he supports removing environmental restrictions to pumping water from the delta to farms on the valley's west side, and says the state should build dams in the Sierra foothills to store water.
Industries would hire more people if the state stopped increasing taxes and regulations, he said.
"Government creates expenses," he said. "It doesn't create jobs."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.