By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
NAPA — Job growth dominated the talk Thursday night at Napa Valley College by candidates hoping to succeed state Sen. Pat Wiggins in Sacramento.
At the first forum where voters could meet the candidates together, three of the four people hoping to win the 2nd District seat told a live web audience and about 30 people gathered in a lecture hall how they would bring more work to the six counties served by the office.
Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, former Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders and Sonoma County Planning Commissioner Tom Lynch took part in the forum designed to win the endorsement of the Democrats of Napa Valley. David Rosas, a Roseland School District board member also running, did not attend the forum.
Evans’ promise to create jobs through infrastructure projects earned the votes of two-thirds of the members of the Democrats of Napa Valley, who gave her their endorsement. Evans asked the group to look to her record with the 7th Assembly District to judge how she would approach work in the Senate.
“I worked with Congressman (Mike) Thompson on a St. Helena project that created jobs and saved homes. The Napa River flood control project meant hundreds of jobs for Napa County, Evans said.
Sanders, former mayor of Sonoma, was runner-up in the endorsement vote. Sanders said her staffing company has created 3,800 jobs in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.
“The state’s number-one revenue source is income tax,” Sanders said.
“I’m a small business owner and I’m in the business of facilitating job creation.”
Lynch said cuts to government workers’ pensions and pay were at the heart of his plan to stem job loss.
Lynch proposed starting with graduated, salary-based pay cuts and reducing pension payouts.
“We can’t continue with massive, unfunded obligations that are robbing us of our funds,” Lynch said of current pension plans.
The Guerneville general contractor did not win any endorsement votes Thursday night, but he did win applause as he listed a left-leaning agenda to reduce the prison population and legalize marijuana.
Evans, who spoke after Lynch, challenged the 30-year Guerneville resident’s plan to address the state’s budget deficit.
“You could fire every state employee, and you couldn’t close this budget gap,” Evans said.
Candidates answered multiple questions about partisan collaboration, including one from Matt Pope, a Napa County planning commissioner, when he asked Sanders how she would deal with an impasse between Republicans and Democrats in Sacramento.
“We have to find common ground, find incentives. Let’s say you have to raise a tax, what do you need from the biz community to help them move forward?” Sanders said.
In response to a similar question, Evans said she fought Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts by inviting public comment for the first time.
“Judge me by what I’ve done. I opened (the budget hearings) up to everyone in the state of California,” Evans said.
Sen. Pat Wiggins holds the seat now, but she is not running for re-election.