There are four North Coast legislative seats at stake in the Nov. 2 election:
– In the 2nd Senate District, two candidates are vying for an empty seat: Democrat Noreen Evans and Republican Lawrence Wiesner.
– In the 1st Assembly District, Republican Karen Brooks is challenging incumbent Wes Chesbro, a Democrat.
– In the 6th Assembly District, Republican Bob Stephens is challenging incumbent Jared Huffman, a Democrat.
– In the 7th Assembly District, three candidates are vying for an empty seat: Democrat Michael Allen, Republican Doris Gentry and Libertarian Kathryn Moore.
The Press Democrat Editorial Board endorsed Chesbro and Huffman on Oct. 28. It declined to back any of the candidates in the 2nd Senate District and 7th Assembly District races.
A copy of the editorial is attached below. Did the PD Editorial Board make the right decision? Disagree with the choices? Post a comment to share your thoughts with other members of the community.
Want to know more about each candidate?
PD Editorial: State seats
Our recommendations on local state Assembly, Senate races
Assemblywoman Noreen Evans makes a fair argument about a letter to the editor we published Tuesday. The writer criticized Evans, a candidate for state Senate, for “recently” giving pay raises of 10 percent to her staff. In fact, according to Evans, the last person on her personal staff to receive a raise was in February 2008.
The writer was most likely referring to a story about raises approved two years ago for the Budget Committee staff at the time Evans became chairwoman of that committee. An Associated Press investigation showed more than two dozen legislators, Democrats and Republicans including local legislators Jared Huffman and Wes Chesbro, granted increases for 2009 totaling more than $400,000 a year.
Overall, these raises were small potatoes when confronting budget deficits in the billions. Nevertheless, the letter captures some of the public’s — and our — frustrations with how the Legislature has conducted itself in midst of this fiscal crisis. Legislative staffers work hard and are deserving of regular pay hikes. But by the end of 2008, it was pretty evident where the economy and the state budget were headed. It was no time to be giving out raises as the state was issuing IOUs and doling out furloughs and companies in the private sector were slashing jobs and cutting salaries.
This disconnect between state legislators and real world, middle-class troubles is one reason that approval ratings of state legislators are at an all-time low.
As we noted prior to the primary, we feel Evans has squandered opportunities, first as Budget Committee chair and now as majority whip, to be a leader in this troubling time and move the state in a better direction. Evans has persisted in blaming others, particularly the governor, for the dysfunction in Sacramento. Most of all, we’re troubled by her unwillingness to take seriously a far more significant fiscal problem for the state — a projected $500 billion shortfall in the funds set aside to cover retirement benefits for public employees. Evans seems to have shown more of an interest in protecting the benefits and interests of the public employee unions that support her.
This was shown in her backing of such legislation as AB 155, an outrageous bill that would have prohibited cities and counties from seeking relief in bankruptcy court — thus voiding generous public employee contracts — without first getting state approval.
Evans is now seeking to succeed state Sen. Pat Wiggins who is stepping down from the 2nd District seat for health reasons. Voters are presented with a difficult choice. Her opponent is Santa Rosa accountant Lawrence Wiesner, a Republican, who speaks well about the financial challenges facing the state. But his conservative priorities in other areas — overturning health care reform, opening up the coast to offshore drilling, etc. — are a poor match for the district.
As we noted in June, there is no question that Evans will win this seat. She has the money, the name recognition and the support of Democratic leaders in a heavily Democratic district. But she has not earned our endorsement. In the race for state Senate in the 2nd District, we recommend none of the above.
Unfortunately, we come to the same conclusion in the race for Evans’ successor in the state Assembly, 7th District seat. This race pits Democrat Michael Allen, a Santa Rosa resident and former Wiggins staff member, against Republican Doris Gentry of Napa. Allen has a good reputation for working with divergent interests in resolving conflicts and building coalitions. And if he wins this seat, as we expect, we’re hopeful that he will use those skills in addressing some of the paralysis in Sacramento. But given his strong labor backing and background — including as president of the North Bay Labor Council and former executive director of SEIU Local 707 — we don’t believe he is the best person to represent taxpayer interests.
Gentry, the head of a tool manufacturing business, speaks passionately about lowering taxes and creating jobs. But she has no experience in elected office and has failed to persuade us that she has the background and skills to make a difference in Sacramento and represent this far-reaching, diverse district.
The race for the 6th Assembly District, which covers Marin County and southern Sonoma County, features incumbent Jared Huffman, a Democrat, and Republican Bob Stephens of San Rafael.
As with Gentry, Stephens is personable and speaks well about the spending problems of Sacramento. But he lacks any direct governmental experience and his proposed solutions for Sacramento’s troubles that are oversimplified.
We’ve had our disagreements with Huffman, including his votes on raises. But we believe he has shown a rare independence among Sacramento lawmakers and willingness to work across the aisle to get things done. In particular, he has emerged as a respected leader on the environmental front, playing a key role in the development of a package of water reform measures to provide much-needed help for the Sacramento Delta.
The race for the 1st District Assembly seat features incumbent Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, against Republican newcomer Karen Brooks. Chesbro, a former state senator and one of the most experienced legislators in Sacramento, also has shown an ability to work in a bipartisan way. This was demonstrated in his recent work with Republican Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, to resolve a problem rural firefighters were having with the state in getting the licences they needed to operate heavy machinery. Chesbro has been a faithful advocate for protecting the interests of rural residents, those with mental illness and other groups that don’t have much of a voice in Sacramento.
Brooks, a 30-year resident of Bayside, makes a good case for why the state needs a two-year budget. But as a former spokeswoman for the Humboldt County Tea Party Patriots who debunks global warming and wants to overturn AB 32 and health care reform, her ambitions are far too conservative for our tastes and, we believe, those of the district.
In the Assembly, we recommend Wes Chesbro for the 1st District and Jared Huffman in the 6th District.