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Perspective on Assembly District 25 Candidates Forum: Two Democrats Plus One Republican Equals Three Takes on the Political Center

At the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum on May 3, 2012 at the Fremont Unified School District headquarters, the candidates vying to represent California’s new assembly District 25 – extending north to Fremont, south to Milpitas, and east the Santa Clara – were a fair representation of San Francisco Bay Area politics – in other words, all centrists.

Here are the candidates discussing their priorities:

“I want to bring jobs back to California, improve K-12 education, and streamline [government] and get rid of waste,” said Santa Clara business and management consultant, and college professor ArLyne Diamond (R-Santa Clara, www.diamondforassembly.com).

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“We have the same priorities: job creation, investment in schools and higher education, moving to reduce regulation,” followed up current District 20 Assemblyman and former Fremont Vice Mayor Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont, bobwieckowski.com), who was redistricted out of the District 20 seat.

Milpitas Vice-Mayor and former Santa Clara County Supervisor Pete McHugh (D-Milpitas, www.ci.milpitas.ca.gov) varied the jobs and education theme. “Our first priority is getting our financial house in order. Second is protecting our educational system. Third I want to prove we can get California moving again.”

The biggest difference of opinion was on Proposition 13 – although this public policy item isn’t directly under California legislature control.

You might guess that Diamond, the single Republican in this primary, would be a Prop 13 defender; McHugh with his Boston working-class style would advocate repeal; and Wieckowski, an incumbent Assemblyman, would likely recommend further study. Guess again.

“I supported Prop 13 and I still support it,” said McHugh. “It was a historic example of people taking control of their government…the public taking at two-by-four to their elected representatives. It has made it possible for many people to stay in their homes and that is a positive social good.”

McHugh admitted improvement might be possible. “I think there is a need to have an element of fairness…on the corporate side.”

Wieckowski gave a truly bold answer, given that political excommunication generally greets suggestions that 1979’s Prop 13 isn’t the most enlightened legislation since ancient Athens’ invention of democracy.

“I would support a ballot prop to overturn Prop 13,” he said. Then he tempered his boldness, adding, “I support the split roll. Currently, 70 percent [of property tax] is being paid by residential owners. I would support raising the base rate [on commercial real estate].”

For Diamond, the question was an opportunity to reinforce a cornerstone of her campaign: making California more attractive to businesses; adding that, in general, she favored reducing corporate taxes as a strategy for bringing jobs back to California.

For Santa Clarans, maybe a central concern was what wasn’t said at the forum. Namely, will McHugh’s or Wieckowski’s election relegate Santa Clara to a Fremont West zip code? (Some may remember that Fremont didn’t exist before 1956 when it was created from the merger of Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose, and Warm Springs.)

Santa Clarans were hardly reassured by hearing McHugh and Wieckowski refer frequently to their respective cities, while saying nothing during the evening demonstrating consciousness the district extends west of Milpitas.

In fact, McHugh seemed more concerned about the (unasked) question of why he was challenging an incumbent from his own party. He was making this seemingly politically fraught move, he said, “to get our financial house in order.”

Diamond couldn’t help but benefit from having no part in this fight. She focused her remarks on the Bay Area and California – rather than party – concerns, and emphasized her credentials for working collegially.

“I work with conflict,” she explained. “I work with communication. I teach persuasion and negotiation. I think I have the skills and experience to work cooperatively with people I disagree with.”

You can watch the entire 90 minutes of League of Women Voters Candidate’s Forum at http://tinyurl.com/forum25. The California Primary election is June 5, 2012. All candidates have been invited to speak with the WEEKLY.

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