A Clear Choice
John Laird is the Weekly’s pick for State Senate seat.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Voters have a rare opportunity to cast a particularly meaningful ballot in the special June 22 election for the 15th District State Senate seat. It is rare because this is a special election, with just one contest on the ballot, that follows by exactly two weeks a heavily contested primary in which only 35 percent of the electorate bothered to cast ballots. It is further rare because if none of the four candidates vying for the seat gets 50 percent plus one, then they will do it all over again on Aug. 17. Lastly, this contest is unusually important because the outcome has the potential to loosen the partisan gridlock that has crippled Sacramento for years.
The peculiarities of this election are a result of the appointment of Abel Maldonado to the office of lieutenant governor and a move by Governor Schwarzenegger to help his party, which is thought to benefit from a low turn-out election.
Whatever you think of the machinations leading up to the contest, which leaves the electorate in the oddly gerrymandered district stretching from parts of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo to Monterey and parts of Santa Clara county, one thing is overwhelmingly clear: Former Assemblymember John Laird is by far the best candidate. Laird’s vision, political smarts and humane values will help fix the massive problems the Golden State faces.
But Laird’s race against San Luis Obispo-based Republican Assemblyman – and former Exxon executive – Sam Blakeslee is as important for its real-world political consequences as for the chance to vote for a genuinely principled and dedicated public servant.
If Laird is successful, along with Anna Caballero, who is also running for State Senate in District 12, it would finally give the Democrats in that house the two-thirds majority they need under California law to get any kind of a budget passed.
The law, which has insured minority rule under the Schwarzenegger administration, needs to be repealed.
We support the November ballot measure that would end it, as does Laird.
But the outcome is uncertain, and the Democrats need all the help they can get in order to end the legislative gridlock that has made our state a laughingstock.
The outcome is also uncertain in the District 15 race, which is why we urge everyone with an interest in changing the system to turn out on June 22. It has long been under Republican control, by Maldonado and Bruce McPherson before him, but this contest could be a gamechanger.
Laird, the former Santa Cruz mayor, has a long record of opposing offshore drilling, working with enviromental groups like Save Our Shores to keep our coastline from being defiled, and successfully pushing for designation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
He has also been an advocate for open spaces and protecting prime agricultural land against overdevelopment. One of the first openly gay members in the legislature, he has successfully authored anti-discrimination legislation.
The former chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, he has a progressive but realistic view of the state’s fiscal woes, in sharp contrast to the draconian cuts now being proposed by Schwarzenegger and the fanatical opposition to any tax increases that has become the price of admission to the Republican party these days.
Laird has proposed a modest increase in the vehicle license fee to guarantee that state parks remain open, prison reforms that could save the state considerable money over time, an oil extraction tax, and rescinding corporate tax breaks now.
A former Cabrillo College trustee, Laird has a deep understanding of the importance of education to our children’s future.
His opponent, Blakeslee, is his opposite in just about every respect.
Although Blakesleep paints himself as an environmental moderate in a district that is trending Democratic and eco-friendly, he played a crucial role in legislation last year that would have reopened drilling off the Santa Barbara coast. The proposal ultimately failed, but not for lack of trying on Blakeslee’s part.
Since his environmental record is so embarrassing, Blakeslee has concentrated his fire on Laird’s role in the budget process, painting him, in a series of well-financed TV and radio ads, as a tax-and-spend liberal who voted for budget bills which he claims led California into its current peril.
He’s right that it’s a disaster, and wrong to blame Laird, who had nothing to do with the nationwide economic collapse, or the two-thirds requirement making it impossible to conduct legislative business in this state..
Electing John Laird won’t be an instant fix for what’s ailing Sacramento, but it would represent a big step in the right direction.