Our View: Interesting lineup of candidates, and a tough job awaits

Our View
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The upcoming election to fill the vacancy in state Assembly District 4 will feature a quick campaign — and a familiar name. Beth Gaines, wife of former assemblyman and current state Sen. Ted Gaines, announced this week that she is running for her husband’s former seat, joining a crowded Republican field and a lone Democrat to represent much of Placer, El Dorado and Alpine counties. With the filing period closing on Jan. 24, several others will have to decide quickly if they have the agility to sprint to the March 8 primary, with the likelihood of a May 3 face-off to decide who fills the open seat vacated by Ted Gaines. While Ted Gaines breezed through his Senate election and three electoral spins through the Assembly – once winning unopposed – Beth Gaines will have formidable competition. Which begs the question: Will name recognition win the day? Gaines’ Republican challengers include Roseville City Councilman John Allard, Michael Babich of Auburn, Matt Williams of South Lake Tahoe and Jeff Randall of Antelope. Other GOP possibilities include current Auburn City Councilman Keith Nesbitt, Paul Hunt of Loomis, and Cheryl Bly-Chester of Roseville. Democrat Dennis Campanale of Roseville, who lost the assembly election to Ted Gaines in November, is also in the race. Under the state’s new open primary law, the two top vote-getters on March 8 will advance to the May 3 runoff – unless one candidate wins more than 50 percent of vote in March. That’s highly unlikely unless the field narrows significantly. With a little more than six weeks before the primary, Beth Gaines could have the name familiarity to advance to May’s election. Although she’s never held elected office before, Gaines believes her conservative views and experience in business and nonprofit organizations provide a perspective voters will support. “I don’t come from government,” she said in her candidacy announcement. That wouldn’t be true of the other widely known name in the field. John Allard has been a Roseville councilman since 2003, served on the city’s planning commission, and served on a variety of governmental and nonprofit boards. He previously worked as chief of staff for Tim Leslie, the former state senator and assemblyman who dominated Placer politics for much of the past 20 years. Allard has rung up a list of endorsements from Roseville and Rocklin business interests and noteworthy Republicans, but will his name resonate throughout the sprawling urban and rural district? Whomever voters send to the May 3 runoff — and voter demographics point to a GOP winner — they should focus less on name and ideology, and more on how the winner will play in the newly defined world of California state government under Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown 2.0 has been aggressive in painting a dire picture of a state in fiscal crisis. His plan to head off California’s $28 billion budget shortage through a blend of service cuts and tax extensions has been received generally as a fair approach that’s sure to make no one happy. Mac Taylor, the state’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst, characterized Brown’s proposal as a step toward addressing California’s budget shortfall, but Democrats and Republicans have voiced concerns. Many Dems say the cuts are too deep, and many GOP members decry the notion of the tax extension as violating their “no new tax” pledge. With Democrats holding power of both the Assembly and Senate, and a new state law allowing budget passage through simple majority, Republicans must find new ways to be constructive at the budget table. They must present their conservative fiscal positions within the scope of cleaning up the state’s books, while trying to remain true to their principles. While Assembly District 4 won’t be represented in budget talks over the next few months, May’s election winner will likely step into a fast-moving environment of negotiations, conflict and compromise — with the state’s future for business, education, public safety and social services hanging in the balance. Voters should keep that in mind.