Last Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a debate between two gentlemen in the race to replace termed-out Fran Pavley in the 27th SD. It was sponsored by the American Association of University Women (San Fernando Valley Branch), NOW and the League of Women Voters. Representatives from four West Valley Neighborhood Councils were there.
Henry Stern, who serves on Pavley’s staff, and Steve Fazio, a long-time small businessman in the San Fernando Valley, faced each other at the Westfield Mall, fielding questions from a panel and the audience.
The civility was refreshing.
The 27th is not my district. My reason for being there was to hear where the two opponents stood on California’s misguided and bloated high-speed rail project, particularly Mr. Stern’s view.
I met with him shortly before the primary. We discussed a number of issues, including HSR. I was impressed by his overall pragmatism, especially when it came to transportation priorities.
He stated then that he was supportive of commuter rail in general, but the HSR project was poorly conceived and planned.
I was wondering if he would stick to that position, especially when Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome recently flipped his stance. Perhaps Newsome buckled under pressure from the unions and contractors who stand to benefit from this financial debacle on rails, a project that is absorbing critical cap-and-trade funds.
If anything, Stern doubled down and recommended that the plan be put before the voters again.
He emphasized that HSR was putting the cart before the horse. What good would it be if we did not first develop intra-city transportation?
To be fair, Fazio also voiced strong opposition.
But if we are going to kill HSR, it would die a quicker death if there were more Democrats behind the effort to do so. That’s why candidates such as Stern and Patty Lopez, who is running for re-election in the 39th Assembly District, could further nudge others within their party to stop it before there is too much more money wasted.
Patty Lopez is engaged in a stalwart campaign, a rematch against party-insider favorite Raul Bocanegra. Despite her solid voting record along party lines, as well as getting several bills important to her constituents passed, the Democratic Party is supporting her opponent.
I’s all about money. Bocanegra spent lavishly on his colleagues’ campaigns in the 2014 election. He was an ATM for established members of the legislature. You don’t mess around with one of the good old boys, especially when he raises dough.
Yet, she stands a chance.
Bocanegra garnered only 44% of the primary vote this time compared to 62% in 2014 – the same year Lopez upset him in the general election. Perhaps money doesn’t buy as many votes these days. A measurable majority of voters did not support him.
A passage in a San Francisco Chronicle article about Lopez says it all:
“It’s nice to have an outsider in Sacramento,” said Lea-Ann Tratten, political director for the Consumer Attorneys of California, one of the few interest groups that have donated to Lopez.
“It’s refreshing. And frankly I think we need more of that. But that’s not how Sacramento works. It’s very much an insider game.”