In preparation for the March 2 primaries, local candidates vying for the 68th, 69th and 70th California State Assembly positions served on question and answer panels in the Crystal Cove Auditorium on Feb. 24.
The evening began with a Q-and-A session by candidates seeking the 68th District office, which represents the city of Garden Grove.
Candidates Al Snook, Mark Leyes and a representative for Van Tran began the session by delivering short introductions of themselves and their respective platforms on a variety of issues ranging from propositions to a reformed workers compensation program.
Soon after, 69th Assembly District candidates Claudia Alvarez, Otto Bade, Ruben Ross and Tom Umberg representing the city of Santa Ana served on a similar Q-and-A panel.
The evening progressed with a look into those in favor and those in opposition to Proposition 55.
Dave Doomey, assistant superintendent for the Capistrano Unified School District represented those in favor of Proposition 55 while no one was in attendance to voice the concerns of those who opposed the measure.
‘This bond definitely fits for California. We have enough support from the governor and this will provide not only for schools but also for the marketplace,’ Doomey said.
After a brief reception in the Student Center for the candidates and audience members, the six candidates campaigning for the 70th District sat down to answer questions from a student moderator.
The 70th District includes the Newport Beach and Irvine areas.
Candidates for this year’s election include Democrat Carl Mariz, Republican Cristi Cristich, Republican Chuck DeVore, who was not present, Republican Chonchol D. Gupta, Republican Long K. Pham and Republican Donald ‘Don’ Wagner.
A popular topic amongst all the candidates included Proposition 55, the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004 which would issue a $12.3 billion bond to California’s elementary, middle and high schools, community colleges and universities.
All but two of the candidates, Carl Mariz and Chonchol D. Gupta, opposed the measure.
Mariz is the only Democratic candidate in the election who believes that Proposition 55 is necessity for schools.
‘We need this to provide needed maintenance and new construction for our school,’ Mariz said.
The panel also touched on topics relating to California politicians’ ability to vote on state budget referendum.
Proposition 56 permits the legislature to enact budget and budget-related tax and appropriation bills with a 55 percent vote rather than the current two-thirds vote required now.
All the candidates except Mariz oppose the measure.
Gupta, a third-year chemical engineering major running on the Republican platform, was inspired to run for the state assembly position after a few of his classmates were forced to drop out of the university because of tuition increases.
‘There is no reason why students should have to give up all the hard work and studious hours they invested through high school and through college just because our state government cannot correctly balance a budget,’ Gupta said.
If elected, Gupta will be the youngest assemblyman in California history.
‘I would have to take a leave for two years while in Sacramento,’ Gupta said. ‘Hopefully by the time I return to UCI I won’t have to pay as much in tuition as I do now.’
During his campaign, Gupta said he faced with discrimination as some people did not consider him a major candidate.
‘I was not invited to speak at the Newport Beach Republican Assembly in November because according to the president, Mister Kurt English, I was not considered a ‘real candidate’ because I did not have over six figures in my campaign account and he couldn’t pronounce my name,’ Gupta said. Despite the inequities, Gupta explained he’s ‘learned that most people do respect a candidate, regardless of their age.’
Students like Vinitha Reddy, a third-year biological sciences major commend Gupta for running for State Assembly.
‘I think its great that he is taking initiative and getting involved in something that could benefit students at UCI,’ Reddy said. ‘He knows what its like to be a student and to experience the negative effects of budget cuts.’
Cristi Cristich, an entrepreneur from Newport Beach running on the Republican platform, opposes Proposition 55 and 56 but supports both Propositions 57 and 58.
Proposition 57 is a one-time Economic Recovery Bond of up to $15 billion to pay off the state’s accumulated General Fund Deficit as of June 30, 2004.
Those who approve the measure believe it will provide the first steps toward economic recovery as well as refinance deficits at a time of low interest rates.
‘Program cuts should be considered after all state operations have been reviewed to ensure that they have been organized and operated as efficiently as a business,’ Tran said.
The opposition however, including DeVore, Wagner and Zippi, are in support of alternative ways to pump money into the state with programs such as eliminating a redundant tax system and a limitation on spending for certain government programs.
‘The budget gets balanced if we simply limit spending and unshackle businesses to produce growth so revenue will follow,’ Wagner said.
Proposition 58, a joint proposition with Proposition 57, would change the state constitution so that a balanced budget must be passed each year. The Proposition would also ban the use of certain borrowing methods to cover state deficits. The $15 billion bill bond in this Proposition 57 must pass in order for Proposition 58 to go into effect.
Other issues discussed during the panel included the high school exit exam, school vouchers, health insurance laws and reforming workers’ compensation.
The evening concluded with the five candidates running for the 35th Senate District Candidates.
Republican John Campbell, Libertarian Timothy Johnson, Republican Ken Maddox, Democrat Rita Siebert and Republican Joe Snyder also answered questions regarding the Propositions. Voters residing within the 70th district will be able to vote in the primaries on March 2.