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P&F 2006 Campaign News Coverage
Trying to break from the pack
65TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT: Candidates are struggling to distinguish themselves in a crowded field.
12:09 AM PDT on Thursday, May 25, 2006
By MICHELLE DeARMOND
The Republican candidates in the 65th Assembly District make similar pledges to crack down on illegal immigration, rein in state spending and improve transportation.
To realize what distinguishes one candidate from another, voters in the Inland district that stretches from Moreno Valley to Yucca Valley must look beyond their campaign promises. They can find it in the five candidates' resumes -- from retired Marine colonel to pawnbroker -- and they can see it in the attack ads that are popping up in Republicans' mailboxes.
"They all say the same thing," Allan Hoffenblum, a political analyst, said of the candidates. "The winner is the one who makes the fewest mistakes and does the better job of communicating to fellow Republicans."
Hoffenblum is a co-author of The Target Book, a publication that reviews the state legislative races.
Highly Partisan District
Voters have highly partisan district boundaries to thank for the nature of the 65th Assembly District race that takes in parts of both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The district is 47 percent Republican and 34 percent Democrat, and whoever wins the June 6 GOP primary is almost guaranteed victory at the November general election.
There's no incumbent to battle because Assemblyman Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont, must give up the seat after serving the maximum number of terms.
Fourteen percent of registered voters are unaligned with a political party and also can vote in the GOP primary, if they request a Republican ballot.
Democratic candidate Rita Ramirez-Dean, of Twentynine Palms, and Peace and Freedom Party candidate Jon Taleb, of Joshua Tree, are running unopposed in their primary races for the seat. They will face the Republican nominee in the November election.
On the Republican ballot, voters have three city council members to choose from: Jim Ayres in San Jacinto, Robin Lowe in Hemet and Brenda Salas in Banning. Yucca Valley Mayor and retired Marine Col. Paul Cook and businessman Ken Smith, who runs a Hemet pawnshop, also are GOP candidates.
Ayres, an Air Force veteran, has campaigned and raised money aggressively for more than a year, leading the pack in fundraising. He says he staked out positions on key issues long before his competitors, such as putting National Guard troops at the U.S.-Mexico border, and he will "be a person who works hard right up to the finish."
Lowe points to her experience on the Hemet City Council, school board and various boards and in business as the thing that sets her apart from the other candidates. She says she's not interested in making a career out of politics, but has the expertise to work right away in Sacramento and reach agreements with Democrats.
'A Better Understanding'
"I have a better understanding of how the system works, and I don't think I need a lot of time to catch up," she said.
Salas says voters should select her because she will solicit their input even after getting elected.
"I think it's really important that we have someone who can organize and stay close to the voters," she said.
Cook trails the three city council members in fundraising and endorsements but got a boost earlier this month when a judge allowed him to use "retired Marine colonel" as his ballot designation. Ayres had challenged the designation as misleading, noting that Cook is a college professor.
Cook pitches himself as an outsider who has had his "day in the sun" and is not looking for fame and attention in Sacramento. Although a conservative, Cook says he's not concerned about party loyalties but simply wants "to get things done for the people."
Smith is another candidate not known for his party activism or ties to Republican leaders. With a low-cost campaign of homemade billboards and posters, he touts his ability to come up with money-saving tactics and bring a business mind-set to the state's problems.
"Business people have a different skill set," he said. "It's what I have, it's what I can take to government, and it's what government needs."
Smith chides his opponents for wasting money on mailers attacking one another's honesty and conservative credentials -- namely attacks between Ayres and Salas.
Independent-expenditure committees also have attacked Ayres with mail pieces criticizing him for claims on his Web site that he was awarded some military honors he didn't receive. Ayres blamed the errors on typographical mistakes and on his belief, in one case, that there was little difference between a certificate and a medal. The campaign has since corrected its Web site.
With so many candidates to choose from and so many resumes, even informed Republicans are finding it difficult to figure out who the nominee should be.
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, a resident of the district, endorsed three candidates: Ayres, Lowe and Salas. He said he's known Ayres, 44, and Lowe, 59, for a long time and thinks of Salas, 28, his legislative assistant, as a daughter.
"I'm trying to figure out who I'm going to vote for," Ashley said. "They're going to have a hard time trying to differentiate themselves from one another."
FAMILY: Wife, Nancy; daughter, Ashlee; son, Andrew
OCCUPATION: Regional manager of the Riverside County Economic Development Agency
EDUCATION: Graduate of the U.S. Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer Prep Course, Non-Commissioned Officers Academy and Reserve Command Non-Commissioned Officer Leadership and Development
PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: San Jacinto mayor, 2002-2004; San Jacinto vice mayor, 1999-2001; elected to San Jacinto City Council, 1999, re-elected in 2004.
HOBBIES: Family vacation road trips, attending San Jacinto High School football games, visiting American historical sites
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.ayres4assembly.com
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE ENDORSEMENTS? State Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman, of Fullerton; Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta; Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster; Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley; and National Tax Limitation Committee
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? My 21 years in the Air Force only made me love this country even more. I'll bring that dedication to the fight to control our borders and our budget.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP CONCERNS FOR THE DISTRICT? We're a conservative Republican stronghold in a state controlled by liberal Democrats who shortchange us in funding our roads and schools. I aim to change that.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES? I am a lifelong conservative Republican, so with Jim Ayres, voters know exactly what they're getting: a tax-cutter who wants to protect our borders, cut spending and protect traditional marriage.
FAMILY: Wife, Jeanne; two children, P.J. and Jody; three grandchildren
OCCUPATION: Retired Marine colonel, mayor of Yucca Valley, professor at Copper Mountain College
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in teaching from Southern Connecticut State University, master's degree in political science from UC Riverside, master's degree in public administration from Cal State San Bernardino
PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Kiwanis Club, Relay for Life, President of Copper Mountain College Academic Senate, Phi Kappa Phi
HOBBIES: History, running
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.JoinPaulCook.com
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE ENDORSEMENTS? Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia; San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod; Yucaipa Mayor Dick Riddell; retired Maj. Gen. James Livingston; and retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. William Lyon
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? I'm frustrated with politicians who talk but never do anything. We need leaders with the courage to stand up to liberals who are waging war on our wallets and our values.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP CONCERNS FOR THE DISTRICT? We must secure our borders, get government spending under control, and get dangerous criminals and sexual predators off our streets.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES? I'm just a plain-spoken Marine, but I will take real action. I've been injured in battle twice -- I came back every time. That is the demonstration of my commitment.
FAMILY: Husband, Mel, for 17 years; a son, Gordon; a daughter, Sheila; and three grandchildren.
OCCUPATION: Executive director, Prime of Life Corporation
EDUCATION: Graduate of Inglewood High School, attended Pepperdine and Northwestern universities
PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES: Chairwoman of the Hemet Housing Authority, member of the Valley Economic Development Corp., chairwoman of Riverside County Local Agency Formation Commission, member and immediate past chairwoman of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.
HOBBIES: Golf, antiques, reading and watching football
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.loweforassembly.com
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE ENDORSEMENTS? The Press-Enterprise, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, and the Peace Officers Research Association.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? I'm running for the 65th Assembly because I deeply care about the region and our state, and I have always been dedicated to public service.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP CONCERNS FOR THE DISTRICT? Opposing higher taxes, reducing the cost of government, increasing the efficiency of government, fighting illegal immigration, and reducing traffic congestion.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES? The differences in this race don't revolve around the issues -- they revolve around the candidates. I have an advantage in experience, a better command of the political process, and in the total number of accomplishments.
FAMILY: Engaged to Chris Mann
OCCUPATION: Legislative aide to Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley
EDUCATION: Master's degree in Business Management from the University of Redlands and bachelor's degree in Government from the University of Redlands.
PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Banning councilwoman; member and delegate to the California Republican Party; alternate on the Riverside County Republican Central Committee; member of the board of directors of the Lincoln Club of Riverside; founding member of the Riverside County Young Republicans; member of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.
HOBBIES: Movies, reading, weekend road trips and failing miserably to master golf.
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.brendasalas.org
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE ENDORSEMENTS? State Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks; the Minuteman Project; the California Republican Assembly; Traditional Values Coalition Founder Lou Sheldon; and CDF Firefighters.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? To put an end to illegal immigration, to rein in out-of-control government spending, to cut taxes and to bring the Republican Party back into the majority in California.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP CONCERNS FOR THE DISTRICT? Growth in our area has prompted local government to raise taxes and create new bonds. We must fight all such efforts so that future generations will not face crushing debt.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES? I believe in taking action and getting results, not just talking about and studying our problems. I want to take action to end illegal immigration and to cut taxes.
IS GROWTH POSITIVE FOR THE REGION? Growth is a positive if managed correctly. Our transportation infrastructure, public safety, water supplies and community services must keep pace with growth to avoid lessening our quality of life.
FAMILY: Single parent with two sons (both educators)
OCCUPATION: Retired Community College Professor
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in History/Mathematics; master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction/Political Science; doctorate in Curriculum and instruction/Reading.
PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: California Retired Teachers Association, State Chairwoman of Education (California Democratic Council), Democratic Women of the Inland Empire (Vice-President), Chicano/Latino Caucus (Secretary), Native American Caucus, Women's Caucus, California Teachers Association Caucus.
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.RitaRamirezDean.com
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE ENDORSEMENTS? Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante; Assemblywoman Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino; Assemblyman Jerome Horton, D-Inglewood; Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco; and state Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? I believe in fighting for the rights of the young (students), old (retired seniors), sick (the disabled/veterans), small businesses, and working families.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP CONCERNS FOR THE DISTRICT? My top concerns are: funding of education (K-12, community college, higher education), universal health care, small-business loans, and living wage for working families.
WHAT WOULD YOU DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES? I support education (students/teachers), service organizations (CSEA, AFL-CIO, SEIU, police, firemen, and nurses), small-business loans, health-care negotiations, and equity pay/workers compensation for working families.
FAMILY: Wife, Cindy
OCCUPATION: Self-employed business/privately held collateral lending company.
EDUCATION: Attended Walla Walla College prior to full-time gospel music ministry.
PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Four years as president of Collateral Loan and Secondhand Dealers Association of California, board member for 14 years; four years vice president of the National Pawnbrokers Association, board member for 12 years; Hemet Downtown Business Association; Hemet Chamber of Commerce; Yucaipa Kiwanis club; San Bernardino Harley owners group; Professional Photographers Association; Loma Linda University Church member.
HOBBIES: Music, photography, jewelry design, auto restoration, Harley rider, community service
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.65assembly.com
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE ENDORSEMENTS? I have not accepted political endorsements.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? Because of failed leadership, lack of management, wasteful spending, excessive taxes and burden on business. To restore a prosperous vision and business-friendly environment while re-creating the California dream.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP CONCERNS FOR THE DISTRICT? Financial investment in the 65th by government, the wasteful use of goods and services by nonlegitimate lawbreaking immigrants, transportation, infrastructure, stop the state from borrowing money needlessly.
WHAT WOULD YOU DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES? As a self-employed businessman I bring a different skill set to the assembly office. I believe these skills will enhance and allow productivity as well as change within California government.
FAMILY: Single, a daughter and two grandchildren
PARTY: Peace and Freedom
OCCUPATION: Perris elementary school teacher
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree from UC Riverside and a multiple-subject teaching credential
PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Member of the California Teachers Association and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
HOBBIES: Reading and gardening
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.talebforassembly.org
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE ENDORSEMENTS? Unopposed in the primary, so no endorsements yet
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? The people of California deserve to have more political choices. The working people of our state need a representative in Sacramento who will speak for them.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP CONCERNS FOR THE DISTRICT? Candidate did not answer.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY THAN THE OTHER CANDIDATES? Candidate did not answer.
Reach Michelle Diamond at mdearmond@PE.com or (951) 368-9441.
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This page was last updated on 5 June 2006.