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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Apparently 5th Senate District Race Features A Couple of Relative Moderates

If you have listened to the rhetoric of both Democrat Lois Wolk and Republican Greg Aghazarian, you have heard horror stories about their Senate opponents. Lois Wolk is of course a Davis Liberal associated with the Toad Tunnel and other eccentricities. Greg Aghazarian is right wing Republican who wants to make abortions illegal.

The truth turns out to be something very different. This week the Capital Weekly came out with its legislative scorecard. Unlike the rhetoric, Greg Aghazarian and Lois Wolk turn out to be a bunch of moderates. Or do they?

In the Assembly there is just one Republican with a more liberal voting record than Greg Aghazarian. However in absolute terms, the Assemblyman from San Joaquin County only scores a 19 out of 100, well to the right of a true centrist. He may be more liberal than his colleagues, but clearly he's not centrist.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk is actually even more liberal than Aghazarian is conservative scoring 91 out of 100. That puts her as the 9th most conservative member of the Democratic caucus in the Assembly. Then again she is hardly Cathleen Galginni who scored a 51 or the now infamous Nicole Parra who scored a 52 and was removed from the Capitol for crossing party lines on the budget. There are four Democrats scores between 51 and 64, making the Democrats far more moderate than their counterparts.

Compared to those Democrats, Assemblywoman Wolk is a flaming liberal with her 91. Then again there are 16 Democrats with perfect 100 scores. Seven Republicans scored a perfect 0.

In actuality, it was not that Assemblywoman Wolk crossed party lines on her votes, she was simply marked down because she failed to vote on three of the 20 votes that Capitol Weekly did their scoring on. She did not vote on AB 2058--Plastic Bag Recyling, AB 2083--Tuition for Undocumented Residents, and AB 2716 Sick Leave. The Wolk campaign did not respond to the Vanguard email requests for comments.

Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian on the other hand did cross party lines on four votes. He voted yes on SB 606--School Accountability, Yes on SB 304--Media Access to Prisoners, Yes on AB 1781 the 2008-09, and Yes on AB 1945 Recission. Of those of course, the yes vote on the Budget will innoculate him on potentially the most explosive issue given the crisis in Sacramento. He also did not vote on AB 118--Low-Carbon fuels.

How good are these measures?

The Capitol Weekly discussed the weaknesses of their scorecard in the article that unveiled the rankings published on Thursday, August 21, 2008.
"Every political scorecard has its problems, and this one is no exception. The selection of bills is subjective, chosen after conversations with Capitol staff and experts, and our own observations of big debates over the last two years under the dome.

The bills we chose were not necessarily the most publicized, or even the most hotly contested in all cases. But we sought to pick a variety of bills dealing with diverse topics that lawmakers have been asked to tackle over the last legislative session.

Part of the problem with this particular scorecard is the fact that both legislative houses, and all legislative committees, are controlled by Democrats. As such, the controversial bills that do find their way to the floor are disproportionately Democrat-sponsored bills."
However they go on to say:
"Also, our scorecard reflects what most Capitol observers know to be true: That Democrats from the Central Valley tend to be more moderate than their caucus colleagues, while Republicans in contested districts like Abel Maldonado and Greg Aghazarian earn more centrist marks than those lawmakers in more solid, partisan districts."
It is also worth noting that as Ben van der Meer of does , that the 5th District as a whole tends to be centrist.
"State Sen. Mike Machado (D-Linden) had the second-lowest score of any Democrat, and he is termed out of the 5th Senate District seat, another target of both parties this fall.

The two candidates for that seat, Aghazarian and termed-out Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis), are both ranked as relative moderates."
Senator Machado scored a 67, only Lou Correa scored lower in the Senate as a Democrat with a 47. That means that Assemblywoman Wolk is quite a bit more liberal representing Yolo and Solano Counties while Assemblyman Aghazarian is quite a bit more conservative.

Our previous analysis showed that Democrats in this district now have a much stronger advantage than they did in 2004 when Machado held off a strong challenge from former Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto.

However it also indicates that despite the relative moderation of both candidates, the strategy by both will be to paint each other as extremists. How well that works, time will tell.

One thing we know, this will be a heavily funded battle. By August 4, 2008, the Aghazarian campaign reported a 7-to-1 fundrasing advantage.

A press release at the time said:
"Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian continues to turn in strong fundraising numbers, including raising over $565,000 in the latest period ending June 30th. Aghazarian's fundraising topped that of his opponent, Lois Wolk, by a nearly seven-to-one margin. Wolk raised just over $76,000 for the period. Current cash-on-hand for Aghazarian is $1,040,000 - over fives time more than Wolk's $185,000."
Aghazarian Spokesman Tim Clark said:
"Greg Aghazarian has built a strong reputation in the Valley as a balanced ‘can-do' legislator who is willing to do what is right, even if it means going against the ‘party' line... Voters want to see him continue representing them in the State Senate, and that's one reason why the outpouring of support has been so strong. Greg's broad base of support is a sharp contrast to that of Lois Wolk, who continues to struggle in her fundraising."
However, with just two targeted Senate races, it is unlikely that money will be an issue for Assemblywoman Wolk either, Senate Democrats will likely open up their coffers as well.

The Vanguard will continue to cover this race and much more as election day approaches.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting