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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aghazarian wants to make legislative races non-partisan?

Earlier this week, we discussed Assemblywoman Lois Wolk's first campaign ad where she accused her opponent, Greg Aghazarian of misusing his per diem, a fund that is supposed to go to help those legislators who live outside of Sacramento, commute to and from their district. Aghazarian lives and commutes from Stockton to Sacramento, a forty-five minute drive.

Why this is important is that Assemblyman Aghazarian is running on the issue of "investigating the misuse of taxpayer funds."

Meanwhile Aghazarian has been running his own campaign ad. In it, he suggests that we make legislative races non-partisan.

The current system is broken, the Assemblyman says in his ad:
"So let's fix it, by making legislative races nonpartisan, just as we do for city councils, mayors and supervisors, where people vote their districts, not the party line. It's time to rock the system."
Sounds good right? But let's look a little deeper here.

Back in 2004, Gary Podesto challenged long-time and now-termed-out Senator Mike Machado. At that time, it was a heavily challenged, expensive race, and Senator Machado was able to pull away late to win the race fairly comfortably. However, trends have changed since that time and the district is now much more heavily Democrat.

This year the Democrats have a 15% registration advantage over Republicans. Now some of those Democrats are more moderate Valley Democrats in the Stockton area. The same changes that allowed McNerney to unseat Richard Pombo in 2006 for the Congressional Seat.

In order for Aghazarian to win he has to do two basic things. First he needs to appeal to more moderate Democrats and Independents. This is clearly his goal in this campaign ad. He appeals to the reformist mindset of the electorate who are fed up with the budget stalemate at the capital.

The other thing you are probably going to see is that he is going to run against perceptions that Lois Wolk is a product of liberal Davis. The toad tunnel and other eccentricities will be brought out.

This is a bit more challenging because Lois Wolk is more of a developer Democrat and has been in Davis and Yolo County's politics.

As we discussed earlier, both politicians are more on the moderate side of their parties, however, both are clearly in the mainstream of their parties as well. Neither has a voting record that is remotely moderate. Lois Wolk has an over 90% liberal voting, while Aghazarian votes with his party over 80% of the time.

Aghazarian in order to win must show that he is not a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and Lois Wolk must show he is business as usual. Hence she fired the first shot showing the per diem issue.

Given the amount of money that has been amassed by Aghazarian I am somewhat surprised we have not seen the barrage of ads coming from his campaign yet. Perhaps that is occurring in the Stockton media market. But I suspect not. We will see if this race develops into the dirty, contentious, toe-to-toe battle that some have expected.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting