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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wolk Campaign Takes On Aghazarian on Per Diem Issue

It's been quiet, maybe too quiet considering the amount of money that we know Republican Assemblyman and nominee Greg Aghazarian has amassed for his run at the State Senate. Last week it was reported that the Democratic State Central Committee of California had given $250,000 to Assemblywoman Lois Wolk. Until that point, she had been outraised by a hefty margin by her Republican opponent despite the fact that she is a heavy favorite at this point to win the Democratic leaning Senate district.

It turns out the first strike was fired by the Wolk campaign. Those who have watched TV in the last week may have seen it. It is an attack based on Aghazarian's collection of per diem money as an assemblyman.

The ad charges that Assemblyman Aghazarian has collected daily per diem payments of $170 that are designed to pay for lodging expenses for state legislators who live far from Sacramento. However, Aghazarian lives in Stockton, just a forty-five minute drive from Sacramento.
"As an assemblyman, Greg Aghazarian took $180,000 he didn't deserve." spoke with Tom Higgins, campaign manager for the Wolk campaign.
"Tom Higgins, the campaign manager for Assembly member Wolk (D-Davis), said the ad is meant to point out a hole in Aghazarian's stance as a fiscal conservative.

"It doesn't square quite right when you say one thing and do another," Higgins said, adding that Aghazarian collects the per diem on top of his regular salary as an assemblyman of $116,000 annually. "That per diem is really intended for folks who have to maintain a second residence."

Higgins said that Wolk, who like Aghazarian was first elected to the state Assembly in 2002, has consistently declined her per diem money for lodging because she, like Aghazarian, lives within driving distance of the state Capitol."
This is the first salvo in what figures to be a highly contested race. With the Wolk campaign taking an early shot, there is little doubt that we will see a response from Aghazarian.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting