Swan-song campaigns dot North State

State Assembly
Butte County’s two assemblymen have a lot in common. Both are Republicans, both trumpet budget reform à la Schwarzenegger, and both will reach their term limit if reelected.

District 2 incumbent Doug LaMalfa, a rice farmer from Richvale, advocates for causes one would expect a North State farmer to support—water rights, promotion of agriculture, fire protection, workers’ comp reform—and his voting record matches his stance against new taxes. Democrat Mel Smith hasn’t mounted a hard challenge: The Dunnigan businessman had raised only $1,222 by the Sept. 30 reporting date and doesn’t have a Web site—something even the third candidate, Phil Dynan of the Peace and Freedom Party, has.

In District 3, it’s valley vs. Ridge as incumbent Rick Keene, a former Chico city councilman, faces Mickey Harrington of Magalia in a two-candidate race. Keene has focused his campaign on curbing taxes and illegal immigration. Harrington, president of the Butte-Glenn Central Labor Council, is pushing for better conditions for workers, road improvements in the North State, increased funding for state colleges to lower tuition, and more vocational training at high schools and community colleges.

State Senate, Dist. 4
As with his local Assembly counterparts, Sam Aanestad seeks re-election for his final term. The state senator from Grass Valley is in a four-candidate field, along with Democrat Paul Singh, Libertarian Tony Munroe and Green Robert Vizzard.

Aanestad, an oral surgeon and former assemblyman, has made rural health care and water rights among his top priorities. Singh has a background in hydroelectricity and agriculture; water rights also represent a key issue for him, as do protecting farm subsidies and ensuring the North State gets its fair share of state taxes.

State Board of Equalization
Before the who, here’s the what. The Board of Equalization administers tax programs throughout the state, ensuring they are “uniform and equal” in their practices. Think of it as a tax commission.

Butte County falls in District 2, which stretches into Southern California. Republican Bill Leonard is running for a second term, challenged by Democrat Tim Raboy, an investigator for the Board of Equalization and a city councilman in Galt.

Leonard, a former assemblyman and state senator representing the San Bernardino area, is stressing taxpayer rights this campaign. He wants to make sure the government considers taxpayers innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, as well as increase the accountability of tax collectors.

Raboy is focused on efficiency. He proposes the board improve collection practices to reduce the amount of tax evasion and fraud; streamline agency departments; simplify the permit process for new businesses; and improve customer service and communication.

U.S. Congress
The races for two North State congressmen couldn’t be any more different. Apart from a candidate forum Monday night (Oct. 23), Wally Herger has found little need to stump for an 11th term in Congress. John Doolittle, meanwhile, has been dogged by the Abramoff lobbying scandal and faces stiff opposition from Air Force veteran Charlie Brown.

Herger, a Chico resident representing far-flung District 2, has been a steady supporter of the Bush administration. He has voted in favor of the Iraq war and its corresponding appropriations, against embryonic stem-cell research, and for the border fence to curb illegal immigration and the Military Commission Act authorizing the president to designate enemy combatants, imprison them without charge, and use “aggressive” interrogation methods on them.

Running against him are Democrat AJ Sekhon and Libertarian E. Kent Hinesley. Sekhon, a physician from Yuba City and a U.S. military veteran, is a staunch critic of Bush and Herger, particularly for the president’s failed conduct of the “war on global terrorism” and deficit spending. Those are among the prime concerns for Hinesley as well.

Doolittle has enjoyed a series of landslide elections during his eight terms in Congress. That’s not so likely this year. Brown has repeatedly attacked him for past associations with Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist convicted of fraud, and the Republican Party has had to dedicate resources to what previously was one of its strongholds.