Termed out

Got a visit Nov. 16 from 3rd District Assemblyman Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, who’s decided not to run for re-election in that seat because term limits would allow him only two more years, which is tantamount to being a lame duck as far as power and influence go in today’s state Legislature. Instead, Aanestad has his eye set on the state Senate seat about to be vacated by Maurice Johannessen, R-Redding, who is termed-out at the end of this year. Aanestad will knock heads in the March primary with Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, R-Redding, who is also facing term limits. Aanested said that as late as July 1 of this year he had no aspirations to run again and was content to go back to the quiet life in Grass Valley. But then, he said, he was approached by Senate Republican leaders and urged to run. Among his endorsers, he said, are Senators Tim Leslie, R-Roseville, and Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, and Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville. Oller is currently our senator, but because of state redistricting we’ve been cut out of his jurisdiction and placed into Johannessen’s.

I asked Aanested if he had endorsed Chico City Councilmember Rick Keene, who is running for Aanestad’s vacated Assembly seat. He said he does not think it’s right for the termed-out incumbent to endorse a candidate running for that seat. There’s some history here. When Aanestad first ran for office in 1998, he went up against David Reade, son-in-law of then Assemblyman Bernie Richter, who himself was termed-out. To no one’s surprise, Richter endorsed his son-in-law. Aanestad easily defeated Reade in the March primary and then went on to rout Democrat Scott Gruendl in November. That was the first year of California’s resurrected open-primary system, which meant voters for the first time in decades could cross party lines to vote for (or more likely against) any candidate on the ballot. The politicians decided they didn’t like voters having that sort of freedom, and so we are back to a closed system. Actually it is now called a “slightly ajar system,” meaning there can be crossover voting if the respective political parties allow it. But they don’t. Aanestad said the most important commodity he offers as a state representative is access. “There are 35 county supervisors in my district,” he said. “You know who I hear from the most? Mary Anne Houx.” And as the squeakiest wheel among county supervisors, Butte County’s Houx gets Aanestad’s legislative grease.

By the way, Councilmember Keene, in his quest for Aanestad’s seat, has picked up the endorsement of the Chico Police Officers Association. He also got the thumbs-up from Butte County Supervisors Bob Beeler and Curt Josiassen, two-thirds of the triumvirate that has tried to highjack political power in Butte County, no matter what the cost. Now all he needs is the endorsement of Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi to complete the picture. Speaking of Yamaguchi, I recently talked with one distraught member of the Republican Party—the faction of the party embarrassed by Yamaguchi’s heavy-handed efforts to redistrict the county—and he told me he holds newspaper editors Linda Meilink of the Paradise Post and David Little of the Enterprise-Record somewhat responsible for Yamaguchi’s election last year. Both editors interviewed Yamaguchi prior to the election as he was seeking endorsements. In each case, and I’ve heard this first-hand, Yamaguchi broke down and started weeping and sobbing right in the middle of the interviews, much to the editors’ astonishment. While neither paper endorsed him, my Republican source suggested the respective editors owed it to their readers to let them know of the candidate’s fragile emotional state. Then again, the crying may have been a sly ploy on the candidate’s part to try to gain sympathy endorsements. Who knows?

The astute reader may notice this week that the Ag and Natural Resources page is missing. That is by plan, not accident or a moment of mental weakness by the editor. And the business section has slimmed down two columns—Devanie Angel’s column, "Moving & Shaking" has absorbed "Coming & Going." We’ve made these changes to try to create more editorial space for second features or expanded Newslines. Editorial space is a valued commodity in a paper like this one. And after many editorial meetings and much discussion we came to the agreement that we could afford to tuck the Ag Page back into Everybody’s Business because that’s what local ag is—a business. And from now on that is where agricultural-related stories will reside. The environmental pieces will go into either Newslines, come as a second feature or be featured as a cover story.