The politics beat

They’re lining up for local offices

The June 8 primary election is several months away, but the action is already heating up.

The boffo contest is in state Senate District 4, where two former assemblymen, Rick Keene and Doug LaMalfa, are competing for Sam Aanestad’s seat. (Aanestad, termed out after eight years, is making a quixotic run for lieutenant governor.) It’s a solidly Republican district, so whoever wins the primary pretty much has a lock on the seat.

Both men served the maximum six years, from 2002-2008, before being termed out. Keene, an attorney from Chico, represented District 3, while LaMalfa, a rice farmer from Richvale, represented neighboring District 2.

Philosophically, there’s not much difference between them. Both are anti-tax, limited-government conservatives who can be expected to insist that the $20.7 billion state budget deficit be bridged solely by cutting services—education, health care, you name it.

Most recently, Keene sent out a press release boasting he’d raised a million bucks, twice as much as LaMalfa.

Rep. Wally Herger is getting a surprisingly lively primary challenge for his District 2 seat from Pete Stiglich, the retired Air Force colonel who seems to be picking up some serious Tea Party energy, especially in the Redding area. It’s strange days indeed when folks think Wally isn’t conservative enough, but this recrudescence of the hysterical Know Nothing tendency in American politics seems to consider all politicians evil.

Fall River Mills attorney Jim Reed, a Democrat, also has announced his candidacy for Herger’s seat.

Jim Nielsen will probably be re-elected in Assembly District 2, but he’s going to be swatting away pesky allegations of fraud and perjury throughout the campaign. That’s because Don Bird and Charlie Schaupp, two of his prospective primary challengers, won’t let voters forget he’s a scofflaw who lives in a big, fancy house in Woodland, outside the district, not in a doublewide mobile home outside Gerber, as he’s insisted all along, contrary to all evidence on the ground.

Marysville Councilwoman Christina Belleci, a Democrat, has announced her intention to run against Dan Logue in Assembly District 3. She’s a good candidate, smart and knowledgeable, who might be able to reach out to independents, if she can raise the money.

Closer to home, first-term Butte County Supervisor Maureen Kirk already has one challenger. He’s Erny Spears, a longtime local businessman in the communications-technology field who now works for DigitalPath, the wireless Internet provider. Spears, who happens to be my next-door neighbor, is an affable, articulate man who’s been active in local conservative politics and could give the popular Kirk a real run.

So far November’s Chico City Council election is looking like a replay of 2006. Incumbents Scott Gruendl and Mary Flynn have filed their intention-to-run forms with the city, as has current Planning Commissioner Mark Sorensen, a businessman who came in a close fourth in the ’06 council election. The man who narrowly beat him then, Tom Nickell, hasn’t filed his form yet, but I have it on good authority he intends to run.

If he wins, Gruendl says, this will be his last stint on the council. Like Steve Bertagna before him, he’s decided 12 years is enough.

If you enjoy the hurly-burly of local politics, you should enjoy the 2010 races.