The four candidates on the ballot to replace the late Sen. Dave Cox doled out plenty of criticism and fighting words at a debate last Thursday evening,
Ted Gaines, R-Roseville; Roger Niello, R-Sacramento; Barbara Alby, R-Folsom; and Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, met at the Four Seasons community room in El Dorado Hills. One topic dominated the debate — money.
“I’m the only Republican in the race who has not voted to raise taxes,” said Alby, who served in the California Legislature in the 1990s.
Alby, arguably the most vocal at the event, criticized current District 5 Assemblyman Roger Niello for his vote on the state’s recently approved 2010-11 budget and dug into Gaines, the 4th District assemblyman, for his acceptance of per diem funds.
“Republicans are forgetting why they are Republican,” Alby said.
Gaines and Niello responded with lists of their accomplishments. Gaines got specific with Four Seasons voters, touting his collaboration with Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, to get El Dorado Hills more representation on the El Dorado County Transportation Commission.
Niello, who has the endorsement of the Cox family, said his record proves he’s “a very effective, conservative leader.”
Cooley, mayor of Rancho Cordova, escaped the state budget grilling and quickly pointed out that his city has programs in place to create more jobs and has no deficit. “Every year we’ve had a balanced budget.”
All four candidates agreed that the next District 1 senator must push for state budget reform.
“We’ve got to make the tough decisions —like households are doing, like businesses are doing,” Gaines said.
Cooley suggested ditching the Big 5 and building more cooperation in the Legislature to get a balanced budget passed.
Niello said he’d like to see the state back off mandates and give local governments more control. He was joined by Gaines and Alby in opposing anymore tax increases on the wealthy; Cooley dodged a direct answer to that question, saying the budget process as it is can’t continue.
The candidates also agreed that government inefficiencies must come to an end. In one way or another they advocated for commission/committee reviews, legislation review and pension reform.
“We cannot sustain this,” said Alby, who also advocated for eliminating programs that benefit illegal immigrants.
The debate, moderated by Paula Lee with the League of Women Voters, left many guests chatting after the microphones were shut off.
“I was impressed,” said Joan Nelson of El Dorado Hills. She called Alby “spunky” but said she thought all the candidates did well.
El Dorado Hills resident Paul Raveling was less impressed, saying some of Alby’s proposals and comments made him angry. He said he’s looking for a candidate who will adequately represent El Dorado Hills and was leaning toward Cooley or Niello.
Voters will decide on Nov. 2. If no one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the leading Republican will face Cooley, the only Democrat, in a special election on Jan. 4, 2011.