by ARNO HOLSCHUH
MORE THAN 300 MILES LONG AND
400,000 PEOPLE STRONG, the 1st Assembly District is no easy place
to run for election. But eight people -- four Democrats, three
Republicans and a Green -- are trying anyway, and with the March
5 primary almost a month away, the campaign is being fought in
earnest. Who deserves the right to represent the North Coast?
Who has the integrity and skill to navigate the political waters
The contest between Republicans,
Democrats and Greens will not occur until November's general
election, but for the two major parties this primary has major
significance. For Republicans, the primary will be about selecting
a candidate who can buck the odds by bringing home victory in
a heavily Democratic district. Democrats, on the other hand,
figure this seat to be theirs. With a 15 percent edge in voter
registration, the 1st Assembly District isn't considered in jeopardy.
From the Democratic point of view, March 5 is the real
election, because the person they pick will have a major edge
The Democratic favorite so far
is Humboldt County's own Patty Berg. The founder and former director
of the Area Agency on Aging, Berg is the smart bet for three
reasons: She's the only woman in the race, she's the only Democratic
candidate from Humboldt, where the largest group of Democrats
are registered, and she is identified with seniors and senior
issues. As politicians know well, seniors vote.
"I think I'm going to win,"
she said in a recent interview.
"She has to be considered
the favorite," said Tim Stoen, a deputy district attorney
from Mendocino County running for the Republican nomination.
"She comes from the largest county, she has the money, and
she is a woman against three men."
It is a point that has not gone
unnoticed in other camps. Cloverdale Mayor and insurance broker
Bob Jehn, Mendocino College administrator Jim Mastin and Lake
County Supervisor Ed Robey have gone to great lengths to make
sure the public knows they are still in the game. The Robey camp
even produced a press release last week extolling his "lead
in early polling."
"Robey [is] leading the
Democratic pack with 22 percent and Humboldt County social worker
Patty Berg is running last in the field," the press release
claims. Never mind that calling Berg a social worker is about
as accurate as calling Mario Andretti a taxi driver. And Robey's
alleged "lead" is actually a mere 3 percent.
With less than five weeks to
go and voters not paying much attention, one can scarcely blame
Robey for trying. The "little woman from Humboldt,"
as she is affectionately known in campaign circles, is putting
immense pressure on her competitors. She knows the issues, is
the only candidate who is retired and free to run full time,
and she has more than $50,000 left with which to convey her message.
The one candidate who has the
money to mount a campaign of comparable size is Jehn. The tall
man with an easy smile is gaining a reputation as Berg's only
real threat. He not only has enough money -- with a war chest
of $50,966 he actually has just $25 more than Berg -- he also
has some experience in Humboldt County.
As the past director of the
North Coast Railroad Authority, he is familiar with infrastructure
and economic development efforts in Humboldt. He worked on the
transportation portion of Humboldt County's Prosperity!
economic development report. And as an insurance broker, he is
familiar with the issue of affordable health care.
Jehn is optimistic about his
chances. He points to a poll he commissioned just before Christmas:
"The good news is that no one in the race has any name recognition."
That means while Jehn (pronounced Jean) is an unknown
quantity, Berg is as well.
Where does this leave Mastin?
With only about $25,000 left and without a high-profile presence
in Humboldt County, he is playing to his strength: that he's
a genuinely nice guy.
"I believe I will win against
my fellow Democrats," he said.
Mastin has garnered the support
of a few Arcata notables, including City Councilmember Bob Ornelas
and City Manager Dan Hauser, and has been making himself visible.
He attended a Six Rivers Planned Parenthood breakfast and went
shopping at the North Coast Co-Op, shaking hands and putting
his relaxed charm on display. Short on money and time, he is
mounting a grass-roots campaign by default.
"We'll be doing a lot of
precinct-walking," he said.
For Republicans, there are two
questions to be decided in the primary: Who would you most like
to have represent you in Sacramento, and who do you think stands
a chance of winning the election?
At the recent candidate's forum
hosted by the Eureka Republican Women's Club, Stoen called himself
a "compassionate conservative" and calmly explained
that he was in favor of moderate regulations and social programs.
Quite a contrast to his rival
Clay Romero, a gun dealer and machinist from Willits. Romero
had exulted the group of party faithful with attacks on "socialist"
policies like gun control and environmental regulation. He may
have devoted more time to raking ex-President Clinton over the
coals than to his own platform, but the fiery rhetoric was greeted
with a chorus of agreement during the speech and shouts of approval
Stoen's moderate words didn't
get the enthusiastic applause of Clay's call and response, but
his last point had to hit soberly home with the realists in the
audience: "I'm here to tell you that you need to choose
someone who can debate Patty Berg. That's me."
In a district with about 50
percent more registered Democrats than Republicans, any GOP hopeful
has to be able to bring in a lot of support from centrist Democrats.
That's why many may feel drawn to Stoen, who lacks the zealous
conservatism of either of his competitors but has an even more
valuable asset -- crossover appeal.
Not everyone is buying it. Rob
Brown, Lake County supervisor and the third Republican candidate,
said Stoen was just "stealing an image that worked well
for George Bush."
"That is not the way to
win an election," he said. "I'm not sure he knows exactly
who he is, politically."
But how does Brown, a classic
pro-business conservative opposed to environmental regulation,
hope to win in a Democratic district? He said he hoped his straight-shooter
style would carry the day.
"I try to be as blunt as
possible," he said. "And whether they agree with it
or not, people respect someone who will give their honest opinion."
Can a true-blue conservative
get elected in the 1st Assembly District? Stoen thinks not.
"I am the only Republican
if you want a winner," Stoen said.
59, retired director
of the Humboldt-Del Norte Area Agency on Aging.
Area Agency on Aging. Worked with state and national legislatures
to get legislation for elders adopted.
Personal qualifications: "I agreed to seek the party's nomination
after many friends told me that a take-charge, know-how-to-get-things-done
woman with my experience and background was needed in Sacramento."
Timber: "Sustainable growth." Supports management
based on science as defined by California Department of Forestry.
Railroad: Supports freight and passenger service.
"Not having that rail has put our area at a competitive
Rivers, fish: Restore the Eel River health, however
much water that takes. "Who's to say if [the reduction in
the diversion to the Russian River] should be reduced 15 or 25
percent? We have three endangered species." From which users
should the water be taken? "Probably agriculture."
Jobs: Integrate jobs and the environment. "The
two are not separate issues." Every county should create
an economic development plan like Humboldt's Prosperity!
and coordinate efforts. Education: Increase state
funding, reduce class size, improve schools' physical condition.
Make sure standardized testing doesn't result in poorer schools
getting even less money.
Sen. Wesley Chesbro; Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins; Humboldt
County Supervisors John Woolley, Paul Kirk, Bonnie Neely and
Jim Smith; The AFL-CIO, Teamsters; California Professional Firefighters;
California Federation of Teachers; and the International Association
of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
War chest: $50,941.
57, health insurance broker, mayor of Cloverdale.
North Coast Railroad Authority, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit
Commission, Humboldt County Prosperity Transportation
Advisory Group, Cloverdale City Council, Sonoma County Economic
Health care. "Our health care delivery system is very close
to being completely dysfunctional." Raise MediCal and Medicare
Timber: Review state regulation to make it simple
and fair, especially for small landowners. "Potentially
we need to overhaul the whole system."
Railroad: Former chair NCRA says he's committed
to restoring rail service through the Eel River Canyon to Eureka.
Abandoning the line is not an option, especially in light of
environmental cleanup costs.
Rivers, fish: Backs plan to reduce Eel River diversion
to Russian River by 15 percent. Long-term: recycle water. "Recycling
could cut Russian River water usage in half. We're gluttons for
water in this country."
Jobs: Diversification to replace jobs lost in timber.
In Cloverdale that has meant courting software developers and
light manufacturing. "What the state needs to do is provide
the resources so communities can implement programs [like Prosperity]
and create jobs."
Education: Continue educational reform. Better
teacher pay, vocational education and smaller class sizes.
Fortuna Councilmember Cliff Chapman; Ferndale Mayor Jeff Farley;
Max Bridges, executive director of the NCRA; Windsor Mayor Steve
Allen; Sebastopol Council-member Robert Anderson.
War chest: $50,966.
49, Mendocino College administrator.
Ukiah mayor, councilmember, planning commissioner, nonprofit
economic development adviser.
If it ain't broken, don't fix it. "I want to continue
the work of Virginia Strom-Martin and Dan Hauser."
Timber: Forest Practice Rules are adequate. "They
just need to be followed." Logging regulators need better
funding. "The burden that has been placed on CDF makes it
almost impossible for them to do an adequate job for either the
environment or timber."
Railroad: First priority is opening the line from
Willits south, then look at the Eel River Canyon. "Whatever
it takes, my concern is to make it environmentally and economically
Rivers, fish: "I believe we may be able to
reduce the [Eel River] diversion by 20 to 25 percent without
seeing any significant impact on the Sonoma side of the equation."
Sonoma County Water Agency needs to better manage its resources.
Jobs: "There is no magic bullet." Government
should help small businesses become an engine for job growth,
including providing consulting services on financial and technical
Education: Vocational training. "We need to
have a trained workforce for the jobs that are available these
Dan Hauser, former assemblyman and Arcata city manager; Humboldt
dairyman Dennis Leonardi; Arcata Councilmember Bob Ornelas. Faculty
Association of California Community Colleges.
War chest: $25,000.
55, Lake County supervisor.
Clearlake City Council, Lake County supervisor.
The environment. "The environment is an integral part
of every debate and discussion we have."
Timber: Opposes clearcutting, supports public land
acquisitions. Admits he is unfamiliar with players in Humboldt:
"Aren't there timber companies up there that don't clearcut?"
Railroad: "I like railroads; they get big
trucks off the highway" but doubts viability. "Maybe
they could repair [the rail line] from Willits south."
Rivers, fish: Supports the 15 percent reduction
in the diversion from the Eel to the Russian, but needs to see
the proposal. Jobs: "Customize your strategy
for your own area. Look around and see what industries you can
Education: "A lot of work needs to be done."
Specifically, more money for schools, from elementary through
college. Opposes standardized testing as a basis for allocating
California League of Conservation Voters. California Nurses
Association. California Union of Safety Employees.
War chest: $25,355.
41, Lake County supervisor,
Kelseyville business owner.
School boards and Lake County supervisor.
State government's control over local issues. "We need
a representative in Sacramento who understands the impact their
decisions will have on us."
Timber: Regulatory system overdue for an overhaul.
"The CDF process ... is cumbersome and doesn't support industry
and jobs. Getting a THP is like trying to get an audience with
the pope." Less weight to environmental concerns.
Railroad: "We don't have a railroad in Lake
County, so it's something I am educating myself on. [However]
continually dumping money into it shows a lack of intelligence."
Rivers, fish: Unsure about reduction of Eel River
diversion. Suggests scientific research regarding rivers and
fish may be biased.
Jobs: Get the government off the people's backs
and jobs will create themselves. Plus, "There are a lot
of jobs that could be created without this ultrafear the ultraenvironmentalists
have imposed on us."
Education: Raise teachers' salaries to a statewide
standard regardless of where they live. Reduce administration
spending. "We spend $18 million on the county Office of
Education in Lake County and it serves almost no educational
California Young Republicans, Lake County Sheriff Rod Mitchell.
War chest: $6,000.
41, machinist and gun
Mendocino County Republican Party Central Committee.
Gun control doing away with it, that is. Romero entered the
race because a state law classified $12,000 of his firearms stock
as unsafe and therefore unable to be sold. "I look at that
as a form of socialist gun control."
Timber: Timber industry backer, believes forests are
healthier when managed "like a crop." Fish populations
are not harmed by logging. And those who say otherwise? "I
don't think they are really trying to protect the environment
so much as they are just anticapitalist."
Railroad: Restore rail service for freight but
not passenger service to Eureka. Rivers, fish: "We
are going to have to build more holding areas, reservoirs and
Jobs: Manufacturing and timber. "People who
want to switch to a tourism-based economy are in for a rude awakening."
Education: "Somewhere between the money being
authorized for schools and the local school system receiving
it, money seems to be disappearing. I suspect that if I dig hard,
there might be someone out there upset enough to want to cause
me bodily harm." Bring back the Ten Commandments and Pledge
of Allegiance to schools.
"Right now, I haven't gotten any groups to endorse me."
Raised: Around $2,000, plus $3,500
of his own.
Spent: Around $5,000.
War chest: $400.
64, Mendocino deputy
30 years of law.
Centrist appeal. Calls himself a compassionate conservative,
moderate Republican, pro-life and pro-business. Stoen has done
legal work for environmental causes. "I am the only Republican
candidate if you want a winner."
Timber: A la Teddy Roosevelt, "Conservatives
should conserve; don't spend the principle of your investment."
If more environmental protections are needed, use a carrot, not
a stick: "We have reached the saturation point for regulation
and need to reach out for incentives."
Railroad: "I support the railroad even through
the Eel River Canyon because the Humboldt economy needs that,
especially in conjunction with the port." Passenger as well
as freight service: "It may be a huge problem and require
continued subsidies, but I think it should be rebuilt."
Rivers, fish: Reducing the diversion from the Eel
to the Russian is "not a solution." Supports building
extra water-storage capacity to anticipate population growth,
even if that means building extra dams. Fish are important, but
so is agriculture. "The pear orchards and vineyards are
at risk down here."
Jobs: "We as a district need to have a business
plan that attracts high-tech industry." Backs industry that
has "a light footprint."
Education: Back to basics. "We need a well-defined
sequence of goals centered on English, math, history, geography,
science and fine arts." Too much bureaucratic dead weight
in educational system.
Most significant, his boss. Mendocino County DA Norman Vroman
has become popular with his own quirky brand of conservatism,
blending liberal views on drugs with fierce defense of firearms
rights. Former Congressman Don Clausen has also thrown his weight
War chest: $3,872.
31, wildlife photographer,
real estate agent.
Parent-teacher organization at Sunset School.
Land preservation in Trinity County. "It's one of the
main reasons I am running: Trinity County was just added to the
district." More protections to Trinity's extensive national
forest holdings are needed.
Timber: Closer scrutiny of herbicide use on private
lands. "I'm looking at either banning or severely regulating
herbicides." Critical of CDF:. "The forest practice
rules do not get enforced because of the governor's office."
Railroad: A low priority. "At this point,
I feel the state doesn't have the money for it. If we have the
money, we should be putting it into education, then a tax cut."
Rivers, fish: "I strongly support giving more
water to the Eel, as well as the Klamath and Trinity. The most
important thing are the wild runs of salmon. If people have to
water their lawns a little less, so be it."
Jobs: Calls for state assistance for small businesses
and microenterprises. "I would meet with economists and
business owners and get a feel for what's happening and how the
government can best help." Suggests state-backed low-interest
loans for small business expansions.
Education: Top priority. Favors smaller classes,
better salaries for teachers.
Former Congressman Dan Hamburg,
Humboldt State University Professor William Devall; Ken Miller,
McKinleyville physician; Arcata author Joan Dunning.
Spent: $500, his own.
War chest: Empty so far.
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