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Sam CrumpVirginia Strom-Martin



The republican challenger for state Assembly, Sam Crump, attacked Virginia Strom-Martin in a candidates forum Monday night, accusing the incumbent of nearly killing the Headwaters deal and flip flopping on such issues as the death penalty and Three Strikes.

Strom-Martin, seeking her second term in the state Legislature, calmly responded to each attack, saying on Headwaters she did, in fact, help secure $12 million in economic assistance for Humboldt County.

She has always supported the death penalty (a difficult decision, she said) but in her two years in office has never had to vote on Three Strikes criminal legislation, suggesting she does support the bill that extends prison sentences for repeat felony offenders.

"Mr. Crump is incorrect when he says I'm against the Three Strikes law. I've never even had the opportunity to vote for that," she said. (In an October 1996 Journal article, Strom-Martin said she was opposed to Three Strikes.)

While Crump's repeated accusations set a divisive tone to the forum, aired live on KEET public television in Eureka and sponsored by the League of Women Voters, it was the candidates opposing views on key issues that most set them apart. Peace and Freedom candidate Pamela Elizondo also participated in the question and answer session, but is not considered a serious contender in the race for the two-year seat representing the 1st District, which stretches 300 miles from Smith River on the Oregon border to Santa Rosa. The pay is $78,700 annually.

Strom-Martin and Crump clearly disagreed on abortion, the effectiveness of the Forest Practices Act, Proposition 5 Indian gaming initiative and use of pepper spray on non-violent protesters, while other questions revealed more subtle differences.

An attorney and Sebastopol City Council member, Crump joined Strom-Martin in the June primary as the only other major party candidate on the ballot. She garnered 59 percent of the vote and he earned 35 percent. In November, a similar outcome is expected, although Crump has suggested an upset could occur.

At 33 years old, Crump has served as a military prosecutor, been the legal counsel to cities and

school districts and serves as a lobbyist for the California Judges Association. He has been active in Sonoma County Republican circles and was the spokesman for a committee that lobbied to expand U.S. Highway 101 to six lanes from Windsor to the Marin County line.

He is endorsed by the California Forestry Association, is an advocate of private property rights for timber companies, is opposed to abortion and endorses the concept of parental consent, is opposed to Proposition 5 and believes concealed weapons permits help make communities safer.

On difficult issues like abortion, Crump said he has been forthright with voters and faults Strom-Martin for "putting her finger in the (political) winds" before taking a position.

With four children in public schools, Crump is interested in improving education and has vowed to require competency tests for teachers, improve discipline and provide merit pay for those educators who earn advance degrees or seek further training.

A former teacher for 24 years, Strom-Martin had long been active in Democratic politics and teachers unions when she defeated Margie Handley two years ago.

In her opening statement Monday night, she said, "After 24 years of doing lesson plans and correcting homework and having parent-teacher conferences, I think I did what some people thought was unthinkable: and that is I traded my school classroom for a seat in the California state Assembly."

During her tenure she says her accomplishments have been helping to secure funding for the beleaguered North Coast Railroad, as well as Humboldt County in the Headwaters bill. She worked for class size reductions, developed an economic development plan for the region and regularly visited each of the counties she represents in the sprawling district.

On abortion, Strom-Martin supports a woman's right to choose and says "It's very simple for me. I don't think the government belongs in anybody's personal business."

Endorsed by the Sierra Club and California League of Conservation Voters, Strom-Martin, 50, believes the Forest Practices Act needs to be amended to take into consideration cumulative impacts of logging, but like Crump is frustrated with Humboldt County's timber wars and, she said, would like to see Earth First! and "possibly law enforcement" rethink some of their tactics.

She thinks the issue of providing concealed weapons permits should be left up to local sheriffs, and it opposed to using pepper spray on non-violent protesters.

Elizondo, 55, lists her occupation as mother.

A hemp activist, she believes government is needlessly spending taxpayers dollars on defense, worthless computers and a corrupt judicial system at the expense of families and the Earth. She is no stranger to elections, having run for state Senate in 1994, state Assembly in 1992 and Mendocino County school board in 1991.

Eris WagnerChris Wilson



If voters saw Eris Wagner and Christopher Wilson, candidates for Superior Court judge, on KEET-TV two weeks ago, they would be well prepared to make a choice next month. Unfortunately few of them did.

The live broadcast competed for viewer attention that evening with Monday Night Football and the National League wild card playoff game between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs.

Nov. 3 is the first time in more than 20 years that voters in Humboldt County will have the opportunity to select a Superior Court judge. Although judges must run for election every six years, most run unopposed and mid-term vacancies are often filled by appointment by the governor.

There are some significant differences between the two candidates having to do with areas of specialty.

Wagner has experience in civil and criminal law, real estate law, estate planning and family law. She has served as judge pro tem, as a judicial arbitrator and as a mediator.

"I have handled a number of complex appellate cases involving detailed research and writing, but I am best known for my work in family law, particularly as an advocate for abused and neglected children," she told the KEET audience.

Wagner is a founder of the local chapter of CASA, the court-appointed special advocate, and the Center for Child Advocacy. Since 1986, she has represented more than 1,500 children in court. "Some are now in San Quentin; others are out in society and very productive."

Wilson, who edged out Wagner in the three-way June primary race, said he, too, has the broad legal background required for the bench.

"I've been a judge pro tem. I've acted as judge in small claims proceedings (and) as an arbitrator in divorce proceedings. I am certified to appear in dependency proceedings," he said.

But his area of expertise is criminal law.

"Jury trial experience is extremely critical to this

particular position," Wilson said. "During the entirety of my career, I have been involved in jury trials. They are evolving, they are fast-paced. One has to have the experience to make decisions correct decisions, quick decisions because in front of that jury, a wrong decision is a reversible decision."

But Wagner said that 25 percent of the filings in Superior Court are family court matters where there are no jury trials.

"I don't believe that any of the current sitting judges came from a family law background. Family law is under-represented on the Superior Court bench and I think it's time that someone with the expertise in that area be elected," she said. "If I'm elected, I am going to advocate for a permanent family law court judge position."

Bruce Watson, the presiding judge of the Superior Court, has said that for at least the first three years the person elected to succeed retiring Judge John Buffington will be serving as the family court judge but thereafter the assignment may rotate.

"I expect that indeed it will rotate and that there are other judges who are interested in the family court assignment," Wilson said in a follow-up interview. "When you go to vote, it doesn't say vote for one family court judge. It says, vote for one superior court judge," he said.

But Wagner said that it would be a serious set-back to have judges rotate in and out of that position in the family law court.

"We fought long and hard to establish the family court in this county," she said in an interview this week.

"Specialization is critically important especially in the area of family law. I spend 60 to 80 hours a year going to specialized conferences keeping abreast of the latest research in the areas of repressed memory, bonding, sexual abuse all the areas that impact on family law.

"I subscribe to eight to 10 journals in this area as I suspect Chris does in the area of criminal defense where he does most of his work."

Voters will decide this and other local and state races Nov. 3.


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