Aptos, CA – The line-up hasn't changed since the June Primary for the District 15 state Senate seat when no candidate received the number of votes needed to win. Once again, voters will decide between Republican Sam Blakeslee, Democrat John Laird, Independent Jim Fitzgerald and Libertarian Mark Hinkle. "If I look at the history of California politics in my lifetime and I'm 59 years old. I see a repeated history of failure both Republicans and Democrats have brought to you the fiscal crisis we now have in Sacramento and I think it's insane to come to the conclusion that either the Republicans or the Democrats are going to solve the problem they created," said Hinkle.
Based on the results of the June primary, Democrat John Laird and Republican Sam Blakeslee are the front runners in this election. Whether addressing the issue of health care, climate change or education, the Thursday night debate always turned back to California's budget. Laird who opened by saying he wanted to restore funds to education later addressed where the state should cut. "We should be cutting over the long term in prisons with the highest recidivism rate. And we should be getting people off public assistance, but we've been successful in that. We've cut the case load by 50% in the last ten years because we've been successful at doing exactly that. And so I'd like to see some of the cabinet secretaries go. I think its duplicating bureaucracy," said Laird.
Sam Blakeslee said he'd also look to the prison system for cuts. "The cost of providing health care to a prisoner has exploded to $17,000 per year per incarceree, which is triple the level the federal government pays. And we need to be sure that we start looking at opportunities to allow the private sector to compete for some of the work that sometimes is only done by public employees. It's not that public employee unions shouldn't be able to compete. They should. But we should avoid monopolies where we can and allow vigorous competition to get the best service at the best price," said Blakeslee.
But for the third party candidates in the debate, the only solution will come when voters start changing their habits. "Let me ask you this. Are you voting for the best candidate in your party for this office? Or are you just voting against the other party? Well let's send a message to the party leaders send a message to all the elected officials in Sacramento: they cannot take your votes for granted. They will be replaced with concerned citizens like me. Your vote will make a difference. Your vote will send a message. And I'll be the messenger," said Independent Jim Fitzgerald.
The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Santa Cruz Weekly. You can listen to it in its entirety by clicking on the link below. Polls are open this Tuesday from 7:00am to 8:00pm.
Audio Extra: LWV Candidates Debate from August 12th