Student issues play prominent role in State Assembly race
A special primary election will take place Tuesday to elect a new representative for California’s 54th Assembly district, which includes UCLA and Westwood.
Four candidates – three Democratic and one independent – are vying for two slots in the state’s general election scheduled for Feb. 4, 2014. If one candidate wins a majority of votes in Tuesday’s primary election, no general election will be held for the district.
The elected candidate will replace Holly Mitchell, who represented the 54th Assembly district for a year before becoming a state senator for California’s 26th Senate district in September.
Democrats currently control 54 seats in the 80-member State Assembly, comprising a two-thirds supermajority. If Democrats lose just one seat in the Assembly, their supermajority will be broken.
A supermajority allows a party to approve tax increases, override a governor’s vetoes and place constitutional amendments before voters.
Registered voters can cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
Democratic candidate Christopher Armenta, who could not be reached for comment for this article, wants to lower educational costs for parents and students and form partnerships with local businesses to create student job programs, according to his campaign website.
Armenta also supportsprovidingincentives to businesses to encourage job creation and forgingstate contracts that prohibit outsourcing of jobs from the state.
As a former mayor of Culver City, Armenta’s website says he would use his experience in public office to keep the state accountable for its spending.
Armenta would work to create park-and-ride and traffic flow improvement programs. He alsosupports green-energy programs, including a suspension of or ban on fracking.
“My service in public office combined with my work experience, provides me with the insight and skills necessary to ensure our state dollars are properly accounted for,” Armenta said in a statement on his website.
John Jake, Democrat, said in an interview with the Daily Bruin’s editorial board that he wants to build jobs in industries such as health care and entertainment by helping businesses get loans and incentives to invest in the region.
Jake told the board he wants to keep an open mind about the specific policies he would support if he is elected. However, he said he does support increased funding for community colleges and state universities, including the University of California.
Part of the projected $5.6 billion surplus in California’s budget this year should be used for an increase in funding for state universities, Jake said.
Jake also said he would provide incentives to the film industry to shoot in the 54th Assembly district. As the president of the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council, he created several community improvement programs for the region. Jake said he would use this experience to bring more business to the 54th district.
“It’s all about fighting, fighting for what the constituency wants,” Jake told the board.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Democrat and son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said he wants to promote job growth in the region by easing tax policies on local businesses.
In an interview with the Daily Bruin’s editorial board, Ridley-Thomas voiced caution against significantly increasing state spending and said the state should be careful as it recovers from the recent recession.
While voicing caution against state spending, Ridley-Thomas said he would advocate for an increase in merit-based scholarships and need-based Cal Grants for students and an increase in student housing.
He said the state can balance those by attracting more private funding and being more aggressive in developing online education.
If elected, Ridley-Thomas said he plans to set up a satellite office at UCLA to better implement the Affordable Care Act and improve consumer protection and medical practices.
At 26 years old, Ridley-Thomas said his young age would give him a youthful enthusiasm, while his experience working in Sacramento for former State Sen. Curren Price would give him the expertise for the job.
Morry Waksberg, a write-in and independent candidate, said in an interview with the Daily Bruin that he would try to foster a relationship between the state and UCLA to help students find government jobs and stop increases in UC tuition and fees.
In other policies, Waksberg, an ophthalmologist, said he would work to provide scholarships for students going through medical school. He said he wants to be a voice for doctors and wants the state to take input from doctors when forming state health policies.
Waksberg said he would advocate for more infrastructure projects, arguing the infrastructure development does not cost money, but creates money.
He also said he wants to develop policies fair to both unions and businesses to encourage businesses to stay in the area.
Waksberg said his sincerity, family ties, religious background and his ability to reach across the aisle make him a good candidate for the job.
“It’s David versus Goliath,” Waksberg said. “If David is right and the process exists to prove David is right, then David can win.”