Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge) and Ventura County Supervisor Judy Mikels are vying in the March 7 primary for the 19th state Senate District seat being vacated by Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), who is retiring because of term limits.
McClintock, 43, a state legislator for 14 years, has championed efforts to cut taxes, including the California vehicle license tax, and to reduce the size of government and streamline bureaucracy. Mikels, 53, for 14 years a Simi Valley councilwoman or county supervisor, has advocated more local flexibility in spending and emphasized the importance of understanding local government and the need for lawmakers to work together.
The two Republicans seek to represent a district their party hasn't lost since the early 1970s. District 19 includes most of Ventura County and parts of the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys. Nearly two-thirds of the district's voters live in Ventura County.
The editorial boards of The Times Valley and Ventura County editions recently interviewed the two candidates. What follows are excerpts.
Question: What do you hope to do in the state Senate and will you proceed differently than you have in the Assembly?
A: I plan to continue the fight that I've waged in the Assembly for many years against a government that is too big and too expensive and too intrusive. I think I come to this with experience and credentials that are rare. I've already represented half of this district in the state Assembly for 10 years. I currently represent the other half, as I have for the past four. And I have a nationally recognized expertise in California government and California finance. So I will continue where I left off in the Assembly.
Q: What do you consider some of your biggest accomplishments in the Assembly, in terms of bills passed, legislation sponsored, legislation kept from passing?
A: The initiatives that I have driven in the state Legislature have pretty much dominated the budget debates over the last several years. It was my effort to abolish California's abusive and outdated car tax. [That went] to the very center of the budget debate over the past several sessions. So the initiatives that I've launched, particularly on highway construction, the taxes for highways concept, as well as the emergency powers for the governor to expedite highway projects where a level of congestion exists, I think, will dominate much of the budget debate over this next year. I see my role in the minority, as driving the agenda on the big issues, and I think I've been fairly successful at that.
Q: Your crusades against the car tax and gasoline taxes and carpool lanes all served, among other things, to put more cars on the highway, to encourage more people to drive their own cars . . .
A: The cars are there.
Q: The cars are there, and more cars will be coming as a result of these measures. Does that concern you at all?
A: No. They're coming because the population continues to increase. A radical ideology was introduced into California public policy, and especially in transportation, in 1974, and that policy was basically, if we stop building things, people won't come. So we brought our freeway construction to a virtual standstill. In the last 25 years we've only added 8% to the capacity of the state highway system. The problem is people came anyway, and miles driven by Californians have increased 116% in the same period--8% in capacity, 116% increase in demand. Now we have diverted the taxes that motorists once paid at the pump for their highways to purposes unrelated to highway construction. We now bear the third-heaviest taxes per vehicle in the country. We are dead last in our expenditure for roads. So it should not be a surprise to anyone that we're now choking in our congestion. The question that is presented to government in this and in every other field of government services is not whether the population will grow--it will; one thing we human beings are very good at over the centuries is making more human beings. The question is whether we will meet the needs that are caused by that growth. For the past 25 years, we have utterly failed to do so. In fact, we have deliberately refused to do so. We're now dealing with the result and it's not just transportation, it's a wide field of other issues. Not only are we now choking in our own traffic, we are all dreading the next drought, because of what that means. People came anyway.
Q: What sets you apart from your opponent in this race? Why should voters choose you?