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Two races feature full slate of candidates

Julie Griffith-Flatter

The 2012 race for state senator has been complicated by redistricting and a special election to replace former state Senator Doug LaMalfa, who resigned his seat in pursuit of national office.

Nevada City Democrat Julie Griffith-Flatter is competing with Roseville Republican Incumbent Ted Gaines to represent Nevada County as the District 1 state senator.

However, there is also a special election for the District 4 senate seat, recently vacated by Doug LaMalfa, whose term will run for two more years, before the District 1 senator becomes the sole representative of Nevada County.



The ballot for the District 4 special election features six candidates, of which only four will run.

Ben Emery, a Nevada City Independent, withdrew from the race in late September, citing a potential conflict of interest due to his involvement with a nonprofit organization that works in association with Assemblyman Dan Logue.




Logue withdrew from the race in early October, citing health issues and a desire to focus his energy on his race in the 3rd Assembly District.

The remaining candidates include three independents, Dan Levine and Jann Reed, both of Chico, and Mickey Harrington of Magalia and Republican Jim Nielsen of Gerber.

District 1

Griffith-Flatter is making her initial foray into the political sphere to provide voters with a Democratic candidate, she said.

The Nevada City Land Use Planner emphasized the need for a representative who would listen and aggregate the views of her constituents to formulate fresh solutions for persistent problems dogging the state, including budget deficits.

“I think it would behoove the Legislature to take a look at the system as it stands,” she said. “We should take a step back instead of always rushing forward and review what’s in place and what is working.”

Griffith-Flatter is also invested in environmental issues.

“I am an environmental planner by profession and I have recognized through the years how important water is to the state of California,” she said.

The state needs to invest time and resources in the upper watersheds of the Sierra rivers, which provide water to a large share of the state’s population, Griffith-Flatter said.

The forests also need to be managed in a manner that will benefit the environment by preventing large-scale wildland fires, while providing jobs to individuals tasked with thinning the forests.

Griffith-Flatter said mining can be a productive economic driver, but needs to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis to ensure there are no undue effects to the environment.

She also positioned herself as someone unattached to the political machine.

“I am interested in hearing what ideas are out there in the community,” she said. “I haven’t signed any no-tax pledges and regardless of party, I am open to working with people that have good ideas.”

Gaines, who served the 4th District in the Assembly from 2006 to 2011 and took over as Senator after winning a special election, said he “just has a different view of the world” than his opponent.

“From my perspective as a small business owner, the regulatory environment is harming people like me throughout the state,” Gaines said.

“We just need a smarter set of regulations.”

Gaines also believes in reforming the state’s tax policy to help foster a more business-friendly environment, which he believes would spur more economic activity and add revenue without raising taxes.

“The present tax schemes are just a path to slower growth,” he said.

The senator is vehemently opposed to the construction of the high-speed rail, calling it a “fiasco”, but said the state could look at regional rail as a method of improving transportation infrastructure.

“I would advocate for more private sector job creation,” Gaines said. “We have over a 10 percent unemployment rate statewide and it’s unacceptable.”

Gaines also believes the Legislature needs to do more to rebuild trust with the electorate, acknowledging the scandal involving the California Parks Department where the division was found to be willfully hiding about $54 million from the public, has hurt the government’s credibility.

“People are losing faith in our government,” he said. “We have to make sure government gets back to doing what it was intended to do.”

District 4

Nielsen appears to be the clear frontrunner in District 4, but his listing of an address in Gerber, instead of his long-time home in Woodland, which is outside of the district, has irked some of his opponents.

“He doesn’t live where he says he lives and he is dishonest,” said Harrington.

Nielsen dismissed the claims as “utter falsehood.”

“Within a month of the first charge being levied, it was thrown out of court and I was awarded attorney’s fees,” Nielsen said.

Levine, who is making his initial steps into the political sphere, labeled Nielsen as a “career politician”, who is beholden to the many parties that have contributed to his “enormous war chest.”

“Mr. Nielsen is a reliable conduit for lobbyists,” he said. “My approach is more ethical, more theoretical.”

Reed also complained that the period to sign up for the special election was too short (candidates had about a week to file) due to the timing of LaMalfa’s resignation. LaMalfa and Nielsen are political allies and have often made public appearances together throughout the campaign season.

Nielsen’s opponents have claimed LaMalfa and Nielsen orchestrated the timing of the resignation as a means of manipulating an election environment to make it favorable to Nielsen.

“I think it’s crazy that people would try to spin what was a noble decision that way,” Nielsen said.

LaMalfa resigned so as to have the special election placed on the November general election ballot, thereby saving taxpayers an additional $2 million in costs that would have been incurred if they had held an election outside of general election season, Nielsen said.

Nielsen said he has a demonstrated ability to represent the people of Northern California, as he has experience with both rural and urban issues unique to the northern reaches of the state.

Nielsen said he will fight to keep California’s state government and its regulations out of the way of business owners.

He called the outlawing of dredge mining in the state “unconscionable” and characterized the state’s resource industries as “crushed by regulations.

“Curbing the power of state agencies has become a life passion with me,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen also pointed to his leadership in the reform of California’s welfare system and the co-authoring of the Victim’s Bill of Rights and Marsy’s Law as examples of his success as a legislator.

Reed, who has previously served on the Chico Unified School District Board of Education, threw her hat in the ring for the senate seat when she learned about the truncated time to file for the seat. She is running as an independent.

“The parties don’t represent my political philosophy and they create an atmosphere in California that is too polarized,” she said.

“I am a centrist who will look at a particular issue and not the politics behind it. I am a solution-based pragmatic thinker.”

Nielsen spent 16 years in the legislature and still casts himself as an outsider, Reed said, meaning he is either misleading people or he is not very effective.

Reed pledged she would be a voice for the north state that would reflect the diversity of the area, which she believes is underestimated .

She said the private sector is overregulated and she would look at fostering an atmosphere where traditional industries such as mining and timber could operate in an environmentally responsible manner.

Education is a priority, Reed said.

“The economy and education are tied together,” she said. “We need to educate current workers to be skilled in different industries and help the kids growing up be prepared to enter the economy and be able to stay in and contribute to California.”

Levine is also running as an independent, saying he has become disillusioned with both parties, as politics as usual have led to gridlock, Levine said.

Levine has no political experience, but has a degree in political science from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in the same discipline.

He labeled the budget situation in Sacramento as a “huge quagmire.”

“I think the first thing that is needed is a comprehensive audit of all state departments,” Levine said, saying the California Parks Department scandal unearthed a problem that may be endemic throughout various departments.

“My last priority is raising taxes,” Levine said. “The government needs to be able to work with the funds they have currently available.”

Levine is also wary of federal influence at the state level and would fight for California’s sovereignty to make its own decisions.

He further said that a way to better the budget situation is by taxing medical marijuana.

“Medical cannabis is about people’s health rights, property rights and the blind adherence to prohibition,” Levine said. “We need to stand up to federal hypocrisies.”

Levine said he espouses libertarian principles and would advocate for resource industries while maintaining clean air and clean water as priorities.

Harrington presented himself as “100 percent different” from Nielsen, saying he is opposed to giving away the region’s water to southern portions of California.

Harrington served in the U.S. Navy and served with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and has experience in intense negotiating processes, he said.

“Knowing how to bargain and get along with people is crucial to the job,” Harrington said.

Harrington said he would make getting jobs that pay a living wage a priority if elected, along with making an effort to accommodate the military veterans coming back home from overseas missions.

Harrington said the medical marijuana issue has created an underground economy and there is a lot of money out there that could be taxed to help the state balance its budget.

“It should be controlled by the state and taxed at an appropriate rate,” Harrington said. “It would bring millions of dollars to the state and generate new jobs.”

Harrington said he has the ability to represent the diverse interests of all 11 counties in the 4th district.

“Every county has its own problems, but I would have offices throughout the area where people could come and express their concerns.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.


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