In the News

Dem primary for Assembly seat key to November

Six candidates seek to replace Caballero

Saturday May 15, 2010
By Monterey Herald

The Monterey Herald, May 15, 2010

Dem primary for Assembly seat key to November
Six candidates seek to replace Caballero

Herald Staff Writer

The hottest political race in the June primary is the Democratic primary in the 28th Assembly District.

That's because current incumbent, Democrat Anna Caballero of Salinas, is leaving the Assembly in quest of a state Senate seat in November.

Into the enticing political gap in the traditionally Democrat-heavy district stepped three Democrats, two Republicans and a write-in candidate seeking to succeed Caballero.

Each corner of the four-county district is represented by the field of candidates. The district covers the Salinas Valley, North Monterey County, Watsonville, South Santa Clara County and all of San Benito County.

The top candidates in the Democratic primary are Watsonville Mayor Luis Alejo and Salinas City Councilwoman Janet Barnes. They are waging a moderately expensive battle that has produced some friction between the two campaigns. The third Democrat in the race is Gilroy school board member Francisco Dominguez.

Two Hollister-area businessmen, Allen Barker and Robert Bernosky, are vying for the Republican nomination, along with write-in candidate Rick Shephard of Salinas.

Alejo has received endorsements from the state Democratic Party and Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel, while Barnes touts endorsements from the California Small Business Association and former 28th District Assemblyman Rusty Areias.

With the Democratic nominee being a veritable shoo-in victor in November, the primary contest is key. Dominguez, president of the Gilroy school board, realizes he may not be a big factor in the primary contest.

"I consider myself the underdog," he said. "The other two have out-raised me, but I am focusing on the message of putting education as the priority."

With 15 years of school board experience, Dominguez identifies public education and what he views as a state government that continually raids money from education as the top issues.

"I'm not in any way discouraged about the process," Dominguez said. He predicts only a 30percent voter turnout and figures he stands a chance by ensuring that his supporters cast ballots.

Barnes, a 12-year Salinas council member and self-described moderate Democrat, figures geography is working in her favor. The last two Assembly members in the 28th District — Caballero and current Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas — came from Salinas.

"The Salinas Valley always has been a winner," she said, noting that there are about 25,000 residents in her City Council district alone.

Barnes said her priorities are public safety, education and job creation.

"I believe the onus should not be on business people, but in streamlining regulations and creating incentives for people to come to the state," Barnes said.

She said there needs to be more collaboration among local, state and federal agencies to fight crime and changes in education to "figure out what's working and what's not."

Barnes complimented Alejo as a tenacious campaigner, but said she believes she has been hit with some undeserved rumors. "If negative things come out, it wouldn't have my fingerprints," she said.

Alejo, a staff attorney with the Monterey County Superior Court, has taught high school in Watsonville, gone to Harvard University and worked as a legislative aide in Sacramento and as a legal aid attorney. He's been a Watsonville council member since 2008 and a community activist since he was a teenager.

He's confident a grass-roots campaign active since February will more than neutralize Barnes' possible advantage in the Salinas Valley. "I think I'm the candidate that has worked the hardest," Alejo said.

Alejo, who has a long string of endorsements from Democratic party groups and elected officials, describes himself as a centrist who is "a little more progressive on social issues."

His top priorities are jobs, making it easier to pass a state budget, public safety and education. Alejo spent a year working in the Legislature and says that experience should make him attractive to voters.

"They want to see who is best equipped," Alejo said.

He, too, said he wants to keep the campaign positive, but knocked recent criticism from a group backing Barnes over alleged campaign violations as a sign of desperation.

On the Republican ticket, GOP voters will have to choose between two candidates touting their business backgrounds and condemning what they see as a business-stifling environment in California.

Bernosky, a chief financial officer and school board member, describes himself as "a moderate conservative" who says "the polarization that has this state in paralysis" has to end.

Bernosky puts education, creating private-sector jobs and trimming the state budget at the top of his to-do list. "I am very passionate about the education system," he said.

Education is suffering from uncertain funding, and local school boards face a maze of rules and laws in which "you can't do anything without getting an attorney," he said.

Barker, who runs a construction equipment rental company, is a newcomer to politics prodded into running by "absolute disgust with the political system as it runs now."

Barker says the state is running businesses out of California with too many rules, and must reduce taxes, cut regulations and do more to make the state business-friendly.

"We need to make California a magnet state for business, the same way we have made it a magnet for all the welfare, social programs, illegals — you name it," he said.

Barker termed himself simply "a conservative" with compassion "only for those who have the integrity and responsibility to do things on their own."

He says the state needs to allow more competition to a public education system that is broken.

The big money in the race is going to Alejo and Barnes. They are receiving sizable contributions almost daily.

Recent contributions to Alejo include $6,800 from the California Nurses Association and $5,000 from the California Laborers Council. In the past week, Barnes has received $3,900 from Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy and $1,000 from Anthem Blue Cross.

Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or lparsons@montereyherald. com.

Candidates at a glance
·Name: Luis Alejo
·Age: 36
·Experience: Superior Court attorney
·Party: Democrat
·Residence: Watsonville
·Key endorsement: California Democratic Party

·Name: Janet Barnes
·Age: 61
·Experience: Teacher, Salinas councilwoman
·Party: Democrat
·Residence: Salinas
·Key endorsement: California Small Business Association

·Name: Francisco Dominguez
·Age: 48
·Experience: School board president
·Party: Democrat
·Residence: Gilroy
·Key endorsement: Former Salinas Union High School Superintendent Fernando Elizondo

·Name: Allen Barker
·Age: 56
·Experience: Independent businessman
·Party: Republican
·Residence: Hollister
·Key endorsement: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

·Name: Robert Bernosky
·Age: 46
·Experience: Chief financial officer
·Party: Republican
·Residence: Hollister
·Key endorsement: Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce