In the News


Saturday October 16, 2010

The Salinas Californian, October 16, 2010

Editorial: Assembly needs moderates; can Alejo deliver?

Voters in the 28th Assembly District face a real dilemma in the Nov. 2 race — which of two extremes to send to Sacramento.

he Californian editorial board would much prefer to recommend a candidate with more moderate credentials, but that is not the case. Instead, we strongly recommend that both candidates in this race do some serious soul-searching and consider moving toward the center to lead, by example, lawmakers away from the fractious partisanship that has rendered state politics dysfunctional while embarrassing Californians year after year.

Unless both candidates can agree that such a change is needed, voters will only be adding to the divisiveness that has gripped the Legislature for too long.

On the left is Watsonville Mayor Luis Alejo, a no-nonsense high achiever who is grooming for a career in politics and appears ready to take the next step to Sacramento.

On the right is Rob Bernosky, a hard-working, personable business executive with a conservative platform who is ready to apply a business approach to state spending if elected.

The 28th Assembly District includes Salinas, Watsonville, parts of north Monterey county, the Pajaro Valley, southern Santa Clara and San Benito counties. The seat is open because officeholder Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, is running for state Senate.

The editorial board was split over its endorsement in this race. Sending either candidate to the Legislature isn't going to result in much change, if any, given the existing political climate. Sacramento needs a sea change, an influx of more moderate thinkers to blaze a new path toward compromise and consensus in order to get things done.

Unfortunately, we saw neither Alejo nor Bernosky as very convincing about their commitment or ability to move beyond party allegiance when they would have to, and serve on behalf of all Californians.

The editorial board endorsed Bernosky in the June primary. He said he is not beholden to the Republican Party and said he's as independent as one can be. He said he's not a "tea partyer" though he has spoken at some of their meetings.

Bernosky may say he's an independent thinker but his political platform is in lockstep with some very conservative Republican principles — no more taxes, deregulation for the private sector and, of course, less government.

Alejo has more political experience, including working in Sacramento as a legislator's aide, watching how laws are drafted, debated and passed. He would not have much of a learning curve to overcome if elected.

We recommend Alejo for Assembly but with this caveat: He must prove to the voters that his claims to broad support for office and his desire to build coalitions with those holding opposing viewpoints are not empty campaign promises but serious objectives.

Alejo says he has broad support in his campaign for Assembly, yet his list of endorsements lacks a sizable number of names from the private sector and agriculture — the leading industry in the 28th District.

Alejo would be selling himself short by simply moving into the Democratic fold in Sacramento. He has the intelligence, political savvy and work ethic to become a leader in the Legislature.

He is an American success story. The son of migrant farm workers, he worked alongside his parents in the fields of the Salinas and Pajaro valleys while excelling in school, eventually graduating from UC Berkeley, obtaining a law degree from UC Davis and a master's in education from Harvard University.

He is a staff attorney in the Monterey County Superior Court, where he helps people in legal matters such as home foreclosures.

On some issues, Alejo depends too much on government solutions — he says he'll push for federal stimulus money to pay for local capital projects. But he also has an eye out for local business interests, saying he'll work to ensure that California companies get first crack in bidding for projects.

He's also trying to organize a summit on high-school dropouts to get them back to school and into job training.

He's led civil rights campaigns in Santa Cruz County and founded the controversial Brown Berets, a Latino youth group organized around local social and political issues.

Alejo exudes the confidence of a person from humble beginnings who has pulled himself up by the bootstraps. Politically, he talks a good game when it comes to coalition building and establishing a more business-friendly climate in California. He'll need to show his actions are stronger than words.

We recommend Alejo for Assembly.