By Joe Tash
With unemployment in California above 12 percent and adoption of a state budget late this year by a record-breaking 100 days, the economy remains a major source of concern as the Nov. 2 election for state offices draws near.
Three candidates are vying for the 74th District seat in the state Assembly, including the incumbent, Martin Garrick, the Assembly’s Republican leader. Challenging Garrick are Democrat Crystal Crawford, a Del Mar City Councilwoman, and Libertarian Paul King, owner of a Carlsbad-based medical staffing company.
The district includes Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Marcos and Vista, along with parts of Escondido, Oceanside and San Diego.
Following are profiles of the three candidates:
Garrick, who owns a real estate property management and investment company, was first elected to the Assembly in 2006, and he formerly worked in the Reagan Administration. “I want to make California more business-friendly. I think we are over-taxed, over-regulated and definitely over-litigated.”
As Republican Assembly leader, Garrick played a key role in the negotiations to approve California’s $87.5 billion budget. Legislators reached a budget deal on Oct. 8, 100 days past the June 30 deadline, the latest ever for a budget agreement. In reaching the agreement, members of the state Senate and Assembly bridged a $19 billion gap between revenue and expenses.
Garrick, however, is unwilling to take any blame for either the budget deficit or the tardy agreement.
“It’s the overspending of the liberal Democrats and the growth of government. There is no blame on those people that have acted fiscally responsible,” he said.
Garrick said the budget passed by the Legislature contains no new taxes, includes state pension reforms and maintains K-12 education funding at the previous year’s level, which he said is actually a slight increase per pupil because of declining enrollment.
Crawford, an attorney who has served on the Del Mar council for nearly 12 years, will step down from her council seat at the end of her current term in December, regardless of the outcome of the election.
Crawford is house counsel for Molsoft LLC, a biotech software firm based in La Jolla. She announced her candidacy for the 74th Assembly seat in 2009, after becoming frustrated with the Legislature’s inability to pass a budget on time. As a member of the San Diego Association of Governments board, she said she received a briefing from a Caltrans official about the potential cost and impacts of spending freeze if the state didn’t have a new budget by June 30.
“I was just really upset about that,” Crawford said. “I started, after that experience, thinking that I needed to step up and be part of creating solutions and solving the problems we’re facing.”
Crawford said her experience in doing more with less in Del Mar, where city leaders trimmed 16 percent of the budget without service cuts or layoffs, could be replicated in Sacramento, even though the state’s budget is much larger.
“You can apply some of the same principals,” she said. “We have to reduce spending, like we did in the city because revenues were down.”
Crawford said she has knocked on doors throughout the district during her campaign, and voters made it clear they don’t want to pay higher taxes. “They’re looking for leaders who can solve the problems of the state with the resources we have now,” she said.
Libertarian King doesn’t expect to win on Nov. 2. “I don’t have a chance,” he said, predicting that Garrick will retain his seat.
But he believes that over time, voters will decide a major change is needed in Sacramento politics, and the Libertarian Party will be a logical place for them to turn.
“Politics is long-term to me, it’s not in the short term. Some day people are going to realize that the system is corrupt and has to change,” King said.
Among his ideas for reigning in spending and balancing the state’s budget, he said, is to change the method of funding state departments and agencies. Currently, he said, departments have an incentive to spend their entire budget allocation each year for fear of having their budget cut. Instead, he said, departments should be told they can keep whatever they save through innovation and cost-cutting measures.
“The whole system would change,” he said. “I’d bet within a year, the budget would be balanced all by itself.”
If politicians underestimate the cost of state projects to the public, he said, they should either pay the difference from their own pockets or go to jail for perjury. He also said the Legislature should become a part-time institution.