27th Assembly candidates tout party line

Debate between South Valley newcomers reveals differences
Voters can’t say that they don’t have a choice this year in the
27th Assembly District race, which pits diametrically opposed
candidates — Democrat John Laird against Republican Chuck
Carter.
Debate between South Valley newcomers reveals differences

Voters can’t say that they don’t have a choice this year in the 27th Assembly District race, which pits diametrically opposed candidates — Democrat John Laird against Republican Chuck Carter.

A debate this week in Morgan Hill showed the wide philosophical distance between them – Laird championing the role of government, Carter vowing to get rid of as much regulation and oversight as possible.

“I’ve spent the last 30 years preparing for the next two,” said Laird, saying that as a nine-year Santa Cruz city councilman and a 21-year employee of the county of the same name, he has solved problems in transportation, health care, education, affordable housing and open space.

Carter, a real-estate agent and talk show host on radio KSCO 1080 AM, replied swiftly.

“It’s business as usual. All elected officials fall back on their experience,” Carter said. “My experience has been meeting a payroll. Voters need someone who will look at things in a different way.”

Laird, according to Carter, “will be in lockstep with Gov. (Gray) Davis, propping up a dead man and his (failed or outmoded policies).”

Carter and Laird, each 52 years old, have sought the 27th Assembly District seat before. Carter ran for the seat in 1998 and 2000. Laird was a candidate to fill the seat in a special election in 1993 when Sam Farr moved on to Congress.

Their first foray into the South Valley comes as a result of last year’s decennial redistricting, which threw Morgan Hill and unincorporated San Martin into the rump end of the 27th Assembly District. The rest of the district runs along the coast from north of Santa Cruz through Big Sur.

Redistricting — done to maintain the political status quo in Sacramento – left Gilroy in the 28th Assembly District, which was the former home of Morgan Hill and San Martin. Morgan Hill is fighting the redistricting in court.

In this week’s debate, the candidates took the opposite sides of issues immediately, such as when they were asked to define the role of state government.

“The role of government is to act in the public interest and provide public services,” Laird said.

Carter said government is usurping too much power and is infringing on personal rights. The Davis administration, which had a $10 billion surplus when it took office, now faces a $28 billion debt, Carter said.

Asked what sets them apart, Laird cited “hands-on experience and the ability to bring people together.” Carter cited his lack of political experience as an asset and said his experience as a businessman was better preparation.

And so it went.

Laird favors election-day registration of voters, saying turnout is higher in states where the practice is allowed. Carter opposes the proposal, citing laxness that leads to election fraud.

Carter would require parental consent in order for under-age daughters to get an abortion. Laird said that as part of his support for women’s rights, he would not.

On pre-kindergarten education:

Laird: Studies show that children who start their education earlier than five years old perform better in school. Such education is important, but kindergarten through high school must take priority.

Carter: Pre-kinder education shouldn’t be the government’s responsibility. The government can’t take on another failed effort. Pre-kinder instruction should be a cottage industry, run by private parties.

On reversing the revenue shortfall of community colleges:

Carter: There’s no shortfall. Money has been used to prop up government, not education. Don’t come to aid of community colleges by increasing taxes, a move that could drive old people out of their houses.

Laird: Community colleges haven’t received the funding they were promised a decade ago. Community colleges are the draft horses in retraining the workforce. The $3,500 that taxpayers spend annually on a community college student is a good return on the investment.

On bilingual education versus total immersion:

Carter: He’s 60 percent fluent in Spanish as a result of one year of total immersion in Mexico. He learned language as an adult. If immigrant children are around enough English-speaking peers they will learn the language.

Laird: Became fluent in Spanish as an exchange student. Lack of resources and financial support has crippled both approaches. Whatever works should be used to benefit the children.

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