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Candidate Has a Higher Goal : Importance of Political System Stressed Over Race

Times Staff Writer

As far as Michael Lasky is concerned, in politics, it’s not whether you win or lose. But it’s important that you at least play the game.

With that guiding principle firmly in mind--and with his sense of humor in place--Lasky is “going to a lot of trouble . . . to lose” the 75th Assembly District race.

Seeking to prevent the automatic reelection of Assemblywoman Sunny Mojonnier (R-Encinitas), the 44-year-old Lasky is running as a write-in candidate in next week’s Democratic primary in order to qualify for the November ballot.

If at least 1,371 Democratic voters write in Lasky’s name Tuesday, the UC San Diego philosophy doctoral candidate will oppose Mojonnier this fall. Otherwise, Mojonnier will face only minor-party opposition in her bid for a third term.

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Even if Lasky overcomes his formidable immediate hurdle and manages to get his name on the ballot, the La Jolla resident concedes that he has little chance of success in November in the heavily Republican district. Republicans hold a commanding 51%-34% registration edge over the Democrats among the 193,185 voters in the coastal district, which stretches from the Mexican border north to Leucadia and extends inland to Mira Mesa and Rancho Bernardo.

“The obvious question is, why bother?” Lasky said. That question, however, is one to which Lasky, who has never before run for public office, has a ready and eloquent response.

“The question isn’t just winning or losing,” said Lasky, the president of the University City Democratic Club. “It goes to the very essence of partisan politics and our system of government.

“If we don’t at least contest elections, if we don’t even run candidates against incumbents, then we’re no better than a then we’re no better than a state-controlled one-party system where your only choice is to just say ‘yes.’ At a minimum, voters ought to have a choice.”

The major reason for his write-in candidacy, Lasky explained, is to prevent Mojonnier from “getting a free ride back to Sacramento.”

“If Sunny Mojonnier is not challenged, she’ll become the phantom of the district and won’t have to even bother to campaign,” Lasky said. “My purpose is to draw her out on the issues and to not let her reelection become a fait accompli . If all I do is force her to stand up at debates and justify her votes and policies, then I’ll have played an important role. Every public official needs to be held accountable at election time.”

The fact that he is having to scramble to even get his name on the ballot is, Lasky admits, simply another illustration of the weakness of the local Democratic Party.

“As a party, we ought to be embarrassed to not have a candidate on the ballot,” Lasky said. “To me, that’s very disturbing.”

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When no candidate filed to run in the primary by the March deadline, Democratic leaders in the 75th District approached Lasky--who earlier had planned to run for the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees--to ask him to run as a write-in candidate in the Assembly race instead. After being assured that he would receive support from the handful of Democratic clubs in the district, Lasky agreed, arguing that by doing so he could “provide a building block” for his party.

“You have to begin the struggle somewhere,” Lasky said. “If you lose, that’s just part of the process of trying to build a viable Democratic organization in this district.”

To make Democrats aware of his candidacy, Lasky has spoken to numerous clubs and organizations throughout the district. In addition, groups supporting Lasky raised about $1,500 to pay for mailers, sent to about 10,000 Democratic households, that detail the proper method for writing in his name on the ballot.

Although there are about 65,000 registered Democrats in the district, Lasky acknowledges that getting 1,371 of them to write “75--Lasky” on their ballots is a “numerically simple but logistically difficult” task. About a 10% response rate from the mailer, however, will enable Lasky to reach that goal.

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“Most people normally don’t write in candidates, so they’re unfamiliar with the process,” Lasky said. “A big part of our job is just educating people how to do it.”

The issues that Lasky emphasizes include proposals for stronger growth management, opposition to offshore oil drilling, steps to control sewage spills and toxic-waste pollution, and the preservation of Medicare, Medi-Cal and other health-care programs.

“I’d love to debate Sunny Mojonnier on those issues,” he said. “If I’m successful, she’ll know that she’s been in a race.”

For that to happen, however, 1,371 people have to help Lasky transform a non-race in June into a race in November.

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