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Two for State Assembly

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Two years ago, Ventura County voters helped to send two brand-new members to the California Assembly. Based on their performance there and their positions on current issues, here are our endorsements for the Nov. 7 election.

District 35

In her first term, Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) moved confidently into leadership positions as chair of two committees and sponsor of 26 bills that made it to the governor’s desk--18 of which became law.

She has been especially effective in environmental and domestic violence issues, helping to push $90 million in coastal cleanup money into a bond issue passed in March. She championed an anti-stalking bill to protect women after Ventura resident Vicky Shade was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, and a measure that gives teachers a $250 to $1,500 credit on their state income taxes, depending on years of service. And although the governor declined to sign it, we still support her proposal to give prospective brides and grooms a written description of the legal obligations that come with getting married.

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We believe Hannah-Beth Jackson has earned another term to continue her outstanding work.

Jackson, 50, a longtime civil and family lawyer in Santa Barbara and Ventura, grew up outside Boston. She received a law degree from Boston University in 1975 and immediately took a job as a county prosecutor in Santa Barbara. Over the years, she helped found a shelter for battered women and a coalition against gun violence, and she was a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood. She served on state commissions on child support and family equity.

Her top priority is education reform, specifically ensuring that students are taught basic skills and that improvement is measurable. She would encourage bright students to become teachers by improving teacher training and pay, and she opposes the student voucher initiative, Proposition 38.

Jackson vows to help make health care available and affordable to everyone by favoring top-to-bottom reforms of the health-care system. She supported giving patients the right to sue health maintenance organizations. She opposes Measure O, the initiative that would hand over Ventura County’s $260-million share of the tobacco settlement to private hospitals. She favors stronger regional growth planning and has written victim protection and anti-stalking laws and supports licensing of handgun owners.

Jackson’s challenger in this sprawling district, which covers Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and most of Santa Barbara County, is Santa Paula City Councilwoman Robin Sullivan. Sullivan has focused almost entirely on the Legislature’s need to reverse its decision to shift billions of property tax dollars from city and county governments to Sacramento to make up state budget shortfalls in the early 1990s.

We agree with Sullivan that that revenue grab should be reversed--and so does Jackson, who has worked to limit the policy’s devastating effect on localities. Jackson lobbied Gov. Gray Davis to cap the amount of property tax the state takes from cities and counties and to return $700 million to local government this year. Davis finally approved a $200-million rebate and rejected the tax cap.

With a Democratic governor, Democratic majorities in both houses of the state Legislature and Jackson’s track record of getting results in Sacramento, we believe she is more likely than Republican Sullivan to be able to bring some of these diverted dollars back home where they belong.

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That’s just one of many reasons we endorse Hannah-Beth Jackson for another term.

District 37

At 30, Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) is the youngest member of the Assembly. He earned that distinction two years ago by edging Democrat Roz McGrath by just one percentage point. She’s back for a rematch.

Strickland is likable and hard-working but thus far has not proven particularly effective for the residents of the 37th District, which stretches from Thousand Oaks to Oxnard. In his first term he has focused on issues that might be politically popular but produced little or no effect on public policy, such as his push for a Ronald Reagan license plate and his unsuccessful crusade to cut the gas tax.

He says he has highlighted issues important to Ventura County as part of the Republican minority in the Assembly, but he has few legislative victories to show for his efforts.

What’s more, his hard conservative stands on most issues put him to the right of his constituency: Strickland favors the Proposition 38 school voucher initiative while McGrath opposes it. He opposes handgun licensing; she favors it. He opposes abortion except in the most extreme cases; she favors a woman’s right to choose.

We believe Roz McGrath better represents the views of most 37th District voters and would be a more effective voice for them in Sacramento.

McGrath, 53, is a Somis kindergarten teacher and member of the pioneer farm family that settled the Oxnard Plain in the 1860s. While most of Strickland’s preparation for the job came from working as an aide to two conservative Assemblymen, Tom McClintock (R-Northridge) and Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), McGrath has earned her living as an elementary school teacher, college lecturer, farm manager and director of an organization that assisted battered women and moved women off welfare with jobs. She was also the first woman board member of the Ventura County Farm Bureau. A breast cancer survivor, she brings first-hand knowledge to the debate over health care issues.

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Her top priorities are improved education, public safety, environmental protection and affordable health care, especially for children.

Voters deserve a representative who will put their needs ahead of ideological posturing, someone who can work effectively with members of both parties and with the governor.

We endorse Roz McGrath.

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