At first glance, the June 8 special runoff election for the 43rd Assembly District may seem like an exercise in futility. Whoever gets sent to Sacramento will have to run again to retain his seat in the Nov. 2 regular election. That essentially ensures that when one campaign ends, another begins.
So whether voters choose to send Republican Sunder Ramani or Democrat Mike Gatto to Sacramento in the thick of budget warfare, our Assembly representative will have little clout and little time to have any real effect.
Throw in a primary campaign that featured more than its fair share of mudslinging, vague soundbites and racial catering, and it's understandable if some voters long ago turned the knob to "fade out."
But let's not forget that whoever does win on Tuesday will have the winds of incumbency at his back heading into November, and because both candidates offer very different platforms, this ballot really does count.
However vague the plans are for either candidate, their platforms are clearly different. In Ramani, voters would be sending someone who carries all the Republican hallmarks: small government, emphasis on private enterprise, cutting spending further rather than raising taxes.
In Gatto, voters would get someone who hails strongly from the Democratic core: not adverse to raising or instituting some taxes — particularly on high-earners and corporations — pro-environmental regulation and protection of social service programs.
Of course, they both advocate for reaching across the aisle, rolling up their sleeves and cutting through the bipartisan divide to get things done — requisite promises for any candidate for office. But a key difference lies in the fact that they would both be first-time office holders, fresh blood in a pool of sharks.
What should be first and foremost in every voter's mind when heading to their polling stations Tuesday is the budget, the economy, and which candidate they think will get California, and our district, on the fastest track to recovery.
As we've seen in the past several years, Democrat or Republican, as long as there's a two-thirds majority vote needed for most budget proposals, party affiliation and ethos are pretty much neutered. What matters is the ability to lead, to build coalitions and push through solutions.
If the mess in Sacramento has shown us anything, it's that paralysis can lead to a major problem growing into a first-rate crisis.