Commentary: I run in the tradition of Bergeson, Brewer

Editor's note: The following piece is excerpted from a recent speech Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, a candidate for the 74th Assembly District, made to the Newport Harbor Republican Women.


Two significant factors overshadow this contest. First, the 10-year redrawing of district lines has created a very different district than the old 74th. It now is a coastal district which includes Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. More than half the voters in the newly drawn district live along the coast. It also includes parts of Costa Mesa, Irvine and Laguna Woods.

About 80% of the new district is now represented by Assemblymen Don Wagner and Jim Silva. Neither is running in this district.

My main opponent is Assemblyman Allan Mansoor of Costa Mesa, who claims he is the incumbent. In fact, his current district is only 20% of the newly redrawn 74th. Second, this election will be the first conducted with "open primaries," which means that registered voters from all parties — including independents who decline to state a party preference — can vote in the primary for any candidate they want, regardless of the candidate's party registration. The top two vote getters will run off in November.

In short, we have a wide-open new district without a traditional incumbent and very different new rules and considerations.

I believe that there are major issues that deeply concern and unite voters throughout the district, regardless of party registration — even though we instinctively understand that the political culture of Laguna Beach is different than Irvine, and Irvine's politics are very different than Newport Beach. After almost six months of campaigning, I can tell you that voters are discouraged, and even disgusted, about Sacramento's inability to responsibly face its financial mess.

Its addiction to spending and taxing, the lack of concern about the unprecedented deficits we face, the pension abuse that has mortgaged our future and the core belief that higher taxes are the only way out of our problems.

Voters in the 74th are dismayed too about our sick economy, and the sense that Sacramento's laws, endless new regulations and punitive taxes are a huge drag on job creation and economic recovery.

Voters can't understand how our public education system — once the best in the nation — is a disgrace, despite having the highest-paid teachers in the country, and education getting more than half of our general fund budget.

And voters believe deeply that our district's environmental assets — our beaches, our bays, our parks and our open space — are critical to our special quality of life as well as to our area's economic health.

The biggest problem is that voters have been so disappointed that they no longer trust that their leaders have the courage, determination, and imagination to address these problems for the benefit of all Californians — and not just paper over our problems and give special benefits to insiders, cronies and interests that are self-serving parasites of the public purse.

Voters are understandably skeptical of promises, and they want representatives who have the talent, the record and experience solving the public problems I've listed that concern them most.

That is the advantage I bring to this race, and why I am leaving a City Council job that I love to go to Sacramento. I think I can help. I believe I will win. My candidacy and record on the most pressing issues of the day have broad appeal in this powerhouse new district.

I am a Republican, endorsed by our county party in my successful 2006 and 2010 elections. In our nonpartisan local government, I have worked with my colleagues — conservatives, moderates and progressives — to find solutions based upon conservative principles. And we've been successful.

Working constructively with my colleagues, Newport Beach has balanced its budget by actually cutting year-over-year spending by reducing our employee count, creating emergency reserves, contracting out services where it made sense and adjusting our priorities while maintaining our high levels of service delivery by police, fire, paramedics and libraries.

We have successfully negotiated givebacks by many of our public employees who understand the financial crisis we have faced. And negotiated for them to pay, for the first time, a contribution to their pension plans.

It's taken hard work, persistence and negotiation with the understanding that solutions will benefit everyone — our residents as well as our employees.

For our efforts, we have earned a coveted and rare AAA credit rating. We also have supported entrepreneurs and risk-takers whose efforts are critical to our economic health.

And we have made the protection of our coastal and bay waters our highest environmental priority because they define our city, and are a source of enjoyment, recreation and important economic activity.

When I meet new voters, I don't say just trust me. I invite them to learn how I have acted in office, under pressure, and what I've accomplished working with colleagues, residents, businesses and interested parties to solve problems and achieve results in the broad public interest.

I run in the great tradition of accomplished conservative women like Marian Bergeson and Marilyn Brewer who faced and defeated power brokers of their own party to earn seats representing this area in Sacramento. They succeeded because they were serious, constructive and pushed powerful ideas for how to make government work better. Their ability to convince their colleagues to follow them was a key to their legacy of success.

I would be honored to have your support in this race, and once I'm office to make an effort to restore the greatness of California.

LESLIE DAIGLE is a Newport Beach city councilwoman.

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