Sparks fly at 43rd District Assembly debate

The two candidates in the 43rd District Assembly race — incumbent Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and longtime Glendale Unified school board member Greg Krikorian — squared off in a sometimes contentious debate Thursday in front of a spillover crowd at Glendale City Council chambers.

The debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank, ranged from the candidates' positions on everything from job creation and education funding to political attacks lobbed from either side of the forum.

“If we want to get serious about creating jobs in this state, we need to make sure that companies that send them out of our state are penalized, and penalized in a meaningful way,” Gatto said.

He pointed to bills he wrote that would have reduced the amount of red tape businesses have to wade through to open up shop in California. The measures, which did not pass, would have cut the wait time from two years to roughly six months.

He also co-authored a measure that extended the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program by an additional two years and another $200 million to help keep movie and TV production work in the state.

Gatto also pointed to legislation he co-wrote that would have closed a loophole for companies that outsource jobs by imposing a penalty for doing so. That bill also did not become law.

Krikorian, meanwhile, said that as a small-business owner, he knows how difficult it can be to succeed in today's economy: “We don't need more taxes, we don't need more laws. We need jobs — jobs, jobs jobs.”

He also pledged to work hard to bring film and television production work back to the area.

“I'm committed to do responsible, sensible laws that [are] funding businesses to grow, not drive them out of the state,” Krikorian said.

Both men said they are committed to improving the state's public education system, with Gatto saying more revenue streams need to be found and Krikorian pledging to make cuts in state government and direct those funds to schools.

In discussing their abilities to work across the aisle, Gatto said he had 10 pieces of legislation pass both houses of the Legislature this past session, all with bipartisan support.

“Think of that. That is a rarity and quite an accomplishment to build that kind of consensus in the modern political world,” Gatto said.

Krikorian, a Republican, said that during his 12 years on the Glendale school board, he has worked with families from a variety of backgrounds, including different political parties.

“We have to work together,” he said.

But both candidates used the debate forum to reiterate some of the campaign attack talking points, with Krikorian noting that Gatto has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors outside the district and California.

“I'm not beholden to anyone but you,” Krikorian told the crowd. “Who's speaking for you? Not him.”

Gatto countered that he was the only legislator during his two years in office who has never introduced a piece of legislation that was sponsored by a special interest group. A campaign aide later acknowledged that the assemblyman is one of two legislators in that category.

Gatto also said he wrote legislation to prevent special interest groups from putting initiatives before voters without first explaining how they will be funded.

Being a legislator, he added, is a “statewide job,” so it makes sense that he would have contact with, and receive donations from, people outside the 43 Assembly District.

Krikorian also resurrected his critique that, as he sees it, Gatto doesn't technically live in the district.

In his opening remarks, for example, Krikorian thanked Gatto “for visiting us here in Glendale.”

But Gatto fired back, pointing to the demands of the job while maintaining a young family.

“The capital of California is in Sacramento, and the Legislature is in session roughly three-quarters of the year. So, of course I have a place in Sacramento. Everybody does,” he said. “If you have a young family like me, you need to choose between leaving them back here and having them come back and forth with you, and I chose the latter, and I apologize to nobody for doing that.”

The debate will be re-broadcast on Glendale's cable access channel and available on the city's website.

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