Five candidates for Pasadena Assembly seat hit the cash, campaign trails

April 02, 2012

The race to represent Pasadena and South Pasadena in the state Assembly is heating up fast, with five candidates scrambling for voter support and campaign cash ahead of a June 5 primary that will leave only two standing.

Under a new state voting system, all five candidates will compete on a single primary ballot. Only the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, continue on to the November election.

Democrat Victoria Rusnak and Republican Ed Colton, late entries in the 41st Assembly District race, say their experience as business executives gives them an edge in sorting out the state’s fiscal crisis and generating jobs.

Pasadena City Councilman Chris Holden and South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti, both Democrats, have played up their political accomplishments on the campaign trail since last year, and Claremont Republican Donna Lowe began fundraising in January with Tea Party support.

Rusnak, an Altadena environmental attorney who heads her family’s Rusnak Auto Group, has amassed more than $260,000 since declaring her candidacy in mid-February, an amount second to Holden’s $306,000 in campaign contributions and leapfrogging Cacciotti’s $111,000.

Rusnak leaped out of the gate with $150,000 of her own money, $38,000 from auto industry colleagues and $15,000 from family members and Rusnak employees, according to the secretary of state ’s office. She has invested $32,000 in polling, $15,000 on mailers and $7,900 for consulting and phone-banking by Zocalo Strategic Group, run by Pasadena Board of Education member Ramon Miramontes.

Colton, a Pasadena attorney and former oil company executive, filed papers in March and is just starting to raise funds, he said.

Other races take shape

March also saw a Republican challenger join the race for the 25th state Senate District against incumbent Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Upland Democrat Ameenah Fuller.

Gilbert Gonzales, director of government relations for the Vons grocery chain and a Pasadena resident, describes himself as “fiscally conservative but also socially conscious” Republican. He previously worked for state Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Fuller, who has not reported any campaign donations, said she is campaigning door to door.

Liu has collected $200,000 in her run for reelection.

Republican Matthew Lin and Democrat Ed Chau are vying to replace termed-out Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) in the 49th Assembly District, which includes San Marino. Each has raised more than $300,000, but Lin outspent Chau $160,000 to $38,000 in the first three months of the year, state records show.

A doctor and former San Marino mayor, Lin is endorsed by all San Marino council and school board members. Chau, a Montebello school board member, has the backing of Eng and his wife, Rep. Judy Chu(D-Monterey Park), as well as Alhambra Mayor Luis Ayala, who dropped out of the race last month.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Cacciotti, a deputy state attorney general and member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said experience with state agencies would enable him to cut waste while growing jobs and alternative energy sources.

Holden, a councilman since 1989, said he would boost the region’s economy with incentives for tech-based startups, career training programs and extension of the Gold Line to the Ontario airport.

“I see myself being a local official serving at the state level, using what we’ve done in Pasadena as a model,” he said, noting the city’s biotech corridor and redevelopment of Old Pasadena.

Rusnak said she is best able to build consensus to help balance state budgets, spur job creation and restore funding for schools while offering increased oversight.

“I would form teams with local cities to keep and attract jobs in our district and coordinate that with tax incentives, worker training programs and streamlining the permitting process,” Rusnak said.

Dueling Republicans

Lowe and Colton stand to gain if the Republican presidential primary attracts conservatives to the polls in June.

Colton said Tea Party activists have pressured him to drop out of the race out to avoid splitting the Republican vote. He wants to appeal to moderates and independents.

“Extreme views are not part of who I am,” said Colton, a former president of the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club.

Lowe said she would scale back business regulations and said Colton’s proposed business incentives, including tax breaks for hiring graduates of the state’s public universities, are too cumbersome.

-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News

Titter: @JoePiasecki

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