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Gaines, Allard, Campanale seen as early frontrunners in Assembly race

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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With seven Republicans and one Democrat in the running, the District 4 Assembly special election is turning into a horse race – with plenty of jockeying for position out of the starting gate. Just who is out in front in the early going, however, is getting some debate. Seasoned politico John Allard of Roseville has built up a six-figure campaign war chest, according to a spokesman. And his list of endorsements includes some high-profile Republicans. Beth Gaines can depend on the name recognition and political clout of her husband, newly elected state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, to rein in a block of votes. Democrat Dennis Campanale can count on his own party base and name recognition from the November Assembly District 4 election, when he polled 37 percent of the vote against Ted Gaines. Ted Gaines won both the District 4 election in November and the state Senate District 1 election Jan. 4. But the Assembly District 4 seat has remained vacant since he took office in the Senate this month, establishing the need for a special election. Eight candidates have filed for the March 8 vote. There’s the strong likelihood of a run-off between the two top finishers May 3 if no one can woo and win a majority of the District 4 vote. Veteran political observer Wally Reemelin, president of the League of Placer County Taxpayers, said he sees Allard – a Roseville City Councilman – as an early frontrunner, with Beth Gaines holding the potential to “squeak in” on her husband’s name recognition. Reemelin said Allard’s key endorsements from National Tax Limitation Committee President Lew Uhler and several elected officials give him front-runner status. Allard also served on state legislator Tim Leslie’s staff for more than a decade, he said. “He’s got the most political savvy,” Reemelin said. Beth Gaines’ candidacy is hampered by her husband’s decision to make a dual run for office that will cost taxpayer’s millions of dollars in special-election costs, Reemelin said. Reemelin said the Gaines political connections will provide money and support but questions remain about Beth Gaines’ lack of background in politics and her ability to serve in the state Legislature. “If people just consider the sound bites and don’t look at her background, she could squeak in,” Reemelin said. And Campanale – given the recent election of Democrat Jack Duran as Placer County supervisor representing Roseville – does have a chance as a Democratic Party candidate who has not held office and doesn’t have a track record., Reemelin said. “The county is changing and there are more independent voters,” Reemelin said. “It’s a possibility.” Auburn business owner Michael Babich, who decided last week not to run in the special election, views the election as a short campaign with a projected low turnout that will give candidates who tell their story best an advantage. Babich noted that fellow Republicans in District 4 are already at loggerheads, with the El Dorado County GOP Assembly voting to endorse Gaines and its Placer County counterpart supporting Allard. “If they’re not careful, you may end up with a Democrat in the Top 2,” he said. “You can expect the Republican to win in the runoff but there’s still a concern that there are a lot of independents and if they’re ticked off, they’re energized.” “If the Democrats get their act together we could be in for a fight,” Babich said. Campanale said he’s concerned about low voter turnout having an impact, with projections that just 12 to 15 percent of the possible vote will be cast. “It’s between Gaines and Allard on the Republican ticket and I’m hoping decline-to-state voters will come out in my favor,” Campanale said. Allard has a solid base of support but Gaines will carve some of that away and Cheryl Bly-Chester, a Placer County Republican Central Committee member, could also find support there, he said. Bly-Chester said she sees Allard as the front-runner but because any voter can vote for any candidate – and an ever-widening group of decline-to-state voters – the Roseville City Council member may not have positioned his campaign for the special election. With a tight time frame and a diverse field of candidates, voters should be looking at qualifications and it’s up to candidates to get that word out, Bly-Chester said. “It makes it a name-recognition game and it’s up to us to get our names out there,” she said. “We’ll see who can come from behind from that.” Gaines said she feels that she’s starting off as a front-runner, with credibility as a businesswoman who understands the needs of District 4, particularly for jobs and business growth. “I’ve worked in the trenches for grassroots conservative organizations and charitable groups,” Gaines said. “They know me and I know them. I’m very engaged in the district.” Allard campaign manager Matt Rexroad said that his candidate is “more like Ted Gaines than Beth Gaines, in terms of service to the community.” “She does start with an advantage – she will attract a lot of attention due to the last name of her husband,” Rexroad said. “We feel that John is by far the most qualified for the assembly.” Bogdan Ambrozewicz, a Greenwood resident, is a newcomer to running for office. But the six-time Western States 100 ultramarathoner and former Meadow Vista resident, said he‘ll rely on name recognition from his work in the building and fitness fields industry. “I’ve been hit hard by the economy and know what pain is,” Ambrozewicz said. But he also said he’s running in reaction to Beth Gaines’ candidacy. “Beth Gaines is not entitled to the seat – if she was gung-ho about politics she should have been involved throughout her life,” he said. “You just can’t plug your wife in there because you’re the husband. That’s what sent me over the top.” Also running for District 4 are police officer Rob Matthews of Roseville, retired personnel manager Michael O’Connor of Lincoln, and attorney Matt Williams of South Lake Tahoe.