Our View: Gaines the only candidate running for state Assembly

Our View
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It’s a one-horse race for the Fourth District seat in the state Assembly. Place your bets on Beth Gaines. While Dennis Campanale earned the most votes in the special election primary in March, he’s not been seen or heard from much since. The Roseville Democrat has raised little money to wage a campaign, has not shared his platform with key community groups, did not file a ballot statement and has not returned calls from the Auburn Journal. With a little more than two weeks before the May 3 election, does Campanale even want the seat? Absentee ballots are now arriving at the Placer County Elections Office, and it’s likely a majority of them have a bubble filled next to the name of Beth Gaines, Republican. Gaines finished second in March, nipping Roseville City Councilman John Allard and earning the right to face Campanale in the runoff. All signs point to a Gaines landslide. She’s a conservative Republican with name recognition forged by her husband, state Sen. Ted Gaines. The Fourth District is conservative. Republicans garnered 70 percent of the vote in the primary. Is that why Campanale seems to be in hiding? There have been rumblings of discontent with the idea of a Gaines dynasty in the Legislature, but it’s not clear how strong or large that opposition is. Barring a shocking turnaround, Gaines will represent the Fourth District beginning May 4. According to her ballot statement, Gaines’ playbook is similar to her husband’s. She opposes new taxes or extending or raising existing taxes, believes business is overregulated, seeks welfare reform and sees job creation as the savior for the faltering economy. “Over $10 billion of our state budget goes to pay for services for people who enter the country illegally,” Gaines wrote. “Some greedy government bureaucrats have become millionaires at the taxpayers’ expense. That is wrong.” Meeting with the Journal editorial board this week, Gaines cited her “grass-roots conservatism” and focus on jobs and tax cuts as the main reasons her campaign is resonating with voters. Gaines would not cut funding for mental health services, she said, and supports development of vocational opportunities and trade internships for students not headed to college. But Gaines needs more than a traditional “more jobs, no taxes” platform to serve in the Assembly. She also needs to: Craft her own voice: Opponents have criticized Gaines of being an ideological clone of her husband. Gaines needs to stretch out and find her own, strong voice in the district, in the Assembly and in the party. If not, why do voters need her and Ted Gaines? Learn fast, learn details: Gaines has no doubt learned some aspects of lawmaking as a politician’s wife, but it’s clear she’s playing catch-up on myriad details of critical local and regional issues. She’s making an effort to reach out during the final weeks of the campaign, but she needs to step that up after the election to learn about state issues — land management, public safety, education, business, corrections, health and human services, to start — impacting local businesses, taxpayers and government. Hit the streets: Without the benefit of previous elected experience, Gaines must learn quickly how special districts, municipal and county governments collaborate and compete at the same time. To understand the state budget mess, she’ll need to spend some quality time understanding how state money flows through these districts — and how changes at any level impact other agencies and citizens. Toughen up: Gaines told the editorial board she is “strong and tough,” having survived a major automobile accident and raising six children through a variety of educational settings — homeschooling, charter, private and public schools. But that’s nothing compared to the battle Gaines can expect in state politics. Opponents will say hurtful, nasty, personal things. Political friends and allies can turn quickly. Promises will be remembered. Grudges will last a long time. As the next member of the state Assembly, Beth Gaines must be quick on her feet and stand up to Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, lobbyists and bureaucrats. She must lead from the heart and seek solutions that will rebuild our region and state.