Assembly seat: Salinas defeats Howard

GILROY
– Drawing support from all four counties of his sprawling
district, Simon Salinas won a second term as 28th District state
Assemblyman Tuesday night.
GILROY – Drawing support from all four counties of his sprawling district, Simon Salinas won a second term as 28th District state Assemblyman Tuesday night.

Salinas began the evening with a 15-point lead over Gilroy Republican Jane Howard in the early returns Tuesday and never looked back. Although results for the district race were slow to trickle in over much of the night, Salinas thanked his supporters at Salinas’ Cowboy Pizza Company and closed shop around 11:40 p.m. when additional results from San Benito and Monterey counties showed a significant lead.

“It feels good to be able to go back and continue working with the communities in the 28th District,” he told The Dispatch in a telephone interview. “It’s going to be a tough coming two years, but I’m prepared the best I can to represent my area.”

Howard packed up her own storefront headquarters at 10th and Chestnut streets in Gilroy around the same time. She said she was disappointed, but proud of the race she ran.

“Obviously when you give your heart and soul and feel very passionate about a message, you hope you’re going to be successful,” she said. “But when I look at the reality of what we were undertaking – especially taking on an incumbent, and the incumbent living in the largest city in the district – all of that are challenges you know will be difficult.”

With 94 percent of returns in, Salinas led Howard across the board in pieces of the four counties which make up the district – including Santa Clara County.

“I think hopefully it’s a validation they want me to continue to bridge and bring communities together, look at this region and see how we can work together to address some of the tough challenges, whether it’s affordable housing, public safety, transportation …” Salinas said. “My goal is to hopefully be able to increase support throughout the district, and I look forward to strengthening that relationship.”

Both candidates agreed the campaign was a relatively subdued affair. The contrast was especially sharp for Salinas, who said the contest with Howard was “completely different” than his 2000 battle against Jeff Denham.

“It was a pretty clean race that focused on the issues,” Salinas said of this year’s contest. “I commend Jane for doing that because I think voters got a chance to see what our priorities were and how we plan to deal with them …”

Howard agreed the contest was “pretty low key.”

“I don’t think it made a lot of news …” she said. “The comments I did hear was that people were pleased we were running a race based on issues and not personalities.”

With a potential state budget morass looming in the post-election background, both candidates made protecting – let alone improving – education and post-9/11 public safety the big priorities in their campaigns.

While Salinas, a Democrat, predicted a combination of budget cuts and revenue increases would be needed to tackle budget problems, Republican Howard balked at the thought of raising taxes and stressed a general theme of slashing government spending.

Salinas said he employed phone banking, mailers and radio ads to turn out his base of support. Howard said she logged 101 hours walking neighborhoods to meet voters and familiarize herself with their issues.

Howard had the support and endorsements from many Gilroy political players who she helped into office over the years – including state Sen. Bruce McPherson and former 28th District Assemblyman Peter Frusetta.

But she had her work cut out for her points south in the sprawling 28th District, where more than half the 151,000 registered voters are Democrats who live in Monterey County, where Salinas served for years as a well-respected county supervisor and city councilman. Thirty percent of district voters are registered Republicans.

Howard said she plans to get some rest, get back involved in local civic boards such as Leadership Gilroy and then consider what her political future will hold.

“We’ll decide from there,” she said. “I’m going to give it some good thought in terms of how next I would like to participate in the political process,” she said. “Certainly it’s important to have people who have a passion to do something like this to continue afterward, if not me maybe someone I can help mentor as well.”

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