Salinas to take on Denham for local senate seat

Hollister
– A political rematch is in the making for the 2006 state senate
race as Assemblymember Simon Salinas is poised to take on incumbent
Senator Jeff Denham for the 12th Senate District seat.
Hollister – A political rematch is in the making for the 2006 state senate race as Assemblymember Simon Salinas is poised to take on incumbent Senator Jeff Denham for the 12th Senate District seat.

Salinas, D-Salinas, whose third and final term in the Assembly will be up next year, said a senate seat is the natural progression for an Assemblymember and added that he has begun the process to raise funds for the upcoming campaign. Although he knows the difficulty in attempting to unseat an incumbent, he believes his experience will give him the leg up he needs.

“Everybody in the Assembly knows you move on to the senate seat, so I figured I’d give it a shot,” Salinas said. “I am fully aware of the power of incumbency, but hopefully people are aware that I’m an incumbent of the Assembly and I think it’s about giving voters a choice.”

Denham, R-Merced said his experience in the Senate will give him an edge over his opponent. However, he said for the time being his focus is on the job at hand – working on the state budget and the bills he has before the legislature – not something that will happen in 18 months.

“I’m focused… on doing the people’s business right now in Sacramento,” Denham said. “If Simon is running I look forward to an honest debate on issues that are very important to those in the 12th District, like education, public safety, agriculture and keeping safe spending in line.”

Denham, who was recently named the chairman of the agriculture committee in the Senate, plans to focus on agricultural issues, Salinas believes affordable housing, healthcare and education are top priorities affecting constituents.

Denham’s aide, Nick Rappley said the Senator is ready for open, honest debates between him and Salinas.

As Salinas prepares to leave his post as the 28th Assembly District’s leader, a couple political hopefuls are thinking about taking his spot. Republican Bob Perkins, who ran a losing race against Salinas in 2004, said he would like to run again and believes his experience in last year’s campaign will help garner him a win this time.

Monterey County Supervisor Fernando Armenta said he’s still thinking about it and should make a decision by the end of the month.

“My issue right now is can I be a more effective official at the county board level versus Sacramento,” Armenta said. “But if I end up deciding I won’t run for Assembly now, it doesn’t mean I won’t rule it out in 2008.”

At this time, Salinas said he hasn’t heard about anyone else throwing their hat into the Senate race. And although both he and Denham believe they are best suited for the job based on experience and devotion to the state and people they represent, it will eventually be up to the voters to decide come November 2006.

Each is sure to hit the pavement hard come campaign time in an effort to make every voter see it their way, but each man has a life outside the political sphere in case he doesn’t make the cut.

Denham owns an almond orchard in the Central Valley, and Salinas was an elementary and college teacher, he said.

“You always keep your options open,” Salinas said. “Everything isn’t politics.”

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