State Senate race, take two; Blakeslee, Laird face off in Aug. 17 special election

Sam Blakeslee

A ballot for state Senate District 15? This must be Groundhog
Day.
Just six weeks ago voters cast their ballots for either Sam
Blakeslee, John Laird, Mark Hinkle or Jim Fitzgerald, but because
no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote and since
all four represent different political parties
– voters will essentially re-do the election Aug. 17.
A ballot for state Senate District 15? This must be Groundhog Day.

Just six weeks ago voters cast their ballots for either Sam Blakeslee, John Laird, Mark Hinkle or Jim Fitzgerald, but because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote and since all four represent different political parties – voters will essentially re-do the election Aug. 17.

The district stretches from the central coast to the Silicon Valley, swooping up historically conservative-leaning cities such as Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo and wrapping around central Gilroy to pick up San Martin and Morgan Hill into south San Jose to Los Gatos and Saratoga.

In the June 22 primary election, current District 33 Assemblyman Blakeslee was close, and needed only a few hundred additional votes to capture the race outright and avoid a runoff election in two weeks. He secured 49.4 percent of the vote, while 27th Assemblyman Laird took 41.8 percent. Retired UPS transportation manager Jim Fitzgerald, running on the independent ticket, acquired 5.9 percent and small business owner and Morgan Hill resident Mark Hinkle took 2.9 percent.

The elections were called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after former state Senator Abel Maldonado was appointed to Lt. Governor.

Laird, who lives in Santa Cruz, was elected to represent the 27th Assembly district in 2002, 2004 and 2006 and served as the budget committee chair for four years. San Luis Obispo resident Blakeslee was elected to the 33rd Assembly district in 2004 and was re-elected in 2006 and 2008.

Laird lists protecting vital local services, supporting the public university and college systems and promoting bi-partisanship as his priorities. Blakeslee has voted through legislation to promote energy efficiency, job creation and no early release for prisoners.

Fitzgerald of Nipomo has been vocal against off-shore drilling but favors an oil extraction tax to support education. He has marketed himself as a non-partisan candidate who supports pension reform that more closely reflects the private sector.

Hinkle is a retired engineer and member of the Libertarian party since 1974. He has advocated that it’s time for a change from the do-nothing two-party system in Sacramento. Hinkle was an adamant opponent of the open primary Proposition 14, referred to as “Top-Two Go,” that mandated the top two vote-getters in a primary – typically a Republican and a Democrat – would move onto the general election. The proposition makes it almost impossible for a third party candidate to get elected, Hinkle has said.

In the June 22 election, Blakeslee won in Santa Clara County with 47 percent of the vote; San Luis Obispo County with 58 percent; and Santa Barbara County, 62 percent.

Laird won Santa Cruz County with 56 percent of the vote, and in Monterey County, 55 percent.

If Laird captures the seat, Senate Democrats will be just one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to approve budgets and pass tax proposals.

Laird and Blakeslee will debate Thursday in Santa Clara at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The debate is not open to the public.

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