Hopeful June primary candidates for the 1st District Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the California Assembly District 67 and State Senate District 42 were on hand Thursday, May 26, at the Tuscany Hills HOA Clubhouse in Lake Elsinore for a meet the candidate’s political forum.
The candidate meet and greet forum, sponsored by the Lake Elsinore Citizens Committee and hosted by the Tuscany Hills HOA brought almost 100 residents and seven candidates for the important state, federal and county government positions. Public safety, the environment and local economy were the main topics of the candidates’ discussions at the forum.
Arriving at the HOA Tuscany Hills Clubhouse on Summerhill Drive were 1st District Riverside County Board of Supervisors candidates, incumbent supervisor Kevin Jeffries and challengers Britt Holstrom and Debbie Walsh; Assembly District 67 candidates were Republican incumbent Melissa Melendez and her Democratic Party challenger, Jorge Lopez; and US House of Representatives 42nd Congressional District challengers, Democrat Tim Sheridan and Independent Kerri Condley. Incumbant 42nd Congressional District Ken Calvert was not in attendance and in Washington D.C.
A Citizens Committee moderator guided the forum giving each candidate 10 minutes to introduce themselves and the issues they will address if elected to the government positions. Questions and answers could be solicited during the 10-minute presentation or in the second hour at the candidate’s table set up in the clubhouse.
Here is what the candidates had to say in brief:
Riverside County 1st District Supervisor candidates
Kevin Jeffries, 1st District Supervisor incumbent: “I get things done,” said Jeffries pointing out his achievements while in office that include voting against supervisors pay raises, replacing the leadership in the County Hospital, created the Temescal Canyon Road Improvement program, helped repeal the “Sun Tax” so solar companies could hire more workers, hosted town hall community receptions to listen to residents and their neighborhood problems and improve services and helped increase the Sheriff’s deputy to resident ratios.
“Our biggest team challenge for all of us is the growth that is coming to Riverside County,” Jeffries observed. “It is the growth that is already happening.” He said the county never wants to be like Los Angeles County with its overcrowding and cement freeways everywhere. He claimed the county’s biggest mistake was not “focusing on job creation.” He said he would help put the emphasis on that problem and try to work to keep Riverside County residents in county with their work.
“I seek transparency, openness and ethics reforms in the county’s development plans,” Jeffries said.
Britt Holstrom, a 1st District challenger, said she is a retired nurse and has kept her eye on Riverside County for many years. “We need a change,” she said. “It starts with you and me.” She said Riverside County residents need to work together in bringing more alternate energy to the communities. “We need a different kind of energy. Things that don’t explode,” she said looking toward bringing in more sun and wind energy sources to the county.
She was critical of the choices made by the nation in fighting the recent wars, and that “soldiers need to make the right choice. There are other ways to build up our country at home,” alluding to the Peace Corps and Vista programs. “The soldiers,” she said should not be robots of war, but “should make peace all over the world.”
She noted the county does need to help its returning wounded war veterans. “We need to do everything we can do to make them whole again.” Once they have been made whole again she suggested instead of just giving them homes they should be able to help build them. “It’s a good place to begin,” she said commending what Habitat for Humanity does.
She was also critical of the “meat eaters” who should be more aware of the value of insects and the animals in the world. “We should teach children the value of insects.”
Debbie Walsh, the independent candidate campaigning for the 1st District seat took a different stance on veterans at the forum, introducing her husband as a Vietnam War Veteran. She is a supporter of the American Legion and for the nation to do everything it can for veterans and active duty military.
She says her top priorities are to reopen the Canyon Lake Fire Station, put more Riverside County deputies on patrol, create real jobs and preserve the county’s critical open space. She pointed to her knowledge of the county’s and District 1 greatest needs through working with former Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster’s as his legislative assistant for five years.
“Public safety is the one big thing for me,” said Walsh. She cited some of the county’s rising crime statistics, particularly in the unincorporated areas. She said she would work to bring back the COPs program to the county so more deputies can be hired on the R.O.V.E (Riverside Off-highway Vehicle Enforcement) and patrol duties. She believes that the county should help provide more rehabilitation and education programs for prisoners as well to give them better work ethics and keep them from going back to jail.
She told the residents Canyon Lake lost the use of its only fire station and it is time for the County to renegotiate a more favorable contract that will allow Station 60 to reopen.
She said she would also insure that the county keeps the land set aside for conservation and wildlife preservation and not sell it to developers in the future.
67th Assembly District candidates
Melissa Melendez, the incumbent candidate for the California 67th Assembly District and a former Lake Elsinore City Councilwoman, said for the past two years in the Assembly she has been fighting to “undo Proposition 47” that reduced the penalties for the theft of handguns, if the gun is valued below $950, and the possession of the date rape drug from felonies to misdemeanors and bills, like AB 109 that allow less violent inmates early releases.
“Public Safety is my main concern,” said Melendez at the forum. She said the public safety committee she is on in Sacramento is the most challenging of all the committees. “I have been trying to address this issue (gun theft penalties) to the voters… this is not a partisan issue.” The Date Rape bill died in the appropriations committee. She said the voters should have the final say on these matters and hopes that her AB 1869 will reverse the gun theft portion of Proposition 47.
She also explained how she has introduced a bill to expand the state’s Megan’s Law list to include family members who have been convicted of sex crimes against their own children.
She said she is or has introduced bills to return the date rape drug to illegal status, the state needs to put more of its money into the repairs of California’s highways, return license fee registration money to the cities that is now kept by the state and known violent criminals should be kept in prison for longer periods of time.
Jorge Lopez, an ex-Marine and Lake Elsinore resident who has served in the Middle East and Africa, and challenger for the 67th District seat said he has three main issues he will focus on in the State Legislature if he is elected.
He said he would work to offer free tuition to college for everyone, and to criminals being released from jails so “they don’t end up in jail again. If they have a job to go to they will, instead of committing crimes.
He is also a proponent for the state and federal government to provide universal health care for everybody. “We really do have a very expensive and really good health care system in California and it should be nationwide,” Lopez suggested. “Besides that, it will be good for business because they (employers) would not have to provide (health care) to their employees.”
“Local jobs is one of the biggest things here,” Lopez continued. “Everyone is afraid of losing their jobs. We should have wind (energy) jobs for everybody.” He said the state has high speed rail planned. “We should use the state budget surplus to get it started
He believes the people of the state are not getting the right value for their taxes and he is an advocate for men and women to have equal pay.
42nd State Congressional District candidates
California’s 42nd District incumbent Ken Calvert was invited to the forum but was not in attendance.
Tim Sheridan, the Democratic challenger for the District, took the floor to tell those attending he pledged he would be an elected Congressman who would not take any “Congressional Junkets” like other congressmen. Noting that Calvert was not in attendance. “I will be active in the community and actively involved.”
He asked how many in the audience were on Social Security and many raised their hands. He told them that they had not received any COLA (Cost of Living) raise this year like in past years. He noted that those on Social Security needed such raises just to keep up with ever increasing costs and without it they would be suffering. He said he would work to make sure COLA increases would be provided every year and not held back. “I also oppose the privatization of Social Security,” Sheridan said.
He said he would also see that the high interest rates on student loans were way too high and pledged to decrease them if elected.
“I would also see that we take care of our veterans. They should get all the benefits the Veterans Administration officers,” he said.
He said there needs to be a climate change and that everyone needs good paying jobs in the district.
Kerri Condley, a newspaper owner and accomplished gymnast, is running as an Independent candidate for the 42nd District and appeared at the forum. She told those attending that she was from a long time military family and sees veteran as very important to her, especially for the rising number of those thinking of committing suicide, like many others in recent years. “I would call for a Congressional Committee to address the issue.”
She also advocates a 5 percent pay raise for active duty troops, and ask for $2 billion for emergency funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs to upgrade veteran medical facilities along with making the paperwork to get veteran’s medical benefits much simpler.
She also advocates protecting Social Security and fight against any benefit cuts that might come up in Congress. She reports, “With traditional pension plans nearing extinction, future generations will rely on Social Security to an even greater extent.”
In closing her 10 minutes she said she is a community activist that supports women’s equality to men. She said that in the California Congressional districts there are hardly any women representatives and that is one reason she is running as a candidate. “Count on me to stand up for women,” she said with applause from the women at the forum. “Women solve problems and get things done!” she declared.