Local voters got up close and personal Friday night with four Republican candidates who are vying for the 67th State Assembly District seat that includes Lake Elsinore and Wildomar.
A crowd of nearly 60 turned out for the candidates’ forum held at Menifee Lakes Country Club and hosted by Southwest Conservative Republicans.
The 90-minute forum featured mostly partisan questions pitched to the candidates by the Southwest Conservative Republicans board, the audience and event emcee former Senator Dennis Hollingsworth (R). The candidates were not provided questions ahead of time, according to event organizers, and responses were held to a time limit.
The event offered watchers a chance to spot some differences among the four. Click here to read more about the candidates and see links to their campaign websites.
When asked if it is ever ok to raise taxes, candidate Phil Paule promised no new taxes if elected, while contenders Bob Magee and Melissa Melendez offered careful answers.
“No net gain,” Magee said; Melendez urged she would only consider an increase if it “balanced out” for taxpayers.
“We need to strangle the beast,” said candidate Ken Dickson of taxes, but added, “I’m not an anarchist. We have to pay the bills.”
On the question of controlling “runaway government spending,” Magee said he would first get control over government pensions if elected, and Paule explained he would work to kill the state’s high-speed rail proposal.
Magee said that while serving on the Lake Elsinore City Council he has voted in favor of some difficult-to-make city staff cuts. As a result, he argued that the state needs to follow the city and county’s lead in making the hard decisions.
“The state is the last domino that needs to fall,” he said.
Of the high-speed rail project, Paule said, “It’s an unnecessary liberal pipe dream.”
When the candidates were asked what their first piece of legislation would be if elected, Magee said he would introduce a bill to cut Caltrans.
“It’s a 14,000-person bureaucracy,” he said, adding that roads and bridges need to be built, but “Caltrans is in the way.”
Melendez said her first piece of legislation would be to get California waived from participating in “Obamacare.”
“We can’t afford to participate,” she said.
On the question of what the candidates would do to “restore Christian values in Sacramento” and how they would contend with current legislation designed to open the door for students to learn about important people in history who were gay, Dickson said, “Homosexuality is confusion. We need to be diligent … for our culture,” adding that he sees such legislation as a “a serious threat” to conservative values.
Paule called the legislation, AB 48, “absurd,” and said he would not allow his child to go to school on “gay history day.”
In response to the question, Melendez said she would partner with church groups, and Magee offered that there should be less emphasis on what makes people different.
When asked who they would pick for president if forced to vote now, Melendez said she would cast her ballot for Newt Gingrich, while the rest of the candidates said they would choose Mitt Romney.