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Election 2018: Ted Gaines seeks tax board seat

Republican state Sen.Ted Gaines remembers the day when Democratic presidential contender Jimmy Carter visited Sacramento.

As the 1976 presidential race heated up, Carter’s appearance offered a defining moment for the future legislator working as a Gerald Ford campaign volunteer.

“They expect me to let them work hard and protect what they’ve earned. They want politicians to leave them alone.” — Ted Gaines

Democrats and Republicans alike viewed California as up for grabs. When Carter arrived for a campaign event, Gaines, then a high-school senior, and a contingent of fellow Republicans showed up. Their goal was to provide what Gaines called a “visible presence” as a counterpoint to the Democratic nominee.

“He shook my hand. He said, ‘I hope you reconsider your voting decision,’” Gaines said. “He was very genuine and polite. It was a reminder that politics are about differences in philosophy. Those of us who disagree on politics can still choose to get along personally.”

Four decades later, the conservative Gaines is still in the political world: He’s running for the District 1 seat on the state Board of Equalization.

Since 2011, the former Rio Americano High track standout has represented the 1st Senate District, the Senate’s second-most conservative district. Some 42.6 percent of the district’s registered voters are Republican — fully 15 percent above the statewide GOP registration – in a region stretching from Folsom and Roseville to the Oregon border. Politics is part of the Gaines’ family: When he left the Assembly to run for the Senate, his wife Beth successfully ran for his Assembly seat and served there for five years.

California’s top three GOP strongholds by county – Modoc, Lassen and Shasta – exist in Gaines’ territory. Voters first elected the former Assemblyman to the Senate in a special election in January 2011. He then won re-election bids in 2012 and 2016 by wide margins.

The board remains a popular destination for termed-out lawmakers, especially Republicans, who have been shut out of statewide offices.

“They don’t have much time to focus on politics. They expect me to let them work hard and protect what they’ve earned,” he said in describing his base. “They want politicians to leave them alone.”

Gaines is running for a seat on the BOE that comprises a vast portion of rural, interior California, stretching from deep in Southern California to the Oregon line.

The seat is currently held by Republican George Runner, a former lawmaker, who is termed out. For details on the board and its district’s click here.

The board drew fire last year for nepotism and its fiscal management. Legislation signed by Gov. Brown shifted many of its duties to a different state entity. But the board remains a popular destination for termed-out lawmakers, especially Republicans, who have been shut out of statewide offices. Statewide, voter registration tilts heavily Democratic.

The right-leaning Gaines appears to be a logical fit for the BOE’s District 1, especially in the northern part, where he has strong name ID.

But going south, it may be a different story.

Former Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway is in the race, and she had a substantial public profile during her years of leadership. She currently runs a consulting business in the Central Valley and is a member of the Community College Board of Governors.

“If the players signed a contract that doesn’t forbid speaking out or kneeling, it’s their right.” — Ted Gaines

Conway and Gaines have spent similar amounts on their campaigns — he about $225,000, and her about $260,000

Others seeking the seat are Democrat Tom Hallinan, a city attorney and Republican David Evans, and accountant from California City, who lists his occupation as “chief financial officer.”

Gaines’ ancestors grazed cattle and grew winter wheat in Roseville. Gaines’ dad owned an insurance brokerage in Sacramento and supported the local Rotary Club.  His mother graduated with a biology degree from UC Berkeley – only to be forbidden by her father from pursuing medical school. After raising five children, Winnie Gaines became one of the first ordained female Episcopal ministers in Northern California.

Gaines joined the “Here We Stay” committee that helped keep the Sacramento Kings from moving and helped build the Golden 1 Center arena.

Many staunch conservatives criticized NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem, but Gaines disagreed.

“I don’t have a problem with it, as long as it’s within the confines of their contract,” Gaines explained. “If the players signed a contract that doesn’t forbid speaking out or kneeling, it’s their right. I may not agree with their methods, but it’s their right if it doesn’t violate their contract.”

Gaines says he supports immigration policy that embraces asylum-seekers and newcomers of “all socio-economic levels of employment.” While supporting the idea of ID-mandatory voting, he criticized states who closed DMV offices after enacting voter ID laws.

“Ted is a problem-solver. He doesn’t follow trends and understands the real world. He finds solutions that are time-tested,” said District 16 Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield). “He’s always talking to different groups of people. His strength as a leader comes from his energy.”

Despite the GOP’s registration problems in heavily blue California, Gaines is optimistic about the California GOP’s long-term survival.

But he drew fire in 2015 when his chief of staff, Steve Davey, was accused of sexual harassment, which Davey denied. Gaines asked him to resign from his Senate office job, but then hired him for his 2016 campaign operation.

“I immediately communicated with Mr. Davey, who adamantly denied the accusation of sexual harassment,” Gaines told the Los Angeles Times. “After giving the matter serious consideration, I made the decision to ask Mr. Davey to separate from my Senate office.”

This year, Gaines drafted Senate Bill 1218, which would make contributions to the so-called “529” college savings plans – up to $20,000 per-beneficiary, per year – tax deductible. He joined fellow GOP Sens. Tom Berryhill and Mike Morrell in authoring SB 996, an attempt to lower the state’s corporate income tax rate from 8.84 percent to 6.84 percent.

Both bills face an uphill climb in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Despite the GOP’s registration problems in heavily blue California, Gaines is optimistic about the California GOP’s long-term survival.

Its “positions will endure over time,” Gaines said while citing the raw data: Of all the 50 states, only Texas owns a larger voting bloc of Republicans.

“What we’re speaking of are points that are unpopular to Californians in many ways,” he said. “We’re the party that doesn’t want California to go into insolvency. We’re the CPA looking at the bottom line.”

In some ways, state politics has changed more than Gaines since the ’70s.

Gaines joined his twin daughters to see Paul McCartney open the Golden 1 Center in 2016.  As a teenager, he watched Foghat play the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium and Peter Frampton rock the Oakland Coliseum.

He first saw the Capitol Building’s interior during a day off from junior high, alongside a friend whose dad was a state legislator. From the balcony they watched heated debates over the Santa Barbara oil spill, marijuana laws and race relations.

“It taught me how you can have an impact,” he remembered. “If you’re on the sideline and you want to make a difference, you have to get in the game and fight the fight.”


  • gimmemymoney

    Looks like Ted has become the typical Kalifornia politician… jumping from one government paycheck to another… Time to go back to your business world…

  • Soupy-Bonnie Louk Mekong

    You just lost my vote right there sir. If you don’t care if someone respects our flag or not, then you don’t fit to represent me because I love and respect our flag dearly.

  • Terib

    My father was in the Military and since you don’t care if someone doesn’t respect our flag and our country I afraid I can not and will not vote for you.

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