This is arguably the most Republican Assembly District in the state, yet the candidates are not overly partisan in nature. They all have fiscally conservative beliefs, but understand they are running to govern in a state that is heavily dominated by Democrats and are determined to create a more family and business friendly environment.
“I think if you talk to people and I don’t like to put people in corners, we are all Californians and want to have a good job and take care of our family. It’s important to protect economic freedoms and be left alone by the burdensome government,” said Bill Brough, a candidate for the 73rd Assembly District. “Everyone can relate to the American Dream that way. The opportunity is here to do anything you want with your life if you just take it and run with it and that is under jeopardy.”
“Its economic down here, people pay a lot of taxes, businesses have been hit with taxation and regulation and a lot of people have left or contemplated leaving the state because it’s so expensive to do business,” Brough added. “We need to reform the business and tax code to not only keep business, but lure new businesses in for the people out of work.”
Along with Brough, a member of the Dana Point City Council and former chief of staff to the incumbent member, Diane Harkey, the district has attracted a total of five Republican candidates.
Steve Baric, an attorney, is member of the Rancho Santa Margarita City Council and served as vice chair of the California Republican Party. Anna Bryson is a trustee on the Capistrano Unified School District and a businesswoman. Paul Glaab is a former member of the Laguna Niguel City Council and is owner of a public affairs company. Jesse Petrilla is a member of the Rancho Margarita City Council, an officer in the Army National Guard and the owner of a telecommunications company.
“Well the tragedy for our state right now is the people that are leaving. These people are in the major wage earning years from 35 to 55 and they are leaving by the thousands,” said Bryson. “It has to stop. This state is destined for much more. They are going where there is no state income tax. We are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg if we continue down this track for the hard working people who deserve to have a life here in the sun like anyone else, have a job and a good education for their children and it’s not unique to any group and it’s not unique to any segment or any people and it’s not asking too much.”
For those who watch California politics from afar, it’s quite a conundrum for a California coastal district, a region known through the country as a hot bed of so many liberal movements. Today, the California coast is dominated by liberals and moderates, but southern Orange County remains a conservative stronghold.
“This is a very traditional conservative district where people just want to take care of their families and they see it becoming more and more difficult in California to provide the same opportunities for their families that they had themselves,” said Petrilla. “There are a number of regulations I have encountered doing business here, for example the process just to establish a business with the Secretary of State and paying the fees to start a business. It’s no wonder people are leaving the state and we need to fight to change that.”
The district is the home of Richard Nixon’s Western White House along the San Clemente shores. It is a pristine region that has experienced explosive growth as the Los Angeles and San Diego Metro areas meld together, with only Camp Pendleton providing a coastal buffer between the two. As the region has grown and suburbanized, the new 73rd Assembly District is more compact and fully contained in southernmost portion of Orange County.
Eight out of 10 voters are here are white and it has the highest percentage of GOP voters, 48.5 percent and lowest percentage of Democrats, 25 percent. In 2010, Meg Whitman defeated Jerry Brown by 31 percent and in 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by 20 percent.
It is a quintessential suburban district that attracts people who want to raise a family in a community with good schools, parks and recreational activities. “I’ve got a young son, he’s 6 years old and you know the way things are going in California and Sacramento, he’s going to have to grow up and get a job out of state. I want to fix California so he can stay here and have a future,” said Baric.
Capistrano Unified School District is the highest performing large school district in the state. Bryson is a member of the Board of Trustees and said she is committed to ensuring all education dollars reach students throughout California.
“First of all I believe in education and for the right of children to have a good education. Well we have a lot of areas in the state of California where students don’t learn the skills to keep a check book, to go into business, to take care of their families and their reading skills are low,” said Bryson. “You can’t participate in a society if you don’t have the tools and we have to provide those tools. I would like to see that opportunity to the access to the best education for all the children in California. They deserve it. It’s a right and I would like to make sure they get it.”
“I’m very concerned about distribution of funding in Prop. 30,” Bryson added. “I would like to see the money attached to the children like a little backpack. The money should go where the children go instead of special interests.”
The candidates here believe that California is in such dire straits under the current economy, business climate and the high cost of living that they will be able to govern with Democrats.
“Both Democrats and Republicans alike see the financial problems we are in and heading towards so I am confident we can find level headed Democrats so we can push issues like regulatory reform. If unions want to keep their pensions they are going to have to find ways to keep the economy strong in California,” said Petrilla. “There is no reason to sacrifice values. It is about finding values we share. Both Democrats and Republicans love California and our way of approaching the problem can differ drastically on occasion….It means finding the ones that see the economic troubles and that we are able to work with. I don’t think it means sacrificing our values at all.”
Baric believes that the GOP has a strong message for all Californian’s and believes that all Californians are concerned about the state and Republicans have an opportunity to lead.
“I think that our message resonates with all Californians; a smaller more efficient government. Everyone wants jobs and opportunities and all that California has to offer,” said Baric. “In southern Orange County we have a lot of young families and they are concerned that their kids are going to go out of California for a better life and I think that Californians all feel the same way. They want a strong economy, they want to feel safe and they want a good education.”
“We have to put a modern face on our conservative movement. We need to take someone to Sacramento that is in the conversion business and not preaching to choir,” Baric added.
Glaab is a conservative Republican and is focused deeply on economic issues. He said he brings extensive experience working with Democrats outside of southern Orange County on the boards of the Southern California Association of Governments and Metrolink, among other groups.
“I think it is important that the candidate establishes long term relationships. I’m a conservative Republican, but that does not get in my way of governing,” said Glaab. “I think there are a number of people from my caucus that tend to be mean spirited and throw a lot of bombs and that doesn’t make you effective, it makes you less effective. But the point is you have to sit there and think how do we get something done and how do we be effective. It’s not about compromising your base principals it’s about getting the job done and how you can work effectively.”
Although some of the candidates hold traditionally conservative views on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage that aren’t popular statewide it’s casual dating norge not part of their campaign or legislative package if elected to the Assembly. “I want people to make their own decisions. I am not favor of abortion or gay marriage, but I recognize people have their own lifestyle they want to lead,” said Glaab.
“I am going to focus on what unites us and I will share with my constituents we need to get things done. Government is fundamentally broken and our education system is broken,” said Glaab. “It’s getting things done and making the state better.”
Ed’s Note: Nik Bonovich, who has written extensively for the Target Book, is a regular contributor to Capitol Weekly.