This endorsement ran Tuesday in the Modesto Bee.
In touting the new system for electing legislators and congressional representatives in California, advocates emphasized that the top two vote-getters might be from the same party. This prediction could come true in the 5th Assembly District, a heavily Republican district that stretches from South Lake Tahoe to south of Mammoth Lakes, with a boot toe into Madera County.
The district sprawls across nine counties, and more than half the geography is within a national forest or park. This area supported the Republican candidates in the last gubernatorial and presidential elections.
If voter registration were not enough of an edge, two Republicans in this race have the most money, endorsements and name recognition. They are Madera County Supervisor and rancher Frank Bigelow and San Andreas businessman and former legislator Rico Oller.
Oller wants to return to the Capitol, where he served in the Assembly from 1996 to 2000 and in the Senate from 2000 to 2004. Under the current term limits law, if elected he would be eligible for only one more term in the Assembly.
Oller has picked up endorsements from several county central committees in the district and from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He signed the "no new taxes" pledge and said his primary reason for running is to oppose the state's global warming law, AB 32, which will limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Oller declined the opportunity for an interview with the Modesto Bee's editorial board, indicating he either doesn't want or doesn't expect our recommendation.
Regardless, Bigelow stands out as the best candidate in this field.
As a county supervisor, he is painfully aware of how the actions and inactions in Sacramento have affected local governments. Bigelow has the endorsement of several Republican legislators from the region, including Sens. Tom Berryhill and Anthony Cannella and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen.
Far more than Oller, Bigelow appears willing to work with moderates and conservatives on behalf of the district. El Dorado and Madera counties have by far the largest number of registered voters in this district and both those central committees supported Bigelow, as did the California Farm Bureau.
A third Republican on the ballot, Kevin Lancaster, is not actively campaigning.
Marc Boyd of Arnold is by far the stronger of two Democrats in the race. The substitute teacher and former small businessman has the endorsement of the state party and aligns with the governor and the party on many issues. He supports implementation of AB 32 and favors the revised plan for high-speed rail as a landmark investment for the state.
The other Democrat, Tim Fitzgerald of Sonora, holds multiple degrees and touts his expertise in economics, but has no experience in elected office.
Mark Belden of Railroad Flat in Calaveras County is the lone independent in the race and offers himself as a social moderate and fiscal conservative.
He presents an interesting mix of views, opposing any efforts to relax the "three-strikes" law or to shorten prison sentences because of crowding but at the same time favoring eliminating the death penalty. He said he will neither oppose nor support same-sex marriage legislation.
In a phone interview, Belden became flustered and annoyed when asked to be more specific on subjects such as how public pensions might be reformed.
When asked about improving access to higher education, he said the Legislature should review the college curriculum and weed out programs and courses that aren't in high-demand fields such as engineering. The Legislature is already too involved in telling educators at all levels what to teach.
Given the conservative nature of the area and the voter registration numbers, the 5th Assembly District likely will end up being represented by a Republican, and we would like to see that be Bigelow. Boyd offers a strong contrast and is the second best choice to move forward to the November ballot.