Citing the need to restore fiscal responsibility to the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Republican Doug Haaland said Friday he plans to challenge Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, in the 8th Assembly District.
Haaland said his priorities include focusing on job creation in the district and helping tamp down the Legislature’s urge to spend an influx of revenue. The 61-year-old recently retired after spending nearly three decades as an aide at the Capitol.
“After 27 years of working in the building, I know legislators get excited when they see the word ‘surplus,’ ” Haaland said in an interview.
The Democratic supermajorities in both houses have not been productive, he added.
Asked to comment on Haaland’s entry into the race, Cooley deferred to Andrew Acosta, his political consultant.
“Assemblyman Cooley is focused on his job as a member of the state Legislature,” Acosta said. “There will be plenty of time for politics down the line.”
The 8th Assembly District stretches from Citrus Heights to south of Wilton, taking in Rancho Cordova, Rancho Murieta and Rosemont.
While it favors Democrats in voter registration, 41 percent to 36.5 percent, fewer than 15,000 votes separated Cooley from Republican Peter Tateishi with President Barack Obama running at the top of the ticket in 2012.
Haaland contemplated jumping into that race but ultimately decided against it.
He held a number of jobs in state government, including as the chief of staff to Assemblyman Phil Wyman, R-Hanford, and Assemblywoman Shirley Horton, R-Chula Vista. He later spent time as the director of member services for the Assembly Republican Caucus.
A resident of Arden Park, Haaland has been president of the Rosemont Community Association for nearly a dozen years.
Cooley also spent years as a legislative aide, with a résumé that includes stints as chief of staff to former Assemblyman Lou Papan, D-Millbrae, and chief counsel to the Assembly Banking and Insurance committee. During the last election, he took a leave of absence as legislative director to Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, after becoming principal consultant to the Senate Insurance Committee.
In addition to his legislative duties, Cooley has become well known for his guided tours of the Capitol.
“There is no doubt that it’s going to be a bit of a mountain,” Haaland said. “I will give Ken all the credit in the world for being good at the retail (politics) part of things.”
Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.