While it’s good to have fresh faces in the Legislature, term limits already force some turnover and challengers must show voters that they would be better representatives.
That isn’t the case in four Sacramento-area races on Nov. 6. We recommend keeping the four incumbents: Sen. Richard Pan and Assemblymen Kevin McCarty, Ken Cooley and Jim Cooper.
Senate District 6
Democrat Pan has done well for his district, which covers most of Sacramento County, plus West Sacramento. A pediatrician, he is also a respected voice at the state Capitol on health care. He has worked to expand coverage, especially for children. He has put public health first, even when it put him in the cross-hairs of the anti-vaccination crowd.
This past session, he authored a bill to require larger counties to have independent medical examiners. Under an antiquated system that has led to abuses in San Joaquin County and elsewhere, a sheriff can also serve as coroner. That presents an inherent conflict of interest when ruling on killings by law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. Pan should try again with the next governor.
Pan’s opponent is Eric Frame, a Bernie Sanders supporter and Green Party member who finished second in the June primary as an independent. Frame says he wants to represent the “99 percent” and tackle human trafficking, corruption, homelessness and health care.
Assembly District 7
McCarty, a Democrat and former Sacramento City Council member first elected to this seat in 2014, also has been a strong representative. He has been outspoken on the killing of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police and co-authored a bill that would have put stricter limits on when law enforcement officers can use deadly force.
While that controversial measure, Assembly Bill 931, was eventually delayed, McCarty stood up to the powerful law enforcement lobby. That’s the kind of responsiveness voters should want in a local legislator.
He again faces token opposition, this time Republican Scott Schmidt, a real estate agent who took advantage of a flaw in the top-two primary by getting on the November ballot with just 237 write-in votes.
Assembly District 8
Cooley, a Democrat, has deep ties in the district, which covers eastern Sacramento County. He served as mayor and councilman in Rancho Cordova for a decade before winning the seat in 2012.
As chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee, Cooley found himself in the middle of the sexual harassment debate when, last October, the We Said Enough campaign released a letter signed by 150 women about the toxic culture at the state Capitol.
While he said the right things and promised to protect women who reported harassment, a bill to guarantee public access to complaints against legislators and high-level staff members died in his committee.
Cooley says he wanted to let a subcommittee finish its work, which led to the adoption in June of new policies, including the release of some documents when harassment claims have been substantiated or discipline has been imposed. In addition, a new unit in the Legislative Counsel’s office will investigate misconduct complaints and a separate panel of experts will determine the facts and recommend responses, though legislators will still decide discipline.
If he is re-elected, Cooley promises to make sure the new policies are followed, which he must.
Melinda Avey, a small business owner who lives in Fair Oaks, is the kind of moderate Republican that California needs. But she doesn’t have any experience in elected office and hasn’t made a strong enough case to oust Cooley.
Assembly District 9
Cooper, a former Sacramento County sheriff’s captain who first won his seat in 2014, has been a vocal supporter of law enforcement — sometimes to a fault. He has also worked with victims groups and others to push back against moves to reduce sentences and send fewer people to prison. He has led a pro-business group of Democrats, which has made him a target of liberal activists.
While we don’t always agree with Cooper, he does reflect the views of voters in his district, which stretches from Elk Grove to Lodi.
He’s up against fellow Democrat Harry He, an information technology manager who is running an anti-establishment campaign. We want younger people involved in politics, but He needs more seasoning, perhaps by seeking a local office first.