When asked by her opponent at a debate this week why she chose to run for state office in a new district representing the Westside, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler responded, "I don’t agree with some of the South Bay’s ideologies."
Butler has taken heat for not currently living in the newly carved 50th Assembly District, where she is locked in a tight race with Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom. (His endorsements also include members of city councils in the Westside district, including from Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Malibu).
The two 50th Assembly candidates spoke to a crowd of about 40 Monday night during a two-hour forum hosted by Brentwood News and moderated by its publisher, Jeff Hall.
The new district spans north to Agoura Hills, east to Hollywood and southwest to Santa Monica. Bloom touts 13 years of experience governing at the local level in Santa Monica while Butler draws on her experience as the current representative in the 53rd Assembly District, which mostly covers the South Bay. She edged Bloom in the June 5 primary by a mere 137 votes.
In responding to Bloom's question, Butler went on to say she got backlash from Torrance residents for her "yes" vote on the DREAM Act and from Redondo Beach residents for supporting a bill prohibiting the open carry of certain types of unloaded firearms.
When asked if she had anything to ask Bloom, Butler said, "no, not really."
During the debate, Butler countered Bloom's claims that jobs and businesses are leaving California, citing Apple relocating "billions and billions of investment out of state." She did not delve into specifics, but said the state is growing and "has a very diverse pool of opportunity."
Both agreed it's expensive to do business in California.
They also took similar positions on so-called affordable housing, lamenting the loss of redevelopment agencies, which funded the construction of new units across California.
Butler said she supports Proposition 30, but not Proposition 38, while Bloom said he would vote for both.
"I thought it was a phenomenal event," said Elyse Arbour, of Brentwood, after the candidate forum. "I was undecided tonight. Now I've made up my mind."
Her husband, Robert, said Jeff Hall was a better moderator than Jim Lehrer, taking a jab at how the first 2012 presidential debate was run.
"The distinction is Mayor Bloom is more of a John Sperling, Bill Clinton Democrat," he said. "He's liberal on the issues, and [knows] you have to grow your business community."
Marylin Krell, president of the South Brentwood Homeowners Association, said the forum went well.
"Their backgrounds are quite different and it's illustrated in their answers," she said about the two Democrats. "Betsy's answers to many [questions] were way better. She has more experience. His were too general."
Here's a sampling of the questions and answers, which were condensed by Patch:
Q. What is the nature of the new primary system we went through?
Bloom: It's the open primary and the winner is the top two finishers. This district runs roughly from Malibu all the way out to Hollywood. It's 53 percent Democrat and 19 percent Republican. Most of ballots are independent votes and it puts everyone in same polling place. Because of the demographics, this district selected two Democrats. I was lucky to come within 120 votes of first place. It was almost a virtual tie. We’re trying to de-polarize the legislature in California. I think it's a noble and important experiment in democracy. It empowers moderate elements that felt disenfranchised before. And for me, personally, it puts me in good territory.
Butler: As Richard mentioned, this is an experiment, a very expensive experiment. This is a Democratic district, so are the values that you believe in justice and equality. The Republicans in this district are environmentalist as far as I can tell. They are big into job growth. I've been working very hard to make sure our film commission stays here. We want to turn stem into steam. I wanted to add arts into stem education. We’re blessed to have Google and Facebook. We do have a lot of companies coming in. I don’t believe companies are fleeing the state. That’s not true. It’s expensive to live here. I don't know how we’re going to change that. Public transportation [improvement] is good. L.A. could finally be growing up.
Q. If elected, what are your top priorities?
Butler: I passed six bills in my first year and eight in my second year. Those are priorities of the 50th District as well. It would be my honor to continue the needs. I got the law passed on [farmers'] regulations in 2005. Today, I had the privilege and honor to be at the Cesar Chavez dedication with the president this morning. I had two bills signed this year helping our veterans and [received] AmVets Legislator of the Year. I'd like to get some critical legislation done. With elderly care, I wants to make sure I get that done. I want to be the consumer advocate.
Bloom: We are in a state of free fall in this country. We have the second highest unemployment rate. I cant think of what’s important than fixing our economy in our state. For too many years, well over a decade, we've been borrowing from cities, our children's future and taking money away from schools, and away from programs, in order to balance the budget. We need to stop that and get responsible.
Q. If there is a continuing financial crisis, what items would you cut, or not cut?
Butler: We have cut $56 billion dollars from the budget. It goes to programs like helping our elders, in-home support systems and education. So, clearly half [of the] budget pays for education, so it’s obvious in the state of California that everyone has accessible education. Therefore, we enacted trigger cuts last year. No "B" substitute teachers. I want to see economy catch up with our needs. I hope Prop. 30 passes. That’s a $90 billion temporary fix for our state. If it doesn't [pass] Nov. 6, we’ll have to cut $90 billion of the budget, $5 billion for education [and] $2 billion from health and human services. So the people that get cut, will get cut again and again and again.
Bloom: I don’t know. Over the last 10 years the state has cut and cut and cut, and there is really no fat in the budget left, in my perspective. Now it’s cutting essential programs with strong constituencies I our communities. I think it’s really important to start prioritizing and education is my top priority. It’s been in my last three years in Santa Monica, but it's not going to be easy for us to solve this problem, but Betsy's right. If these measures don't pass, we’re going to be even more hurt. We are working constantly off projection. You never see a projection go upward in Sacramento. That’s a bad idea. In Santa Monica, we look at an optimistic, middle ground and worst-case scenario, and we try to draw a line between middle ground and worst case. We use terms like "rainy day fund" to bridge the gap of economic trouble. When it comes to cuts, they are simply going to be painful, if we have to do more. We are considered by CEOs the worst place to do business. How can we do this? Too many jobs are leaving the state. One thing I've learned in Santa Monica...the drives that get things done comes from a successful business community. We need to get comfortable with that idea in California. Look at Santa Monica, we don’t have to sacrifice the things we appreciate, like strong environmental policies. The rising tide of economic growth will carry the state forward, will benefit our seniors, children and future generations, and that’s where the state has to go.