Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern announced his candidacy for the 76th Assembly District last week. The UT-San Diego reported that Kern will probably earn the endorsement of the incumbent Assemblyman, Rocky Chavez. Chavez is vacating the seat to challenge California Attorney General Kamala Harris for the open US Senate seat in 2016. Kern signaled that he will work to solve the “hot” problems reported in the media:
Kern, who has been on the Oceanside council since 2004, said he is seeking the position because he wants to help advance regional issues such as education, water, and jobs.
Who doesn’t want plenty of clean water, educated children, and a plethora of jobs? While Kern’s goals are admirable, I wonder two things: (1) Will Kern take the stand that government interference contributes to the water shortage, poor (but expensive) public education, and unemployment? AND… (2) Is his campaign a serious one or just a ruse to keep Republicans out of the race should Chavez decide to abandon his US Senate bid? I speculated earlier that Chavez might find the appeal of incumbency too great to challenge Harris:
I don’t see that happening. I think Chavez’ bid for US Senate is genuine but the retired Marine knows how to count. While I think he is a much better choice than Harris, this is California — Republicans haven’t been competitive in a statewide race since Schwarzenegger. Chavez will have to weigh his options of launching a shoe-string, statewide campaign or retain his comfortable incumbency.
I also speculated that Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood might run for the 78th Assembly seat. That seems unlikely now that Wood just suffered his third stroke in four years last week. Today, it looks like Jerry Kern is the anointed candidate for the 76th Assembly District. His 11-year track record as a Councilman in the District’s largest city certainly make him a worthy contender but his close relationship to Chavez leaves me wondering if he isn’t just holding Chavez’ place until next year. Kern can run for Assembly without resigning from his Oceanside Council seat.
I think it’s important to draft a conservative for this race — I like Vista Council Member Amanda Young Rigby. Rigby has a solid pro-market, pro-freedom record on the Vista Council. She is often the lone vote for economic freedom on a Council comprised of protectionists. Drafting a serious conservative candidate is important if one believes that the Chavez/Kern alliance could result in a last minute ballot shift next year.
The 76th Assembly District isn’t the solid red District it once was. It still has an 8-point Republican advantage but the growth in DTS voters puts it in play. Oceanside Council members Esther Sanchez and Chuck Lowery, Encinitas Councilman Tony Kranz, and Vista Councilman Cody Campbell are all credible Democrats in the changing District. If my fears are confirmed, and Chavez chooses to defend his Assembly seat rather than challenge Harris, he could face a rising Democratic star next November. He should ultimately prevail but Republicans would do well to draft a serious, conservative candidate to keep this seat.
Jerry Kern is a fine, moderate Republican but this is a District which will choose a well-defined conservative over a well-defined liberal. Republicans need to find that conservative quickly.