Finally! Blakeslee and Laird debate

August 6, 2010

John Laird

After weeks of charges and counter charges over who is willing to debate whom, and where, Republican Sam Blakeslee and Democrat John Laird finally had a face-to-face, one-on-one debate. [Mercury News]

The two major candidates in the upcoming Aug. 17 state Senate special election, appeared Thursday before the Silicon Valley Leadership Group in Santa Clara, an event that was not open to the public.

During the debate, Laird attacked his opponent  for not supporting California’s landmark greenhouse gas law, AB 32.

Sam Blakeslee

“I’m the only person up here who voted for it,” said Laird. “It was a very important act. It was good the way it was done. It is guiding jobs here, and it should not be repealed.”

Blakeslee stopped short of calling for the suspension of AB 32, a prospect that will face voters come November’s Proposition 23. But the Republican assemblyman from San Luis Obispo said the environmental regulation, while sound in its intent, had the unintended consequence of exporting the state’s polluting businesses and shifting the problem elsewhere.

Blakeslee also said he supports retooling the state’s tax code, specifically how much of which taxes Californians pay, but he said he’s against raising the tax burden.

In contrast, Laird argued that a higher gas tax is necessary to improve the state’s roads and bridges, and he supports an oil severance tax to deliver more money for schools.

Observers characterized Thursday’s exchange as civil, in comparison to the negative tone of each campaign’s political ads.

Jim Fitzgerald, the Independent candidate and Libertarian Mark Hinkle were not invited to appear at the forum.

However, all four candidates are scheduled to participate in another public forum in Arroyo Grande Friday at 6 p.m.

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The COLAB-sponsored debate was very well run, though the sight of Andy Caldwell nervously strutting back and forth at the back of the room was a bit distracting, I’ll give him credit for a well-run event. I still don’t understand why the Blakeslee camp & Caldwell were so offended by the Cuddy article which stated COLAB/Caldwell as the debate sponsor. Pretty paranoid, but hey, this is the Prop 8 crowd, who feel marginalized for being herero. Whatever.

Some detail:

— the COLAB banners are very tacky and gave the impression of a canned performance. More a confirmation of Caldwell & Co.’s insecurity than anything else.

— only one technical glitch: the mikes faded out periodically.

— the venue was too small. More an indication of the lack of other local debates. It’s a fair sized venue. Kudos to public for showing up.

— thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the responses were kept brief, and the timer was alert.

— haven’t we heard enough about the AZ law, for chrissakes? At times I felt I was being programmed by COLAB’s agenda, by the type of questions asked.

— there is nothing to compare to hearing the candidates live (that is, if you’re interested in the political process).

— wish the event had been scheduled earlier in the calendar. I waited until viewing the debate to decide on the candidates, and I’m glad I had.

If the CalCoast News went out for Friday night cocktails after posting this story, they missed the best debate of this important election.

COLAB of SLO presented a great standing room only event that finally included all four candidates. Moderated by local news professionals Ben Heighs and Arturo Santiago the candidates were presented with questions relevant to current issues. As much as I love the League of Women Voters, their debates and candidate forums have become “dated” and given the current state of affairs, their debate at Cuesta College presented what I think were mostly irrelevant questions. The moderators mentioned that tonight’s debate would be available on the KCOY 12 website.

The debate was packed with Laird supporters, I suppose because of Blakeslee’s continued dominance in the SLO region.

My only complaint was that this debate was scheduled so late in the race. If we finally have an organization that is willing to organize such comprehensive, up to date and politically neutral debates, please hold them before absentee ballots are made available.

My only other observation tonight was that Libertarian candidates are the most fun.

Check it out for yourself.

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