With Cathleen Galgiani termed out of the Assembly and running for state Senate, Merced County will have a new representative in the Assembly.
Voters will choose between businessman Jack Mobley, who twice ran, unsuccessfully, against Galgiani, and Adam Gray, a former legislative staffer who returned to his hometown a couple of years ago.
Mobley was the only Republican in the June primary and won 45 percent of the votes in the top-two format; Gray was by far the strongest among the three Democrats in the field, claiming 32 percent of the votes.
Gray grew up in Merced but spent much of his young working life as a legislative staffer at the state Capitol. He returned to Merced in large part to run for this seat.
Gray has helped teach two political science classes at the University of California at Merced in the past year and a half, and that part-time position paved the way for him to have a ballot designation as a "University lecturer/ advisor." That has erupted as an issue, getting a disproportionate amount of attention in this campaign. A better label might have been class assistant or tutor, but Gray was incorrectly listed in a UC staff directory as a lecturer.
More important, we think, are the issues that separate these two and their experience in government and potential to be effective.
Although this is Mobley's third try at the Assembly and he is an anti- regulation, anti-tax conservative whose views align with the tea party arm of his party, Mobley has not gotten significant support from the state GOP. That may be because Democrats have such a strong edge in registration numbers. Forty-five percent of the voters in Assembly District 21 are Democrats, compared with just under 35 percent Republican.
Gray has gotten big financial support from the public employee unions, which is a red flag, but also is supported by a number of business political action committees that would normally be expected to favor a Republican. Gray pledges to be a moderate, in the footsteps of his former boss, Dennis Cardoza, and his father-in-law, Gary Condit.
We've seen Galgiani and other former staffers move effectively into legislative seats. We think Gray could and would do the same and would use his understanding of state government to quickly go to work for this district. Mobley's views would fit in with his party caucus, but it takes more independence and assertiveness for a Republican to be successful and effective in Sacramento.
While we have some reservations about Gray's ties to the unions, we think he is overall the stronger candidate for Assembly District 21.