Coming down the home stretch of the election for the 21st Assembly District, both the incumbent and challenger say they have high hopes.
Incumbent Adam Gray, D-Merced, faces Republican challenger Jack Mobley on Election Day, with both water and jobs at the forefront of their platforms.
The incumbent has been in the seat since 2012, when the two candidates faced off for the first time. That race was decided by a double-digit margin in Gray’s favor.
One possible game-changer this time around is the $200,000 in advertisements and mailers the state Republican Party has put into Mobley’s campaign, according to the latest campaign finance filings.
Gray, 37, said he stands behind his record in office and that his priorities remain the same as they were a few years ago.
“I ran for office two years ago promising to invest in public infrastructure, water projects, transportation and, of course, higher education in UC Merced so we can grow our economy back in the way that we desperately need,” he said. “And, I think we’ve made some progress.”
Although challenges remain, he said, he believes the state is moving in the right direction.
The passage of Proposition 1 is priority No. 1, he said. The measure would finance a $75 billion water bond for the state in an attempt to better manage the resource. “I’m stumping hard for the water bond to pass in this election, because we need that investment in water to sustain agriculture and our economy,” he said.
Also high on his list, he said, is the loop planned to send traffic around Merced. The idea is to connect the parkways and expressways being built on either side of the city that will lead to UC Merced and the Castle Commerce Center.
That kind of infrastructure will help attract high-paying jobs to the county, he said, pointing to the distribution center coming to Patterson. The city falls within the 21st Assembly District.
While infrastructure, water and transportation projects may take longer to come to fruition, Gray said, investments in UC Merced can pay off sooner.
Gray declined to discuss the influx of Republican dollars going to Mobley, saying he wants to focus on his own campaign. Contributions to Gray’s campaign total about $390,000, with $1,000 coming in this month.
At the same time, the recent Republican money is making Mobley optimistic. “The party’s supporting me real well and helping to fund me,” the 56-year-old said. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
About $190,000 in campaign contributions from the state Republican Party have come in this month for Mobley. Most of that is planned for radio, TV and other ads. His total contributions to date are about $260,000.
The environment surrounding this year’s election puts him in a better position than last time, he said.
Gray’s win of the 21st Assembly District seat in 2012, Mobley said, was buoyed by the re-election of President Barack Obama and excitement surrounding the California high-speed rail project, both of which are less popular than two years ago.
“Obamacare was all that and a bag of chips, and high-speed rail was still a big issue, and now all those things have turned around 180 degrees,” he said.
Topping his list of priorities, he said, is water. The state needs an extensive plan for above- and below-ground storage, as well as conservation and desalination efforts. State leaders have been reactionary for too long, he said.
“Everything hangs on water. We’ve got to have reliable water,” he said. “That’s the hub that the agricultural community revolves around, and that’s what our Valley economy is based on.”
Mobley also said there are too many career politicians in Sacramento, which leads to too many taxes and a state that’s unfriendly to business. The state could use an overhauling of its taxes, workers’ compensation programs and minimum wage laws, he said.
“For 10 years, we’re the most business-unfriendly state in the union,” he said.
Election Day is Nov. 4.