Part 1 of 2 Series
To successfully unseat state Senator Scott Wilk next year and reclaim the 21st district for the Democrats for the first time since 2012, Warren Heaton and Kipp Mueller have some things to overcome, aside from the usual challenges of beating an incumbent.
For Heaton, it is being a Democrat who can reach both liberal and conservative residents.
As reported last week, both candidates list health care, housing and homelessness as campaign issues. Both also are OK with the public option for health care, although Heaton said he wants people to be able to keep their policies if they like what their employers offer. Both also favor bringing high-paying green jobs to the district and think rural areas would be the best places to put them.
Nonetheless, Wilk will be a formidable opponent; so here’s a first look at what Heaton is doing to address concerns. Check back next week for Mueller’s take.
The College of the Canyons adjunct faculty member and immigration attorney said he likes good policy that benefits the most people, having seen from his time in the insurance and banking fields how good regulations protect consumers and how bad regulations end up costing consumers money. His challenge is to figure out how to enact policies without alienating a large swath of voters, be they Democrat or Republican.
“District 21 is a microcosm of what’s going on in the United States, where you have this urban, educated, professional class who are doing relatively well. They can afford to buy a home. They have health care. Their concerns are related to education, the environment, public transportation,” he said. “Then you have this rural part of the district, and their concerns are jobs, health care, the lack of public transportation; you have addiction issues, and they’re struggling to hang on.”
He said he thinks public transportation is one issue where he can bridge the divide. Urban voters who drive the already clogged freeways welcome a faster, cleaner option; rural voters who can only afford to live in distant places such as Adelanto, Hesperia and Palmdale want to get into town faster.
Another uniting issue: green jobs. If urban voters want more green jobs, as Heaton believes, those jobs can be in rural areas. He suggested the Antelope Valley.
“I’m about smart policies that will benefit the entire community, not just one party over the other. I’m left on some issues and right on the others, but I think that’s exactly where this district is,” he said. “This district isn’t an extreme district where we’re going to decide things based on abortion rights or gun rights.”
From his time as a COC adjunct faculty union representative, Heaton sees a great pay disparity between adjunct and full-time faculty. He applauds the legislature for passing Senate Bill 1379 in 2016, which gives these part-timers collective-bargaining rights.
Wilk voted against the bill while in the Assembly.
“Wilk was part of the problem,” Heaton said. “There’s a difference between good policy and ideology. You can’t just step into government with some ideological stance and think you’re going to be an effective legislator. You have to understand how your ideologies are going to interact with policy and how that’s going to interact with people you represent.”