Sam Blakeslee officially throws his hat in the ring for state Senate


Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee pledged Friday to work to create new jobs, maintain agricultural land and protect the environment if elected to fill the state Senate seat previously held by Abel Maldonado.

Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said that in coming weeks he’ll meet with constituents in the Senate’s 15th District, which spans from northern Santa Barbara County to southern Santa Clara County.

Blakeslee, 54, announced his candidacy to The Tribune on Thursday.

The seat was vacated by fellow Republican Abel Maldonado, who became lieutenant governor this week. Two special elections will be held in the race — a June 22 primary and an Aug. 17 general election.

“We will be talking about big issues, issues of importance in the weeks to come,” Blakeslee said. “I’m committed to pragmatic problem solving.”

Democrat John Laird, a former Assemblyman in Santa Cruz County, will make an announcement on his candidacy for the Senate in Aptos on Monday, spokesman Bill Maxfield said.

Blakeslee, a trained geophysicist who previously worked as a research scientist at Exxon’s lab in Texas, announced his candidacy in the living room of his San Luis Obispo home.

Blakeslee said he “gave careful thought and reflection” to his decision to run. He and his wife, Kara, stood next to a custom-made piano at their home, which has been passed down in his family for generations.

The San Luis Obispo High School graduate said challenges facing the state include high unemployment, revenue shortfalls and a broken budget system. Blakeslee seeks a bipartisan approach to improve the economy and increase revenue for the state, including schools.

Blakeslee cited his support of his wife’s conservation work on the Hearst Ranch project, which created an 18-mile coastal state park, as well as in the Carissa Plains.

The assemblyman said that one way to spark the economy is by decreasing the regulations on permitting for businesses.

Blakeslee has authored bills in the Assembly that include worker safety at Atascadero State Hospital, child safety among off-highway-vehicle riders, and a process for constructing a sewer in Los Osos.

Blakeslee noted his work as Assembly minority leader in 2009 in which he negotiated a budget that “reduced state spending” and did not raise taxes.

Blakeslee said he’s concerned about the cost of the special election, but said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to fill the position.

The extra cost of a special election will be $3 million, and San Luis Obispo County will pay $1 million because it’s the only county in the district that’s entirely represented, county Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald said. The district touches parts of the other counties, she said.

Cal Poly political science professor and San Luis Obispo City Councilman Allen Settle said name recognition in shortened campaigns often plays a factor, and Blakeslee is well-known, particularly in San Luis Obispo County. However, Laird is widely known to many in Santa Cruz County, Settle said.

A low voter turnout, more typical of special elections, tends to favor conservative candidates more than in general elections, when increased numbers of younger and more liberal voters tend to go to polls, Settle said.