Editorial: Tribune endorses Zacarias for state Assembly seat

Katcho Achadjian and Hilda Zacarias have commendable records of public service, along with well-deserved reputations for their hard work, responsiveness and accessibility.

Their campaigns have been models of graciousness — both pledged not to engage in nasty attack ads — and we hope the successful candidate can carry that tone of civility to Sacramento.

Choosing one candidate over the other was not easy. We have endorsed Achadjian in the past, and while we haven’t always agreed with his decisions, we continue to believe that he has been a strong supervisor.

In the final analysis, though, we found Zacarias to be the better fit for the state Assembly. She is the more moderate of the two, and we believe she will be better able to balance the need for economic recovery while maintaining the environmental protections so vital to the Central Coast.

She also approaches the job with a more clearly defined vision, while Achadjian seems to want to apply the same blueprint used in San Luis Obispo County to Sacramento.

Case in point: When asked how they would deal with the state budget crisis, Achadjian pointed to how the county has dealt with its budget in the past.

Zacarias honed in on structural impediments and the need for fundamental change in the process. She advocates switching to a two-year budget cycle, for example, and she wants to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who report wasteful spending.

Zacarias has not been well known in San Luis Obispo County, but she has a strong record of public involvement in Santa Maria. She served on the Santa Maria High School District board of trustees for five years, and in 2006 she was elected to the Santa Maria City Council.

A tax accountant, she describes herself as a “business-minded Democrat” and calls for strong fiscal policies and accountability.

She regularly reaches out to conservative constituencies, and she already has a plan in place for gathering input from a range of experts if she’s elected. Specifically, she wants to establish “policy partners” in several areas, such as education, law enforcement and business, and would set up a system of online and in-person communications to keep in touch with them on a regular basis.

We agree with Zacarias on a number of policy issues:

Zacarias opposes any new oil drilling of the California Coast; Achadjian supports drilling as long as it is not in pristine areas and does not affect fishing, offshore cables or transportation.

Zacarias supports Proposition 21, which would provide more support for state parks by increasing vehicle license fees $18. Achadjian says he “doesn’t see the nexus between cars and our parks” and believes higher user fees and private contributions should be tapped instead.

Zacarias supports greenhouse gas emission limits contained in AB 32 and opposes Proposition 23, which would effectively gut those regulations. Achadjian supports Proposition 23; he believes AB 32 would kill jobs.

Zacarias believes the two-thirds majority vote required to pass a budget in the Legislature needs to go because it puts too much power in the hands of the minority. Achadjian supports retaining the two-thirds requirement.

Our decision did not come down to a checklist of issues, however, but rather to identifying the candidate who seems in a better position to build consensus.

Achadjian was adept at this in his early years on the board, but as we’ve noted before, he’s recently taken a harder turn to the right.

We’re also concerned that he’s relying on his record with the county Board of Supervisors to win the confidence of voters, rather than focusing on how he would deal with the dysfunction in Sacramento.

Zacarias, on the other hand, brings energy and a fresh perspective to the table, along with a wealth of experience in education, politics, business and nonprofit agencies. We believe she has the potential to be a game changer in Sacramento. The Tribune strongly endorses Hilda Zacarias for state Assembly.

33rd district seat

Race: 33rd District state Assembly seat

Term: 2 years

Salary: $95,291 per year plus health benefits

Candidates: San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian, Republican; Carpenter Paul Polson, Libertarian; Santa Maria City Council Member Hilda Zacarias, Democrat

The Tribune Endorses: Hilda Zacarias