Incumbent Achadjian deserves a second term

Katcho Achadjian
Katcho Achadjian The Tribune

There may be two names on the ballot, but there isn’t much of a contest in the reconfigured and now heavily Republican 35th state Assembly District, which includes San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County.

Democrat Jerry Manata, an unknown candidate with little political experience and left-of-center views, faces Republican Katcho Achadjian, the former San Luis Obispo County supervisor elected to the Assembly two years ago.

The result — a lopsided victory for Achadjian — is a foregone conclusion. For the record, though, we believe that Achadjian is far and away the more experienced candidate and deserves re-election.

His first term in Sacramento was quiet — that’s to be expected — though he did distinguish himself for his commitment to cost cutting, both on a personal and collective basis. For example, Achadjian turned down a state-provided car and cellphone; he was one of only three elected state officials who accepted no gifts from special interests; and he served on a committee that looked to save money by finding ways to streamline government.

That’s a good start, but we hope to see much more from Achadjian in the coming years, particularly when it comes to practicing — and not just preaching — bipartisanship.

From his time as county supervisor, we know that Achadjian has the ability to transcend ideology and vote for what’s best for all his constituents. For a time, that earned him the nickname of “man in the middle,” because he was often the swing vote on the Board of Supervisors.

It’s time Achadjian reclaimed the “man in the middle” title. That won’t be easy in the highly partisan Legislature, but he already took steps in that direction during his first term.

Case in point: As reported by the Los Angeles Times, last year Achadjian was one of five Republicans skewered by conservative radio talk show hosts John and Ken for having the temerity to talk to Gov. Jerry Brown about raising taxes.

Good for him!

The fact remains, though, that the Legislature is much too deeply divided, and as a result, Californians — especially young people — are suffering.

We now face a crisis situation where we either vote for one of the tax increases on the November ballot, or we see even deeper cuts to education.

Both parties share the blame. Democrats have been too slow to agree to pension reform and other cost-cutting measures, while Republicans — bullied by Grover Norquist into signing a “no new tax” pledge — have been stubbornly unwilling to consider any tax increases whatsoever.

We were deeply disappointed when Achadjian took the Norquist pledge two years ago. That still bothers us.

We’re concerned, too, that he has few specifics to offer when it comes to healing the economy and securing the long-term future of institutions so vital to San Luis Obispo County, especially Cal Poly and Cuesta College.

We also find it frustrating that Achadjian is noncommittal on many issues. For example, the only proposition he officially endorsed is Proposition 35, which would increase prison sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions.

Yet we believe that Achadjian is guided by a sincere interest in the well-being of all of his constituents, regardless of their politics.

We saw that in his reluctance to vote for the closure of General Hospital while on the Board of Supervisors; in his devotion of untold hours and energy to events that champion the achievements of young people, small businesses and community volunteers; in his readiness to dig in and help constituents devastated by floods and other natural disasters; in his un willingness to be drawn into nasty, negative campaigning.

We urge Achadjian to set politics aside and channel his compassion, his energy, his civility, to champion bipartisanship and help California out of its current mess.

He is only one member of the Legislature, to be sure, but if he stays true to his character as the man in the middle, we believe he could help bring about positive change in Sacramento. The Tribune strongly endorses Katcho Achadjian for the 35th Assembly District.