Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, faces off against a political newcomer for statewide office in the race to replace respected longtime legislator Sharon Runner in the 21st Senate District in November. Runner, of Lancaster, died in office in July after being elected in 2015 to the 21st Senate District, which takes in most of the Santa Clarita Valley but sprawls across the high desert as well, encompassing Lancaster and Palmdale and extending across Interstate 15 northeast of the San Gabriel Mountains. Wilk, an experienced legislator with four years in the state Assembly, has a long history of political involvement in the Santa Clarita Valley, including service on the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees. Voters’ other choice to replace Runner is Johnathon Ervin of Lancaster, an aerospace engineer with some local government experience. Ervin is an Iraq War veteran and a senior master sergeant in the Air Force Reserves. He works in the aerospace industry and has served as planning commissioner for Lancaster and board member for Muroc Joint Unified School District. During interviews with The Signal, both candidates pledged to carry on Runner’s legacy and both said infrastructure improvement – particularly roads in the Santa Clarita Valley – were priorities, with both also citing priority environmental issues including fighting the Cemex mine proposed for Soledad Canyon. Both also pledged to support the aerospace industry in the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys. So what’s the difference between the two candidates? Wilk is a Republican, a member of the minority party in the Legislature, and Ervin is a Democrat, a member of the majority party. That might seem to tilt things in Ervin’s favor – until one looks at Wilk’s track record in statewide office. Wilk has succeeded at working with Democrats in the Legislature. During his four years in office he co-authored two jobs bills that helped industries in both the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys: AB 1839, which provided tax incentives to keep film and television jobs in California, and AB 2389, which provided tax incentives for aerospace jobs. Wilk has introduced legislation to provide a backup plan in case the Cemex mega-mine is not blocked on the federal level, and he is among the more informed candidates for any statewide office on the chloride issue involving state mandates imposed on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District. Wilk also is among the leaders in a drive for greater transparency in the statehouse. He counts among his endorsements Congressman Steve Knight and high-desert Congressman Paul Cook, both Republicans, Board of Equalization member George Runner, several Santa Clarita City Council members and San Bernardino County supervisors, some Antelope Valley elected officials and several organizations including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association PAC, according to his campaign website. Ervin is endorsed by state senators Fran Pavley, Ben Allen and Ed Hernandez; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – all Democrats – along with labor unions including SEIU California, the California Labor Federation and Teamsters Joint Council 42, according to his campaign website. High desert residents outnumber Santa Clarita Valley residents by about three to one in the sprawling 21st Senate District’s urban areas. Of the two contenders, Wilk is the Santa Clarita Valley’s candidate and, we believe, the more likely of the two to recognize and keep his attention on SCV issues, which can’t be expected to coincide entirely with those of high-desert communities. If elected to the 21st Senate District, Wilk would return to Sacramento with the seasoning of four years in the Legislature’s lower house and, we trust, the interests of the SCV foremost on his agenda. And while Ervin says he will champion aerospace industry issues, and we believe he will, it’s Wilk who successfully co-authored such a bill and steered it through the legislative maze from conception to signed legislation. We recommend residents of the 21st Senate District vote for Scott Wilk on the Nov. 8 ballot.