The race to replace Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, in the 38th Assembly District – which takes in most of the Santa Clarita Valley along with parts of the San Fernando and Simi valleys – was winnowed down in June to Newhall School District board member Christy Smith and Santa Clarita City Councilman Dante Acosta.
Smith, a Democrat, is wrapping up her second four-year term as a Newhall school board member and has been very active in education in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Acosta, a Republican, was elected to the City Council in 2014 and has served about half of one four-year term. Before that he was a financial adviser and small business owner. He also worked about a year and a half as a field representative for Congressman Steve Knight.
Of the two candidates, Smith’s record of service to the public stands out as one of leadership and accomplishment.
While chairing the school board Smith successfully led the 2012 Measure E school bond drive for facilities and technology, then contributed to oversight of the funded projects.
She chaired the search committee to hire a superintendent after longtime Superintendent Marc Winger retired, and she is co-founder of the capital campaign to restore Newhall Elementary Auditorium and to establish a year-round program there by reaching out to the city and local arts and philanthropic groups.
Smith has also represented the classified employee bargaining unit for College of the Canyons and chaired a subcommittee for the William S. Hart Union High School District on extra-curricular funding and equity, and, as a volunteer, founded the Valencia Valley Technology Education Foundation.
Acosta served on several City Council committees, on the League of California Cities and participated in a San Fernando Valley Council of Government delegation to the Southern California Association of Governments.
He has also served on the Santa Clarita Rotary Club and Circle of Hope boards and on the Old Town Newhall Association.
Endorsements for the two candidates have fallen largely along party lines, with Smith garnering support from state and federal Democratic leaders including State Controller Betty Yee, Congressmen Brad Sherman and Ted Lieu, and state Senator Fran Pavley, along with statewide and local education leaders and Democratic Party organizations, according to her website. Also supporting her are Winger and founding City Council member Carl Boyer.
Acosta’s endorsements lean toward conservative regionally elected officials and include Congressman Steve Knight, Board of Equalization member George Runner, outgoing Assemblyman Scott Wilk, outgoing Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and some members of the Santa Clarita City Council, Hart district board, College of the Canyons board and Castaic Lake Water Agency board.
The party division was also apparent during a Signal Multimedia/College of the Canyons debate Aug. 11 between the two, which can be viewed on Signal Multimedia’s YouTube channel. Both candidates attacked each other’s anticipated effectiveness in office – based on their party affiliations.
Legislative offices are partisan seats, but there’s nothing partisan about adequate roads to drive on, sufficient law enforcement officers to keep the peace or effective public school systems.
We oppose any candidate who lets partisanship get in the way of character or civility, two of the three traits we look for in the candidates we recommend to you in our endorsements.
The third trait – competence – Smith has demonstrated in abundance, and we at The Signal were about to join another 38th Assembly District newspaper in resoundingly endorsing Smith until she launched a personal attack against her opponent during a Valley Industry Association event, followed by negative television ads.
During the closing statements of a VIA candidate forum last week, seizing her position as the last speaker, Smith told the audience, “Mr. Acosta’s business success is not everything it’s made out to be” and pointed them to a broker-check web page of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that indicated Acosta had three client complaints against him.
Subsequent information indicated two of the three, made during a three-year period starting in 2002, were found to be groundless and the third involved a complaint over a transaction made long after he ceased being the account’s handler.
“I have never been fined or sanctioned,’’ Acosta told The Signal. “These are routine issues. Businesses deal with routine and frivolous claims all the time.”
Asked if she thought it was fair to bring up the claims when it was too late for Acosta to respond during the VIA forum, Smith said, “That occurred to me, that it was in my closing remarks and he would not have a chance to respond – but he will now. He’ll have a chance to explain to voters his record.”
But not to the same set of potential voters who were at the forum. We believe Smith’s move was, as Acosta characterized it, “a cheap shot” – one unworthy of a person of character.
Smith has also launched ads comparing Acosta to Donald Trump in his business dealings. As we noted in our Thursday editorial starting this series of endorsements, we can see no way that any Santa Clarita Valley candidate for public office can be held accountable for the choices of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as presidential nominees.
Using Trump in a political ad with one’s opponent is the low-hanging fruit of Democratic negative campaigning. Apparently it’s not too low for Smith to stoop and grasp it.
At the heart of our crusade here at The Signal against negative campaigning is a belief that it contributes in a major way to the political malaise of this nation, the gridlock we see in Washington and the lack of civility we witness trickling down the political ladder due to politicians on both sides of the aisle putting party before people and tossing aside character traits like fairness, honesty, integrity, respect and responsibility.
Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer people of character are willing to seek public office? It’s not just the unbearable scrutiny they must undergo, but the unfounded character attacks that can rob them of their reputations.
A candidate cannot avoid the humiliation of losing a campaign, but he or she shouldn’t have to risk surrendering his or her good name for the chance to serve the public.
So we ask you to vote for Dante Acosta and send a strong signal to those who seek to serve in this valley: Negative campaigning, character assassination and innuendo detract from the issues that voters need to be informed about and otherwise taint the election process. We in the Santa Clarita Valley will not reward candidates who resort to these kinds of tactics.