During a debate held at College of the Canyons on Monday night, Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, and his 38th Assembly District challenger Christy Smith differed on their priorities but also found some common ground on the issues facing the district.
Themes of the one-hour debate emerged as Smith continuously favored growing the state economy sustainably through investing in initiatives like education and allocating dollars to different causes.
Acosta touted his support for law enforcement and fixing transportation without raising taxes significantly.
Both candidates voiced their passion for bringing bipartisanship to the Legislature. Acosta cited his work on bills, two-thirds of which were co-authored by Democrats, while Smith, a member of the Newhall School District board of trustees, talked about how working on a bipartisan school board gave her the opportunity to have conversations and work out issues.
Acosta and Smith both have backgrounds leading on the local level, which they cited when explaining their experience.
“Local government is the place where your tax dollars are spent,” Smith said. “So while serving on the school board, we know what it’s like when a recession occurs. We know what it’s like to lobby at the state level and have effective, transparent service at the local level.”
Acosta said: “You need to be able to be out there and communicating with your constituents. I spent time, when I was elected to (the Santa Clarita) City Council, in every part of the city, and in the (Legislature), I’ve made a lot of good strides toward public safety, traffic enforcement and economic development.”
Acosta is a member of the minority party in the Legislature, which Smith said could be a disadvantage — but that he still voted with his party very often. Acosta countered Smith by saying he had often signed onto bills originally authored by Democrats.
Acosta said the state implemented many common-sense gun laws he supported, and he was concerned recent measures weren’t doing that job, such as Proposition 47, which reduced certain nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors; Proposition 57, which hastened the release of some nonviolent offenders from prisons; and Assembly Bill 109, concerning prison realignment. He supported “pragmatic” solutions to issues of crime, he said.
Smith supported gun control, too, but said she wanted to make sure elected officials were listening to law enforcement officers who supported those bills.
Both candidates also addressed the Porter Ranch Aliso Canyon settlement in the aftermath of the gas leak in 2015.
Smith opposed the settlement and said it needs more work to compensate affected residents accordingly.
Acosta said he worked with officials in wanting the money to stay locally, but that the money in the settlement was going toward methane reduction.
Acosta said he was working on transportation issues but opposed the high-speed rail as a solution, citing that it was too expensive to build through the SCV.
Smith said she hated seeing taxpayer dollars wasted on what had already been done. If there was a “meaningful and useful way” for the project to be completed with cost efficiency considered, she said she was open to it. Both candidates agreed that in terms of the rail, the 38th Assembly District at this point in construction would be only getting the downside, and not any of the good.
The candidates also differed on Proposition 10, which would enable local governments to enact rent control. Smith said more local control was needed, and giving landlords knowledgeable about local workings the ability to control rent was essential. Acosta argued that the market was often interrupted by tax decisions homeowners had to make, and that the housing supply issue throughout California had to be addressed instead of focusing on rent control.
The livestream of the debate can be found here.