Former Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin is one of two candidates vying for the 27th Assembly District.
Pazin, a Republican, placed second in the June primary, 5.1 points behind Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, a Democrat.
Republican Amanda Fleming held 16.8 percent of the vote and Democrat Mike Karbassi had 8.1 percent.
New polling from the Pazin campaign has the former sheriff up four points – 41 percent to 37 percent – on Soria, with a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.
Pazin spoke with The Sun about the race on Tuesday:
Daniel Gligich: Let’s start with your campaign. We’re about a month away from Election Day. How is the campaign going, and what are you hoping to accomplish over the next month?
Mark Pazin: “The campaign’s going very well. We have a great team that’s assembled up and down the district. We are making a lot of new friends and reacquainting ourselves with old friends and supporters. And we’re just hitting it hard.”
DG: Mike Karbassi took 8 percent of the vote in the primary. While he’s a Democrat, he’s certainly someone who appeals to many Republican voters. Do you expect to pick up a large share of voters who supported Karbassi given that Soria offers a more progressive platform?
MP: “Of course. Mike and I, even though we ran against each other, we’ve gotten acquainted. He’s become a good friend. We certainly believe that for the most part those that supported him will realize that I am pro public safety, that I had two great careers in law enforcement that spanned over four decades. I think that’s appealing, plus being maybe more of a conservative. Obviously my opponent is far left, AOC. Takes pictures with her, also went through what I call a political metamorphosis to move more to the center. It’s just not working. We understand that, and I believe a lot of Mike’s supporters also see through that.”
DG: When I last talked to you in March you pointed to public safety as one of the top issues facing your district. I’m assuming that hasn’t changed. Could you speak to the issue of public safety and what you would like to address on that issue?
MP: “Regardless of really the embellished commercials painting me in a different picture, here’s the deal: I was on the ground doing the work as a deputy sheriff. Then I had the good fortune of winning the sheriff’s election in 2002, 2006, 2010, and that’s always been a primary component of my life, is public safety. Though someone’s trying to taint that image, it’s terribly inaccurate. What my opponent forgets, hence she’s using these one-offs that occurred, I did protect the entire state from a sexual violent predator. This person’s name was Cary Verse. Anybody can go and look that up. We worked with both Democratic and Republican legislators to form a bill that would keep those sexual violent predators back in their county of domicile. Prior to that the civil commitments were basically at the whim of a judge, which you could’ve placed a sexual violent predator any place in the State of California. So that has always been primary. The other piece of legislation was a bill with Tom Berryhill where the recycling centers that took in basically stolen property, stolen copper, stolen brass that they had a name attached to it so we’ve been able to backtrack that. I say this in all honesty. I’ve already done it. I’ve already been on the ground. I don’t pontificate from the dais like she does. By rubber-stamping a budget for Fresno and then claiming that she got over $2 billion in law enforcement money, it’s just wrong. It’s called a budget that you vote for.”
DG: Inflation and gas prices are still high. What do you think should be done to provide relief for Californians?
MP: “Well the first thing that the Assembly and the legislators could do is suspend the gas tax, for heaven’s sake. You start to look at that, every little bit in this very dramatic leaps and bounds of gas prices, inflation and by throwing out a small stipend to satisfy the legislative year is just wrong. This is why I’m railing against the one party rule. They had a chance months ago to give relief to every Californian up and down this state. They opted not to. They went ahead and slow-played everything under the guise of sending out a small check. Well guess what? They’re patting themselves on the back that prices went down a little bit, that’s because nobody could afford to travel. It’s a basic law of supply and demand for heaven’s sake. And now we’re going to a different winter blend and the prices have just gone up dramatically, and even at $0.53 a gallon – the average family has two vehicles, you’re filling up anywhere from 20 to 25 gallons, you start to do the math on two-three times a week in travel time, that adds up. So that could’ve immediately been rectified. The other thing is that we should be able to do at the legislative level is produce some of our own power. And by shutting down some of these power plants, it’s just wrong.”
DG: California has high taxes and is one of the most regulated states, something you spoke about previously. How will you address the many taxes and regulations that impact Californians?
MP: “The new regulations and the taxes have just been crippling to everybody. When you start to regulate what an employer has to pay an employee, you’ve broken the back of a lot of these small businesses. When I was growing up, the minimum wage was for a reason. You started at the very start of your career, whether it was mowing lawns, working at a tomato shed, I worked at a car shop. It was entry level pay. Now every time you turn around there’s another tax, there’s another regulation that goes after the employer, and that nonsense has to stop. We have had even a local person here who owns a number of fast food restaurants, they’re moving to Georgia. That family can just not afford what they call the minimum wage with the new law that was just placed. And I don’t think these legislators nor my opponent has never run a business, has basically had a check every month and now is looking to, because someone’s termed out, looking for the next rung on the ladder. Look, it’s not lost on me. She ran against Jim Costa knowing that she was going to get turned out, and all of a sudden this basically came about. The one party rule is just debilitating the small business community.”
DG: The homelessness crisis seems like it is not getting any better. What would your approach be to curtail a crisis that has gotten out of control?
MP: “Well for someone that brags that she’s been appointed to a homeless commission, she may want to resign because it’s not getting any better in her district. I was in Fresno over the weekend campaigning. It’s horrifying. What we need to do is start to ensure we have a little tough love, and we need to spring back the drug court and the homeless court to ensure those persons enter into the system. That they continually get the substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, for the long-term. Everybody brags that the state has this surplus of billions of dollars. We need to start investing long-term with these drug and homeless courts. And here’s my point: Right now everything has been pushed back to a misdemeanor or infraction. That does not get you into what I call the felony component that you can be placed in the system which will ensure you get the necessary help. The drug courts, I go back to my law enforcement career, is before when you had a drug court you had a felony. If you finished your sentence you went through the drug court, proved to the court that you have rehabilitated, that you get your sentence reduced and you go on with your life. The same thing here with the homeless population. We need to ensure that they stay in the system and that it has to be mandated through the courts for both anger management, substance abuse, alcohol abuse and get them back to being a contributing member of society. Giving someone a three day voucher for a hotel is not helping them, it’s actually enabling them.”
DG: You mentioned one-party rule. That’s something that you’ll have to deal with if elected. How do you see yourself still being effective in the legislature as part of a super minority Republican party?
MP: “I’d have to challenge that statement. I think we’ve got some good chances to make some inroads to get ourselves out of that super minority. That’s why this district is so very important. For all intents and purposes, I work with everybody. I want to get to ‘yes.’ We will get to ‘yes’ if people will just slow down and look at the totality of some of these crazy laws that they’re enacting. Higher minimum wage, you can’t even get water storage because everybody’s afraid of the environmentalists. The infrastructure that was built here in California was built for 25 million people. Depending on what census you believe, the current one, we can be upwards of double that. And nothing that’s been done for increased water storage capacity. The roads are just now getting fixed, but it’s still a boondoggle getting up and down 99 and I-5. It’s still bumper-to-bumper. I’ve already worked with both Democrats and Republicans just in what I mentioned with the Cary Verse law with the one that I worked with Tom Berryhill over the past years. So I’ll just work with everybody and they have to see that Central California is the breadbasket, and we’re going to have to bring those people from LA and the Bay Area that your row crops and tree crops are not on aisles one and seven in the grocery store.”
DG: What needs to happen to secure more water for the district?
MP: “Absent praying for rain is that when it does rain we need to capture that precious resource with additional water storage. I get back to the one party rule. Why is everybody so mesmerized why we’re in this condition? It’s like they’re just always kicking the can down the road. We’ve had multiple opportunities to raise the Exchequer Dam here in the Merced-Mariposa area for Merced Irrigation District. We could’ve easily done the same thing with New Melones. There’s the Temperance Flat Dam, Shasta. Both on the federal and the state level, why is this so difficult to understand we need to raise the water capacity not only for the population but also to grow the necessary crops as California continues to grow in population and we continue to feed the world.”
DG: Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed nearly 1,000 bills as this latest legislative session wrapped up. Did any of those bills in particular catch your attention?
MP: “Not really. It is what it is, and we kind of move on. The bottom line is that we want to make sure that legislation is properly vetted. That’s why we really need the two party system, and that’s why I’m running for assembly. We can always have a healthy dialogue, but we also want to make sure that the legislation passed is good for everybody and not a knee jerk reaction to someone that just wants to have their name on a piece of legislation that’s signed by the governor.”
DG: Is there anything else that you would like to address?
MP: “In closing I just want it written: Do not fall for the negative propaganda. I am law enforcement’s choice. I have the backing of the sheriffs in all three counties. I’ve got some great endorsements with Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association, PORAC and a number of other smaller agencies in law enforcement. Just because frankly a lobbyist was upset with me because I didn’t kowtow to him, that’s how those two little endorsements came my opponent’s way. And I know who it is and I know what the incident was, but again I am law enforcement’s choice. We need to break the one-party rule.
The question you ask yourself: Are you better off now the way it is? I don’t think so with high gas taxes, inflation, having to have water conservation that we’ve never had before. So I’m in for the long haul, and we’re going to do quite well.”