This June’s 32nd Assembly District Republican primary is for all the marbles.
It’s a head-to-head contest between controversial school board trustee, homebuilder and political activist Ken Mettler against businesswoman and political newbie Shannon Grove.
Shannon Holloway’s name also will be on the ballot, but she’s dropped out of the race. The GOP winner will technically face Democrat Holly Spohn-Gross in November, but she, too, has left the contest.
So what are the differences between Grove and Mettler?
When you get down to hot-button issues for Republican voters in Kern County, there are very few differences between Mettler and Grove.
Both are anti-abortion.
Both oppose gay marriage.
Both are big fans of Arizona’s new tough stance on illegal immigration.
They both believe in re-drawing California’s legislative districts to reduce political gerrymandering.
Neither supports new taxes.
There are only a couple of places where their stance on the issues differs.
Mettler opposes an $11 billion bond on the November ballot that would improve the critical Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and, possibly, pave the way for a canal around the controversial pumps that have been put on limited use to protect the endangered delta smelt.
He says the bill has too much pork — unnecessary pet project money — to justify the good it might do.
Grove agrees the bill is porky but says she supports farmers and water district leaders who believe the bill would bring needed water to Kern County agriculture.
The two candidates also have a bit of a different view on bipartisanship in a Democrat-controlled state legislature.
Mettler says he doesn’t believe bipartisanship works “if it means always moving your principles and your vote to the left.”
The Republicans can’t be the “party of capitulation,” he said.
Grove is a little more positive about the concept of working across the aisle.
“Yeah it works,” she said. “I think you can make it work. You've got to work together without compromising your beliefs or values.”
Both Grove and Mettler say they would work to bring moderate Democrats to “their side” on issues.
“Even though I may have a reputation as a firebrand, I am a lot better at putting together coalitions than I have been given credit for,” Mettler said. “It's not just enough to be in the minority and voting against something and losing.”
How do they think they’re different?
Perhaps the most interesting distinctions come out when you ask them to explain what makes them different from their opponent.
Both believe they stand out as unique individuals.
“My faith, my integrity and my willingness to serve others,” Grove said. “The ability to bring people together.”
“I'm a principle-driven person who stands up against bullies,” Mettler said. “I honestly try to be reflective of the values system I was raised in.”
How do they differ as leaders?
Mettler said he is a “Tea-Party Reagan conservative” and citizen activist who opposes the water bond and is “not part of the local moderate political machine. I am an independent.”
Grove said she “still (has) a viable small business that puts people to work every week.”
What bills would they author in Sacramento?
Grove said she would support legislation to create a part-time legislature, a “moratorium on new regulation for employers” and a repeal of AB 32 climate change law: “it's a job killer bill.”
Mettler said he would support an across-the-board pay cut for all state employees, a cap on economic damages in litigation and work to make California laws the same as Arizona’s on worker’s compensation.