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Alex Horvath / The Californian

Andy Vidak is running for the 16th Senate District and was interviewed by The Californian editorial board.

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Michael Fagans / The Californian

Candidate for the 16th state Senate District seat, Paulina Miranda of Fresno.

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Alex Horvath/ The Californian

Muhammad Arif, who is running for 16th Senate District, spoke to Robert Price in the Dignity Health Studios Wednesday afternoon.

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Alex Horvath / The Californian

16th Senate District candidates Francisco Ramirez appears at The Californian's editorial board in the Dignity Health Studios Wednesday afternoon.

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Alex Horvath / The Californian

16th Senate District candidate Leticia Perez appears at The Californian's editorial board meeting in the Dignity Health Studios Wednesday afternoon.

Republican Andy Vidak and Democrat Paulina Miranda, two of the five candidates in the May 21 special election for California's 16th Senate District seat, made their pitches to The Californian's editorial board Thursday.

Miranda, of Fresno, one of two Democrats running without the support of the state Democratic party, touted her experience as a mother and educator.

She said she has a great deal of experience in Fresno County politics, and that gives her an edge.

"I am the best candidate because I am the one who has the most political experience," she said. "I want to put my experience to work."

Vidak, who ran as a conservative in his failed 2010 battle with Congressman Jim Costa, took a softer tone with core issues in the race on Thursday.

Asked if he would be able to accomplish much as a Republican in a Democrat-controlled Legislature, Vidak said he is committed to building common-sense consensus with middle ground leaders of both parties.

If he wins the seat, Vidak said, "I am going to have my door open to anyone. I'm not going to shut my door and throw rocks at people."

He said Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is a smart man with a lot of great ideas.

"He's going to need somebody like me," Vidak said. "There are going to be enough of us in the middle. I'm not going to be one of those crazy right-wing guys."

He is the only Republican in the race and, with well-funded Democrat Leticia Perez, is expected to top the field of five candidates.

Miranda also took a middle-ground stance on several issues. Asked about an oil-severance tax, she leveled a critique of taxation.

"We need to put people to work. Why do we have to tax everything?" she asked. "If your focus is just on increasing taxes, increasing taxes ... you don't have a chance to find other solution."

But on immigration Miranda, herself an immigrant from Tijuana, Mexico, expressed strong support for reform of the process.

"If we don't have the people who can pick up the fruits and the vegetables and put them on their table, and the tables of the world, what will be done with the trees? Nothing," she said.

Vidak maintained his oft-repeated critique of Perez's support for an increase in the minimum wage, saying it will cost jobs.

"Minimum wage does nothing for someone who doesn't have a job," he said. "It may poll well. But just because it polls well doesn't mean I'm going to support it."

Vidak was the only one of the five candidates who refused to allow his editorial board interview to be recorded on video and posted on the Californian's website.

He said his campaign team advised him not to allow a recording.

Watch videos of the candidates' appearances before the editorial board on Wednesday and Thursday. VIdak declined to be videotaped.