Voters hoping for a moderate, open-to-compromise candidate in the 34th Assembly District race are out of luck. The race pits Democrat Mari Goodman, a union representative, against Republican incumbent Shannon Grove, a business owner who's a social and fiscal conservative through and through. Goodman has some undeniable virtues but Grove is the best choice to represent the strongly Republican district.
When she was first elected in 2010, Grove was a feisty, outspoken conservative who set out to change Sacramento. Two years later, it could be argued that Sacramento changed Grove more than she changed it. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
When Grove joined the Assembly (her seat was known as the 32nd District at the time) she was a political novice facing a daunting learning curve. Today, she's well-versed in the often-convoluted workings of state government. She's had bills hijacked by the Legislature's gut-and-amend process. She's had bills run into partisan brick walls. And she's learned a lot about issues that were barely on her radar two years ago.
For example, when Grove first ran for office she was, by her own admission, largely uninformed about certain aspects of the illegal immigration problem. She believed undocumented individuals could simply pay a fine and be allowed to stay in the United States. No such option exists. Her experience as an assemblywoman has changed that; she now supports allowing some form of legal residency for undocumented immigrants brought into the U.S. as a children.
This softening is a welcome change. Now, if she will just follow through with some action -- or at least more urgently vocalize her position. Few would have known about her evolving thoughts on immigration had it not become an issue in the campaign of Pedro Rios, a onetime illegal immigrant who Grove has endorsed for Assembly.
To be sure, Grove can be partisan. Witness her opposition-- she was one of the two noes in a 70-2 vote -- to an innocuous, no-fiscal-impact bill that staggered the terms of members of an obscure Bay Area emergency services commission. Say what? Who cares?
But Grove is still staunchly opposed to new taxes and unnecessarily restrictive regulations. She has also established a good track record of transparency and open government. And we respect her independent streak in voting against extended death benefits for public safety workers, an expense the state can ill afford. Most Republicans voted for the expanded benefits, no doubt because they didn't want to be perceived as hostile to police officers and firefighters.
Goodman, Grove's opponent, is passionate about organized labor and education, but we hardly need another union representative in Sacramento. And Goodman's approach to state cuts brought on by the budget crisis is to better organize those impacted by the cuts. That tactic ignores the reality that the state is in deep financial trouble and must do something to get its financial house in order.
Neither candidate is going to do anything to stem the polarization in Sacramento, which is at the root of the state's problems. That's why Grove's two years in office have largely been futile. But she has shown she can evolve, be an independent thinker and take a stand for transparency. That wins our endorsement.