It seems like just the other day San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian was running for California State Assembly. Now he’s running again—this time for re-election.
His opponent? A 65-year-old newbie out of Paso Robles by the name of Gerry Manata.
- PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER AND COURTESY OF CRAIG SWAIM
- CHOICES : Paso Robles resident Gerry Manata is the Democratic challenger running against incumbent Katcho Achadjian for the 35th California Assembly District.
While Katcho made his reputation locally as a soft-spoken super-pro-business Republican with a soft spot for oil and a distaste for large sweeping regulation, Manata is in favor of taxes and heavier regulations on environmental hazards like the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
After the statewide redistricting process, Manata, who’s running on the Democratic ticket, is facing a 6-point spread of Republican voters over Democrats in the 35th Assembly District. But there’s a juicy supply of 19 percent decline-to-staters seemingly up for grabs.
The following are some snippets of separate interviews with each candidate.
NEW TIMES If elected to the California State Assembly, how do you plan to address the state’s $16 billion deficit?
MANATA “I support [Gov. Jerry] Brown’s plan and his May revision. I hope the unions will accept the pay cuts as necessary, as well as agree to Brown’s 12-point pension reform plan or some version of it. We will need to raise taxes to pay off our overall debt ($361 billion).”
Manata said there are “some good initiatives potentially coming to the ballot that I support.”
He supports tax initiatives proposed by Brown and civil rights attorney Molly Munger. If passed, Brown’s measure would enact a temporary income-tax increase on Californians making more than $250,000 a year to pay for education and public safety. Munger’s measure would raise income taxes on a sliding scale on all but the poorest Californian workers for 12 years, with most of the money going directly to schools and early development programs.
Manata also supports the oil extraction tax and the revision of tax treatment for multi-state businesses, which he said “will help the schools.”
“I like the reassessment of business property and the charging of polluter fees to bring in extra money. If any fail to reach the ballot, I would bring them up in the Assembly,” he said.
NEW TIMES Same question.
ACHADJIAN “The key to addressing California’s chronic budget deficit is to implement policies that will improve the state’s economy and by adopting a spending cap and rainy day fund. Lost in all the talk about the deficit is the fact that over the last several years, revenues have actually increased year over year, even after the expiration of the temporary 2009 taxes. No amount of taxes will be enough to satisfy Sacramento’s spending lobby, therefore it is absolutely necessary that we control spending by implementing a spending cap.”
NEW TIMES What is your stance on fracking and other methods of oil extraction?
MANATA “I support heavier regulation of fracking along the lines of AB 591, and perhaps outlawing it entirely.”
ACHADJIAN “Our economy depends on access to energy. Like all energy-extraction methods, there is an environmental cost to extracting oil through fracking. Our goal should be to access these resources in the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner as possible.”
NEW TIMES According to your campaign website, you’re proposing the state start taxing items such as candy, fertilizer, and prescription drugs. How did you select these specific items?
MANATA “There is a tax system called ‘tax the bad and not the good,’ usually associated with steady state economics. Since we need to raise taxes, I wish to use this method to tax all the items mentioned in my website since they all, including prescription drugs, have negative effects on our health and well-being. I then wish to continue this process slowly in what is called tax shifting. That means to continue raising taxes on targeted items, while decreasing taxes by a comparable amount on other sales taxes or income taxes, or both. I go into more detail on my position paper on taxes in my website at manataforassembly.org.”
NEW TIMES Your opponent, Gerry Manata, has some very strong stances on taxation. What is your opinion on the matter?
ACHADJIAN “Mr. Manata and I have very different views when it comes to the tax burden that Californians face. I believe that hard-working Californians already send enough of their paycheck to Sacramento. I believe that the best way to increase revenue to the state is to implement policies that will increase economic development and to repeal unnecessary regulations and burdensome regulations. Doing so will make California a more competitive place to do business and stem the flow of jobs to other states.”
NEW TIMES What would you say to constituents who don’t believe these items should be taxed?
MANATA “I would say that we are in the process of dumping a horrible fiscal and environmental mess on our children. This tax system addresses both. ”
NEW TIMES What would you say to some of your opponents who believe you haven’t done enough to protect the local environment?
ACHADJIAN “I would let them know that I care deeply about the environment, but remind them of the millions of Californians who are out of work. Creating jobs is my priority.”
NEW TIMES Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MANATA “The crux of my campaign will be to distinguish myself from my opponent in some key areas. As a legislator, I will be pro-environment, pro-consumer rights, and, for the most part, pro-labor. My opponent’s voting record show[s] him to be anti-environment, anti-consumer rights, and very anti-labor. I will also be flexible about tax increases. My opponent has vowed to not raise taxes for any reason.”
NEW TIMES In which areas do you hope/plan to improve if re-elected? How will you accomplish these goals?
ACHADJIAN “If re-elected, I hope to continue building on the relationships that I have established during my first term and use those relationships to enact policies that will improve California’s economy and put more Californians back to work.”
Amy Asman is managing editor for New Times’ sister paper, the Sun. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional reporting came from News Editor Colin Rigley.