Senate candidates Gaines and Cooley spar in special election over budget

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Republican Ted Gaines and Democrat Ken Cooley are approaching Election Day on Tuesday battling for the vacant 1st District state Senate seat and over government costs and taxes. Gaines, a Roseville resident due to be termed out of his Assembly seat in two years, and Cooley the current mayor of Rancho Cordova, topped other candidates in a primary special election in November. But because no candidate received a majority, they move on to the Jan. 4 special general election as the highest vote-getters. The race between Gaines and Cooley is the only one on the ballot. The county elections division estimates Placer costs will run about $650,000. Cooley, 57, whose work in the state Legislature stretches back to the late 1970s, describes himself as “not a tax-and-spend Democrat” and moderate to conservative in his political leanings. As well as mayor of Rancho Cordova, he’s the Senate’s principal consultant to the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee. Gaines, 52, owner of a Roseville insurance business, was re-elected for a final term in the Assembly in November. He would be forced to give it up if he is elected to the Senate. He’s long been identified as a fiscal conservative. “It gives you a good barometer for the economy,” Gaines said, referring to his 29 years in the insurance industry. “You’re operating in a sense of reality where you have to ensure your books are balanced and make cutbacks when they’re needed.” Cooley has served on the Rancho Cordova City Council since 2002 and has been the community’s top vote-getter in the 2004 and 2008 elections. Cooley said he would be attempting to establish bi-partisan support for his priorities and with his experience at the state level, is “definitely not the rookie.” “I feel I will be the strongest freshman senator in many, many years,” he said. With a projected $29 billion annual deficit in the coming year, the state of California is clearly in need of dramatic budget cuts at a time when Democrats are looking toward an initiative on the ballot that could ask for another tax increase, Gaines said. Gaines said he supported Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May budget revision when it reflected $11.5 billion in cuts. “But – No. 1 – I’m not going to support one that increases spending,” Gaines said. “People are hurting and expecting government to live within its means.” Cooley said any tax increases in the future would need to have voter approval. “It’s pretty clear that California voters are not in the mood for tax increases and I accept that,” Cooley said. Gaines and Cooley had close vote totals in November, with the Democrats polling 30.38 percent and the Republican candidate garnering 31.8 percent. They’re in a special election caused by the death this past summer of Sen. Dave Cox.