In AD-36, Independents Will Decide if Steve Fox Keeps His Seat

California Democrats are struggling to hold on to their supermajority in the State Assembly as the California GOP prepares to take back a number of seats in the lower chamber. One of the many races vital to the GOP’s efforts to regain some ground in the legislature is Assembly District 36.

Following the June 3 primary, Republican Tom Lackey led with 41.1 percent of the vote, while incumbent Steve Fox (D) finished in second with 32.8 percent. However, after the field of candidates was narrowed from 5 (3 Republicans and 2 Democrats) to 2 in the nonpartisan, top-two open primary, these numbers will likely fluctuate dramatically in the general election.

AD-36 voter registration
AD-36 voter registration

Under the new system, all candidates and voters participate on a single ballot, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters, regardless of political affiliation, advance to the general election.

The Republican vote was split 3 ways between Lackey, third place candidate JD Kennedy (12.2%), and fourth place candidate Suzette M. Martinez (9.2%). The Democratic vote was also split between Fox and last place candidate Kermit F. Franklin (4.6%).

Democrats are gearing up to fight for this key seat.

After Fox came in second by 3,000+ votes, many Democrats quickly contributed to his campaign just before the June 30 fundraising deadline. His campaign, in turn, raised $103,627 while still holding $118,042 cash on hand.

Fox has also received endorsements from various prominent Democrats, including “Adam Gray, Ian Calderon, Freddie Rodriguez, Lorena Gonzalez, Matt Dababneh, Mark Stone, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Bill Quirk, Rob Bonta, Jimmy Gomez and Raul Bocanegra.”

Lackey has been endorsed by every supervisor in the Assembly District, including U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy and former state Senator Sharon Runner. However, his endorsements and campaign fundraising fall short of Fox’s by a significant amount.

Lackey only raised $46,700, with an additional $25,445 in the bank.

While the district — which covers Rosamond, Lancaster, and Palmdale — has historically leaned Republican, there is not much of a gap between the number of registered Republicans and the number of registered Democrats. Over a quarter of the registered voting population is not affiliated with either major party, meaning the election will be decided by Decline-to-State and No Party Preference (independent) voters.

Both candidates realize that they need to expand their outreach to voters outside their respective parties. They are also aware of the fact that under the new election system, candidates cannot solely rely on a partisan base, but must be accountable to every constituent.

This has shaped how Fox and Lackey approach the biggest issues facing Assembly District 36.

Jobs and the Economy:

Lackey has identified unemployment as one of the most important issues California will face in the years to come.

“We need to improve circumstances and allow people to have jobs. Our unemployment situation is completely unacceptable,” he states.

Lackey plans to focus on his work restoring the Enterprise Zone and economic growth. He is adamant on bringing more aerospace jobs to California.

According to Fox’s website, the restoration of jobs and stimulation of the economy are top priorities. During his time in the State Assembly, he fought for redevelopment, including restoration in the Enterprise Zone. He has also taken an interest in bringing the aerospace industry to the Palmdale County area to boost job growth.

During his term, Fox encouraged the government to bring 100,000 jobs to the region through support of the drone industry.

Public Safety:

Lackey believes his years as a Highway Patrol sergeant have prepared him to lead the district in improving public safety. He feels that in parallel with unemployment, public safety is also one of the most important issues facing Californians.

Fox supports fully funding public programs to keep children in school. He is also adamant on protecting the community within the district, making sure residents’ homes are not a “dumping ground” for recently released prisoners as they have been in the past.

Education:

Lackey served on the Palmdale School District as a board member for 6 years. Through this experience, he has learned what needs to be improved in terms of education.

Fox is a former teacher who taught students in juvenile hall. He wants a new law that allows juvenile detention schools to hold additional English and Math classes. He continues to fight for an increase in education funding while opposing payoffs for school administrators.

Veterans:

Lackey supports extra funding for housing and educating veterans.

Fox recently signed a measure that would allow $600 million in bonds to be allocated for the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable housing and transitional housing for veterans and their families.

Image: Tom Lackey (left) and Assemblymember Steve Fox (right)