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Jim Ruffalo: Gaines’ shot at two offices could cost us

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Wringing out the notebook while professing gratitude over the abundance of the recent rainfall. My parched lawn needed it. One thing that — at least in my humble opinion — could use some shutting off is the practice of a political candidate running for two separate offices at the same time. Now it doesn’t take a political junkie to realize the above reference is to Ted Gaines, who previously served his constituents well as a Placer County Supervisor and a neophyte State Assemblyman. However, his current effort to run for re-election in the 4th Assembly District while simultaneously making an effort to capture the State Senate seat made vacant by the death of beloved Dave Cox isn’t extraordinary, but certainly makes this one-time supporter of his question whether or not his political career should be extended. Forget for a moment, if you can, whether such a power grab makes him appear to be a dog in the manger. Instead, let us just examine the economics of such a move. Should he win the state senate seat — and Barbara Alby assuredly can siphon enough votes away from Roger Niello to make that a distinct possibility — then what happens to the assembly seat that Gaines no doubt will also capture? The answer, according to the state constitution, is that a special election would be required to re-fill that assembly seat. So what’s the problem? Turns out that putting on a special election is rather pricey these days. According to Jim McCauley, Placer County’s Registrar, a special election for the 4th Assembly District could cost close to a half-million bucks. “And that’s just for the Placer County portion of the race,” he said, explaining that it would mean printing 118,000 ballots at 40 cents each, a like number of sample ballot booklets at $1.70 per, “and the costs of setting up voting booths, paying salaries, postage and the other costs of any election.” At least the beleaguered taxpayers earlier caught a break when both McCauley and his El Dorado County counterpart Bill Schultz earlier declined the Gaines organization’s request for separate ballots for those two races. Not that such a move was agreeable to the Gaines camp, not according to a July 30 missive to McCauley from the Orange County law firm of Wewer & Lacy.  That letter wanted McCauley to reconsider his decision to put both races on the same ballot. The law firm, which identified itself as “special counsel to California State Assemblyman Ted Gaines,” said in part that concerned “voters within the 4th Assembly District may be confused” by having Gaines’ name twice listed on the same ballot. The letter then called upon McCauley “to help reduce the voter confusion” by printing a special ballot. Perhaps the only confusion in the minds of some voters is why somebody so politically capable and astute as Gaines would make such a hare-brained move as to go for two offices at the same time. Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit here, but I know a thing or two about local politics. It’s my belief that had Gaines bowed out of the assembly race and run only for the senate seat, he would have walked away a winner. Gaines probably will still be a winner on election night, but perhaps “winner” isn’t the word that will come to my mind. ... Bad time: The extra work upon McCauley caused by Gaines’ two-for-one efforts couldn’t have come at a worse time for the registrar. He’s just recently back home after spending close to a month battling double pneumonia (great; yet another two-for-one) which resulted in a collapsed lung. “The doctors told me to take it easy for a while, but I’ve been spending a couple of hours a day at the office, and doing the rest of the work at home (via the computer),” he said, insisting that all was on schedule in his section of the voting world. Both Placer County and neighboring El Dorado are lucky to have excellent registrars. On Tuesday night, we’ll see if Nevada County can finally make a similar claim. ... Prediction: Not that anyone really cares, but here’s my predictions for the national election. Despite nearly every pundit prognosticating a GOP tsunami, one must remember that blowing out an incumbent is somewhat akin to removing peanut butter from the roof of your mouth without using your fingers. With that in mind, I predict the Republicans will capture 59 congressional seats currently held by Democrats, and will lose four of their own. The GOP will also finish the night with six additional senators. We’ll see. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at jimruffalo@yahoo.com.