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Chavez, Weber Talk Democrats’ Supermajority In Sacramento

Evening Edition

Above: Shirley Weber, (D), State Assemblymember-elect from the 79th District, and Rocky Chavez, (R), State Assemblymember-elect from the 76th District, talk to KPBS about the election and the new Democratic supermajority at the California capitol.

Aired 11/13/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Shirley Weber, (D), State Assemblymember-elect, 79th District

Rocky Chavez, (R), State Assemblymember-elect, 76th District

Since the election, the political landscape has changed in Sacramento. It's the first time since 1883 Democrats have had a supermajority in California's Assembly and Senate.

San Diego is sending both a Republican and Democrat to the state Assembly. Shirley Weber, a Democratic state assemblymember-elect for the 79th District, told KPBS she's the first African American to be elected to the Assembly from south of Los Angeles.

"Not only San Diego County but Orange County as well. Male or female. So that's exciting," she said. "Hopefully it provides individuals with some sense of hope and opportunity that's there. But it also says that it really doesn't matter whether you're from a district that really represents your ethnic group or not. Because the district I represent is only 10 percent African American, and yet I've consistently served that community.

"So it says to young people you don't have to wait to be in a majority ethically or gender-wise or whatever it may be. If you serve and serve well and give your best to a community and they recognize it, they will want you to continue to serve them."

Weber added that redistricting of the 79th District played a significant part in her victory.

"This district had been considered a Democratic district," she said. "Served by a Democrat in almost its entire history except for one time. So the district itself had been Democratic, it's just more Democratic than it was before. So that had some role to play in the general election."

She said the new open primary system in California also had an impact on her election.

"With an open primary, and four Democrats running, then the Democrats changed significantly," she said.

In the 76th District, the open primary also had an effect. There, two Republican candidates, Rocky Chavez and Sherri Hodges, made it to the general election.

The winner, Chavez, told KPBS he did not have to appeal more to Democrats or independents because he already had "a broad base of support."

"As you will recall, in the actual general election, Sherri Hodges was endorsed by the Central Committee Republican Party," he said. "In fact, I believe I'm the only assemblymember going up there who is not endorsed by the Democrat or Republican party. And I won by 16 points."

Chavez added that he focused on issues during the campaign like jobs, education, veterans and "governance paying its own way," all of which he said reach across party lines.

Because Democrats hold a supermajority in both houses, they can raise taxes and override vetoes without Republican support.

Weber said that supermajority reflects Californians' values, but that she hopes Democrats will not abuse their power.

"I think those of us in the Assembly who are Democrats recognize that this is a unique opportunity to reach across the aisle to do some things that we know are good for California," she said. "And it's an awesome responsibility. When you have a two-thirds majority, you don't want to abuse it. You want to make sure that you use it and include others into the agenda that's there. Those of us in Sacramento who met already talk about the tremendous opportunity, but also the tremendous responsibility."

"I don't think there'll be this rush to increase taxes," she added. "But it may be an effort to start closing loopholes that people have talked about that they want to make sure that we're fair to everyone and that everybody pays their fair share that's there. So there's been much conversation in the past about that. And I assume that would be the first look, people would say is there fairness in our tax system? And if not, where's the unfairness, and have we done what we're supposed to do, at the same time trying to encourage the other element, which is growth of businesses and small businesses, and opportunities for individuals in California."

Chavez said he agrees with many of the goals Weber voiced.

"Families need to have -- the most important thing they want is successful children," he said. "To have a good future. And a lot of families are single-parent, and daycare is important, and after-school programs. And we didn't even talk about public safety with gangs and all those other things that impact children. But the other solution also is make sure you're spending the money wisely."

He said he knows there's not a need for more taxes.

"There just needs to be looking at new technologies, how do you do things better, new efficiencies," he said. "Just listening to us talk, we have some of the similar goals. I know the Democrats can't increase taxes because people are going to get upset because everybody's got to pay for milk and bread and gas."

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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