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Maienschein In Rematch With Republican Challenger For 77th Assembly Seat

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein and challenger June Yang Cutter in undated camp...

Credit: Campaign photos

Above: Assemblyman Brian Maienschein and challenger June Yang Cutter in undated campaign photos.

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Assemblyman Brian Maienschein is challenged by Republican employment lawyer June Yang Cutter in a repeat of the March primary.

Aired: October 27, 2020 | Transcript

In a rematch of the March primary, voters in San Diego County’s 77th District get another shot next month to either keep Democratic Assemblyman Brian Maienschein or replace him with Republican employment lawyer June Yang Cutter.

The 51-year-old Maienschein, who switched his party affiliation to Democrat in 2019, won the March primary, capturing 57% percent of the vote to Cutter’s 43%.

Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.

But the pandemic, the lockdown, the loss of life due to COVID-19 and the racial justice protests have relegated the March primary to another era as the Nov. 3 general election approaches.

As with everywhere else, the virus has hit the 77th Assembly District — which includes Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch, and Poway — with school closures and lost jobs.

Maienschein slammed President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic while praising Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response. Newsom was the first governor in the United States to impose a strict stay-at-home order.

“Gov. Newsom acted boldly in the beginning and I think it helped,” Maienschein said. “It’s a tough job to be governor of this state.”

Cutter, 42, argues that Newsom has done a “poor job” when taking into account the fallout from school closures and the lockdown.

“Kids staying at home has increased mental health issues across the board,” Cutter said. “Drug addiction, drug use, abuse and the rate of suicide has gone up. I think we should have had a more balanced and pragmatic approach to handling this pandemic.”

She said Trump’s handling of the pandemic “is what it is.”

“We can’t really look at it with the eye of, “did nobody pass away from COVID-19?’ she said. “It’s about how much we prevented. And I think that we have done a good job as a country of trying to do the best we can.”

Cutter declined to say whether she supports Trump for re-election “because it’s too divisive.”

Maienschein said it’s clear Cutter backs the president.

Reported by Amita Sharma

“It’s not just that she has embraced Trump and his policies, it’s that she has embraced his politics,” Maienschein said. “She doesn’t speak about herself. It’s all these just very broad attacks on me or on the state of California.”

Cutter said she entered the race because of Maienschein’s support for a 2019 bill that toughens rules on when police can use force. He has since backed a slew of police reform legislation, including a requirement that the state attorney general’s office investigates when police shoot unarmed people and banning law enforcement from using chokeholds.

“I think it’s time to have that reform,” Maienschein said.

Cutter is campaigning on a promise to correct societal disparities in public education, hold Sacramento politicians accountable and tackling economic hardships facing Californians.

“It's not just expensive because we live in a gorgeous, sunny state like California,” she said. “There's a lot of regulations that are placed on various industries which make the cost of housing and the cost of goods so expensive.”

She has said Maienschein’s party switch from Republican to Democrat last year puts him out of alignment with the 77th District.

“To me, it smells like politics and it doesn’t sound like he is actually listening to the constituents of his community,” Cutter said.

She also called Maienschein’s legislative record as a four-term assemblyman “vanilla.”

“He has passed legislation that has been bipartisan,” Cutter said. “I don’t think he has taken on the brave task of tackling any issues that would create conflict and debate.”

Maienschein touts his authorship of more than 100 bills signed into law, dealing with mental health to homelessness to small businesses.

“That would really put me up near the top of having the most bills passed of anyone,” Maienschein said. “I’ve worked hard to represent my community and have been very effective in doing so.”

He said he doesn’t believe that voters will hold his exit from the Republican Party against him.

“I don’t think anyone was really surprised,” Maienschein said. “I am really happy that I had the guts to stand up and do what I felt was right. I saw where Trump was and where the Republican Party was and it wasn’t something I felt comfortable with.”

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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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