SACRAMENTO – The race for the north San Fernando Valley’s 38th Assembly seat may seem lopsided in terms of fundraising and party registration, but with no incumbent in the mix, the candidates see it as a wide-open field. Four Democrats, two Republicans and one Libertarian are vying in the June primary for the post now held by Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, who is termed-out and running for state treasurer. Political analysts see the district, encompassing the North Valley and parts of Ventura County, as a safe GOP seat, with voter registration about 44 percent Republican and 35 percent Democrat. But Richman is a centrist Republican, and the Democratic candidates believe they have a chance at regaining the seat despite the lopsided registration. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event Still, Santa Clarita Councilman Cameron Smyth, a Republican who has raised more money than the six other candidates combined, is perceived as the candidate to beat, both in June and November. That doesn’t dissuade the competition. Mary Barrientos, a Republican intergovernmental affairs consultant from Granada Hills who has raised less than $20,000, said she is not discouraged by Smyth’s edge in fundraising and endorsements. “I don’t see it as a disadvantage,” said Barrientos, who also served as a city housing commissioner in the 1990s. “The endorsements he has – they don’t live in my district. They’re designer labels, all these Assembly people and party leaders. I’m looking for the Mr. and Mrs. Jones down the street.” If elected, Barrientos said, she would work to end term limits, reform the redistricting system and address homelessness. She also wants to tackle immigration reform, and would try to deny driver’s licenses, in-state college tuition and other benefits to illegal immigrants. Smyth, who also served two terms as Santa Clarita mayor, said he remains confident, but is not taking the race for granted. “Between my time in the private sector as well as on the council, I’ve had first-hand experience of what is going on in Sacramento,” Smyth said. “I always felt if you don’t like what you see, you should go in and try to make a change.” He favors spending more state money for infrastructure and transportation improvements, though he feels Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infrastructure plan relied too heavily on borrowing, rather than the pay-as- you-go approach favored by the Assembly Republican caucus. Smyth is conservative on both fiscal and social issues. He opposes tax increases, gay marriage and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and supports the death penalty. He also supports Richman’s efforts to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District and would work to continue the effort if it does not succeed before Richman leaves office. He would also like to combat runaway film production by looking at matching some of the incentives offered by other states and countries that have been luring studios away from California. On the Democratic side are several candidates who have been involved in political and community activism, but none has held significant elected office. Jim Alger is a community activist who has been involved in land-use and development issues, including the successful campaign that halted the opening of a Wal-Mart store in Northridge. He is president of the Northridge West Neighborhood Council and sees serving in the Assembly as a chance to further his work empowering local communities. “It comes down to creating legislation that will mandate the community is consulted on decisions that are being made,” Alger said. For example, he would impose a statute of limitations on the amount of time that passes between developers obtaining permits and the time they start a project, to prevent instances where a developer is building a project that was approved a decade earlier when the community may have had a different political and economic profile. He would also like to restrict landfills in urban areas, such as Sunshine Canyon and Bradley, creating a mandated buffer zone between such facilities and residential areas. He also wants to promote clean-air vehicles and is considering an idea to make vehicle taxes scaled according to the amount of pollution emitted by that vehicle, with rebates given to the cleanest-burning cars. Last year Alger worked in the district office of Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys. Previously he ran his own custom high-end car company, with production facilities in Sacramento. That business, however, went under as the economy soured in 2001 and Alger is still in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. He said he is on a monthly payment plan and intends to repay all of his debts. He is also struggling with muscular dystrophy. His ability to defy doctors’ predictions several years ago that he would never walk again, he said, is indicative of the same tenacity he will use to fight for his constituents. Alger and his wife are expecting their second child on Election Day. Democrat Jane Lowenthal is a professional mediator and arbitrator and a state library commissioner. She said her profession would translate well to helping break gridlock in Sacramento. “With 25 years of experience, I’ll work with everyone getting them to build a consensus so we can make progress on the issues important to the 38th,” Lowenthal said. “I say to my clients: Bring your sleeping bag, because we’re going to be here until we find common ground that we’re all satisfied with.” One of her top priorities, she said, would be working on infrastructure issues, again using her mediator’s perspective to find common ground rather than impose her own proposals on Assembly colleagues. She also wants to work on adult literacy by better promoting the literacy services already available through public libraries. She also would like to work on economic development and job creation. Lyn Shaw is a human services administrator who works for a nonprofit foundation that helps people with developmental disabilities. Shaw said she would use that experience to help fight in Sacramento to help the most vulnerable populations of society. “I want to be the voice, the lobbyist for people who don’t traditionally have lobbyists,” Shaw said. Shaw is married to Jim Hilfenhaus, an official with the Laborers Local 300 union. Accordingly, she is strongly pro-labor and has picked up a number of endorsements from powerful unions, including the state and county labor federations and the Teamsters. She would like to close corporate tax loopholes and would consider increasing corporate property taxes through modifying Proposition 13 to create a split roll tax that would increase the amount companies pay on properties they have owned for a long time, while not affecting homeowners. She also would support a clean money system of public campaign financing to help reduce political corruption. Sid Gold, a physician from Granada Hills, is also seeking the Democratic nomination. He could not be reached for comment. Peggy Christensen, an educator from Granada Hills, will also be on the June ballot, running unopposed for the Libertarian Party’s nomination. Harrison Sheppard, (916) 446-6723 firstname.lastname@example.org 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!