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Knight, Strickland spar in Palmdale

Posted: August 1, 2014 6:18 p.m.
Updated: August 1, 2014 6:18 p.m.

PALMDALE — The two Republicans running to represent the Santa Clarita Valley in Congress made their pitches and outlined their ideals Friday to a standing-room-only crowd ... of Democrats.

About 125 people turned out Friday afternoon in Palmdale for a debate between former state legislator Tony Strickland and state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale. The debate was sponsored by the Democratic Club of the High Desert.

Both are running to replace longtime Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, as the congressional representative for the Santa Clarita Valley, as well as portions of the Antelope and Simi valleys.

“I don’t see how two Republicans are going to convince a room full of Democrats to vote for them,” remarked one man as he entered the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers office in Palmdale, where the debate was held. “This will be interesting.”

While neither Knight nor Strickland backed down from the conservative credentials they have touted throughout the campaign, both also said they have experience working across the aisle with Democrats.

“We shouldn’t just be a representative of Republicans, or a Democrat representative shouldn’t just be for the Democrats; we should be for everyone,” Knight said.

“I don’t care if it’s a Republican idea, I don't care if it's a Democratic idea,” Strickland said. “I care if it’s a good idea.”

Though both were pressed for their perspectives on issues near and dear to the hearts of most Democrats, some questions also concerned their perspectives on other political topics.

For instance, the two were questioned on their relationship with McKeon and their thoughts about his legacy after 22 years in Congress.

Strickland, who has received McKeon’s endorsement in the race, praised the longtime congressman.

“I think he’s done a remarkable job for the district,” he said. “Most members of Congress never even chair one committee; he’s been chair of two major, standing committees.”

Knight, however, was a little more measured.

“I would say that he’s done an OK job for the district,” Knight said. “It’s hard to say when we don’t see him very often. He doesn’t come to this area very often.”

Knight also acknowledged McKeon’s leadership roles in Congress, but added, “22 years is enough.”

another question was whether the candidates would have any interest in running for the seat of Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich after Antonovich is termed out of office.

Both Strickland and Knight said they would not be interested in that seat.

The two men were also asked who they supported in June’s primary election for the 36th Assembly District, which covers a wide swath of the Antelope Valley and portions of Canyon Country and north Saugus.

That district is represented by first-term Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, who will be facing off against Republican and Palmdale City Councilman Tom Lackey in November.

Fox won a narrow victory in 2012 and faces a tough re-election battle.

Strickland said he supported another Republican, Suzette Martinez, for the seat, but that he thought Republican candidate J.D. Kennedy would have been a good choice as well.

Knight said he supports Lackey’s bid.

Though it is assured that the district will continue to be represented by a Republican, Democratic Club of the High Desert President Johnathon Ervin said it is important for Democrats to be engaged and involved in the upcoming election.

“We cannot tell half the electorate to disengage for two years because one of these two gentlemen is going to represent us in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

At the end of the debate, attendees took part in a straw poll.

If the results from that are any indication, the race could come down to the wire. Strickland received 52 votes, Knight received 51 and 22 people said they were undecided.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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