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All 4 candidates debate at Assembly District forum

Hopefuls trade barbs and outline qualifications

Posted: May 7, 2012 6:23 p.m.
Updated: May 7, 2012 6:23 p.m.
From left, state Assembly candidates Patricia McKeon, Paul Strickland, Edward Headington and Scott Wilk speak in a forum at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Monday. From left, state Assembly candidates Patricia McKeon, Paul Strickland, Edward Headington and Scott Wilk speak in a forum at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Monday.
From left, state Assembly candidates Patricia McKeon, Paul Strickland, Edward Headington and Scott Wilk speak in a forum at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Monday.

In the first all-candidates forum for the primary election, contenders for the state's 38th Assembly District seat defined and highlighted their differences over breakfast with local business leaders Monday morning.

With a handful of recent Republican forums to which Democrat Edward Headington was not invited, and some additional forums at which other candidates failed to appear, the bacon-and-eggs breakfast served at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Monday proved the first public event to draw all four candidates.

Close to 150 movers and shakers from the Santa Clarita Valley's business community started their work week listening to what each candidate had to say about key issues.

Seeking one of two seats in the June 5 open primary are Republicans Scott Wilk, Paul Strickland and Patricia McKeon and Democrat Edward Headlington. Names of the top two vote-getters will be on the November ballot.

While polite and courteous, candidates didn't pass up the chance to volley veiled barbs at each other.

McKeon, wife of Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, defined herself in contrast to College of the Canyons Trustee Scott Wilk as someone not looking to make politics a career.

"I'm not looking for a job; I don't want a political career," she said. "Scott ran for the COC board, cost us $100,000 in this community, then he turns around and says he's going to run for the Assembly.

"I think that's someone looking for a political career," she said. "It's incumbent on people to stop skipping from one job to another job in our Legislature because it's not helping."

Wilk fired back, describing himself as someone with "a plan" and as someone "prepared to do the job." And, he said, not because he "had some epiphany standing in line at the grocery store," referring to McKeon's published assertion she was motivated to run for public office after an encounter with the county's no-plastic-bags policy at a local supermarket.

Headington, after complaining "of all the in-fighting" and all the "character attacks" among the Republicans, criticized McKeon's attendance record at recent public forums.

"When we want to talk about issues, not all of us show up," he said. "I want to thank our hosts for finding the appropriate amount of pressure to get all of us here," he said.

McKeon had words for her only Democratic opponent.
"Democrats cannot do anything to change the way things are going or they would have done it," she said "Their pockets are filled with union money so they do whatever the unions want."

Strickland reminded the breakfast group he's been elected more than any of his challengers.

"I'm the person here with more hands-on, in-the-trenches community service than any other candidate here," he said. "I think that's what we need now."

The forum - sponsored by the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industry Association, the (San Fernando) Valley Industry and Commerce Association, AT&T, local attorney Hunt C. Braly, the Southern California Gas Company and UCLA's Government and Community Relations - allowed candidates to distinguish themselves from each other as they sat shoulder to shoulder at the head table.

Headington. as a member of the state's governing party, identified himself as the one most likely to get things done.

"If you're someone who never votes Democrat, then you've got three choices up," Headington said. "But if you're someone who really wants to get things done and have an impact up there, someone who can line up your interests in terms of public safety, education and job creation - then I think I'm your guy."

Itemizing a long list of endorsements from Simi Valley, San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita Valley, Wilk characterized himself as the government-savvy relationship builder, referencing his work with people like former state Sen. Tom McClintock.

"We've worked the district. We've built relationships," he said. "You are successful - whether it's in your family, in your business or in life - if you build relationships. I believe that's what I bring to the table."

While saying she's the "best candidate," McKeon described herself as merely "a citizen."

"I'm a citizen who wants to go to Sacramento and do the work of the people," she said.

At one point, each candidate was asked: Name the group in Sacramento that has too much power.

All but Strickland identified that group as the California Teachers Association.

"I'm proud I have the teachers' endorsement," he said.


Go to for video of the event.



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