Claremont COURIER/Saturday, September 1, 2012
Gonzales aims to bring firsthand life experience to Sacramento
andidates for the statelegislature are movingfull gear toward Elec-tion Day, to be held on Tuesday,November 6. The rallies andmeet-and-greets are becomingmore frequent as incumbentsand legislative hopefuls work toreach voters before the early-voter deadline of Monday, Oc-tober 15.
This year voters face the ballot box tovote for the first time on California’snewly redistricted senate, congressionaland assembly districts.For Claremont, that means 3 districtswith new representation. The districtlines of former Senator Bob Huff andAssemblyman Tim Donnelly no longerinclude the City of Trees, and after 32years representing Claremont, Congress-man David Dreier announced his retire-ment last February.With 6 candidates new to Claremontvoters, the COURIER is sitting downwith each candidate to help acquaint lo-cals with their potential new representa-tion. Candidates for the 25th StateSenate, 27th Congressional and 41stState Assembly districts will be pre-sented in a series of profiles within thenext 6 issues.Republican Gil Gonzales—a 2003Pitzer graduate running for the 25th StateSenate District, including Claremont—looks to bring a personal perspective toSacramento if elected this November.Mr. Gonzales, raised by a single mother,moved between 16 different elementaryschools and 5 different high schoolsgrowing up as his mother hopped from job to job. His mother was left paralyzedby a near-fatal crash when he was 12years old, and at the age of 15 he droppedout of high school to support his family.Refusing to let his struggles define him,Mr. Gonzales went on to get his GEDand earn a full ride to Pitzer College,where he now serves on the board of trustees.Mr. Gonzales plans to bring the expe-rience of his own hardships to the Capi-tol, and hopes to benefit families that arestruggling with similar situations in the25th District.
Q. You’re a first-time candidate—what inspired you to run for office?
A. It probably started with my grand-parents, who helped me develop a com-mitment to “service above self.” Mygrandparents on my dad’s side came tothis country from Mexico to give betteropportunities to their children and grand-children. On my mom’s side, my grand-father, who somewhat raised me, alwaysput forth the idea of giving to your com-munity, sacrificing in order to make surethat others have a better shot at theAmerican Dream than he had, and Iguess that’s what inspired me to run.Also, my mother is disabled. She is com-pletely dependent on social services. Sheis paralyzed and seeing some of the chal-lenges she deals with on a day-to-daybasis also inspires me to go around andbe involved in the community.
Q. How does your background uniquely qualify you to lead the 25th dis-trict?
A. From a professional standpoint, Istarted a literacy program after collegecalled Borrowed Voices, which to thisday is going strong throughout the juve-nile justice camps. I worked in the legis-lature as a senate fellow/legislativedirector for state Senator Bob Dutton soI know how the Capitol works. I alsohave private sector experience as an in-dustrial real estate broker. I worked withhundreds of small businesses and sawwhat problems they endured on a day-to-day basis trying to thrive in our state andemploy Californians. The combinationof that job experience brings a differentskill set to the Capitol.
Q. You say you want to “draw on youreducation and life experiences to repre-sent the needs of voters and chart a bet-ter course for California.” How do you plan to do so?
A. I want to be an advocate for the res-idents of the 25th, from the schoolchild-ren all the way up to the parents. The25th isn’t unlike other areas in the stateof California experiencing high unem-ployment. There are mothers and fatherswho are struggling to put food on thetable in parts of Pasadena all the way upto Upland, folks that went from makinga very comfortable living to downsizingconsiderably and in certain instances liv-ing with family members because theycouldn’t afford to pay the mortgage andthey lost their home in this housing crisis.Or even the school kid who sits in anovercrowded classroom, for that matter,who’s struggling to learn who maybedoesn’t have the resources in the schoolor outside the school to make that hap-pen.
Q. How do you plan to employ youradvocacy in the state of California if elected?
A. By really lobbying and helpingfolks understand that California canthrive again and that the state isn’t dead.We have thriving sectors and, as long aswe help get government out of the way,there is plenty of entrepreneurial startupsas well as big businesses that want tothrive in this state and employ Californi-ans.On the education front, I’m reallylooking at education reform. Cutting ed-ucation isn’t an option anymore. It’s beencut to the bone and school kids are goingwithout. I want to really look at modelsthat have worked elsewhere—in Mary-land and Florida, for example—bringingteacher accountability, student account-ability, school choice and incentives toteachers who succeed. All of these op-tions really need to be put on the tablebecause they are models that haveworked in other states that are facingsimilar problems as ours. We need tolook, not recreate the wheel.
Q. How do you plan to revitalize the job market?
A. This is going to sound terribly sim-ple, but it’s hugely important: Californianeeds to have a customer service-ori-ented attitude, from our governor to ourstate-elected officials to our locally-elected officials and all the way down tothe gardener at the State Capitol. Whenyou go to states like Texas or Nevada,you call up some of their elected officialsor economic development organizationsand they really take the opportunity tosell you on the state as well as help youget your business open without putting6-inch binders in front of you and sayingyou have to go through loophole afterloophole just to get a business license.On that front, I plan to really help all of my colleagues in the state legislature aswell as all forms of government under-stand that they have a role in helpingbusiness thrive, whether it’s the cityplanner who needs to take an extra lookat a set of plans to help provide someideas to a small business owner whowants to open a restaurant, or the statelegislature looking at hard reforms likeCEQA reform. All of these options needto be on the table because business wantsto thrive in California. We just need tochange our attitude to help make thathappen.
Q. On taxing and spending you havesaid that “all too often our state’s elected officials seek to rely on taxing hard work-ing Californians as the sole means of balancing the budget.” You feel that thisis irresponsible leadership. How do youspecifically plan to change this?
A. Taxes are necessary. They are thebackbone of how our public infrastruc-ture, our schools, public safety and otherthings are funded, but if you look at theway our state has gone about funding ourbudget gap, especially in this most recentbudget with the government looking atProp 30 as being the sole means of bal-ancing the budget, that becomes a prob-lem. You have to look at the totality of the issues at hand and understand whywe are where weare. There is $500billion worth of unfunded pensionobligations that the general fund is goingto need to backfill because the fundsthemselves are not performing. We needto look at pension reform. Our state hasone of the highest income taxes in the na-tion, one of the highest business taxes inthe nation. Taxes are necessary, but theyhave to be a last-ditch option because inthis environment, states with lower taxesand tax incentives are flourishing andthat’s proof: Texas, North Carolina, Ne-vada, etc. Before we talk about raisingtaxes, we need to clean up our own houseand figure out ways of shoring up ourbudget through other reforms like pen-sion reform before we talk about puttingthe burden on the taxpayer.
Q. You say the key to accountability isbipartisan collaboration. Why is this im- portant to you? How do you plan to en-courage this?
A. If I’m blessed enough to be elected,I realize that I’m not just representingRepublicans. I am representing all con-stituents of the 25th and of the state forthat matter. There is an apathy that hasbeen developed by voters because theyfeel as if what they do, what they say,when they show up at the ballot boxdoesn’t matter, because both politicalparties are fighting and creating this en-vironment of mutually-assured destruc-tion. Nobody really gets to move theiragenda forward.I think we start small and look at areaswe agree upon. We agree that there needsto be comprehensive pension reform,comprehensive CEQA reform and tax in-centives in terms of luring businesses tothe state. We agree that greater teacher-student-school accountability works ineducating our students and at the sametime stopping the cuts to schools is es-sential. I don’t care if you are an Inde-pendent, Democrat or Republican, thereare areas where we can move some pol-icy forward and I think that’s what thevoters of the 25th and the state want tosee. They want to see us tackle some realissues that have substantive effect on thestate to show that we are looking to worktogether rather than constantly being atodds.To learn more about Mr. Gonzalez’scampaign, visit www.gilforsenate.com.
Next up in our series: Republican Jack Orswell, congressional candidate for the27th District.
COURIER photo/Steven FelschundneffRepublican Gil Gonzales is running forsenate in the 25th district.