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Voters Guide: Three challenge Rich Gordon in Assembly race

New open-primary rules will send top two June vote-getters to November run off

As Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, asks District 24 residents to return him to the state Assembly for another two years, three challengers with no experience in elective politics are telling voters they can do a better job representing their interests in Sacramento.

It's a near certainty that Gordon, a first-term incumbent assemblyman and former three-term San Mateo County supervisor with wide name recognition, will be the top vote-getter in the June primary. But even so, under California's open primary rules, one of the three challengers will also win a spot on the November ballot.

On the June 5 ballot in addition to Gordon are Chengzhi "George" Yang, 35, of Menlo Park, a Republican and a software engineer; Joseph Antonelli Rosas, 22, of Sunnyvale, a network-security adviser who has no party affiliation; and Geby Espinosa, 47, of Mountain View, a Democrat and a small business owner.

Gordon, 63, now represents District 21, which includes Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, East Palo Alto and Palo Alto. But with redistricting of the state, finalized last August, the same area has become part of District 24 as of this election. The district has been reshaped to encompass areas including Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and most of the San Mateo County coastside from El Granada south.

Rich Gordon

Asked why voters should return him to Sacramento, Gordon cites his effectiveness during the year and a half he has served. In the last year, he said, 15 of the 19 bills he sponsored have been signed into law.

"That's the highest percentage in the Legislature," he said, adding that many of the bills achieved bipartisan support.

He singled out two of those bills as examples of his record: One aims to create more plastic bottle remanufacturing -- and related jobs -- in the state through financial incentives; another allows Los Altos nonprofit Midpeninsula Open Space District to repay promissory notes over 30 years, up from 20 years, which has allowed it to restructure its bond package "for a huge savings this year," he said.

Gordon said that funding for the financial incentives for plastic remanufacturing already exists through the program that charges consumers 5 cents per plastic bottle at the time of purchase. With the incentive program, at least one new plastic remanufacturing plant has opened in Riverside, with 120 new jobs, and more are likely to appear, he said.

The program allows businesses in the state to compete with China, where most plastic bottles are now remanufactured then shipped back to the United States, he said.

Gordon wants to continue working on key issues he has focused on since arriving in December 2010: government reform to fix the dysfunction of the Legislature; and the state's fiscal health.

"We've got to make sure that what should be our No. 1 priority -- education -- gets the funding it deserves."

Geby Espinosa

Entering the race with no civic or political experience, Espinosa said she's running for the Assembly seat because she's concerned about the poor economy and the number of bankruptcies in the state.

She said she wants to work to improve government and society in the areas of education, the right to work, term limits for the U.S. Congress and the economy. Her platform also includes support for "the right to bear arms," she said.

One remedy for the economy: "Let the farmers grow hemp," she said. "From hemp, we can get the taxes and create jobs. California becomes a leader in the nation."

Espinosa is co-owner of The Contenders Gym in Mountain View.

Joseph Antonelli Rosas

Education and "getting the money out of politics" are Rosas' top priorities, he said. If elected, he would push for increasing funding for the University of California and California State University systems by $500 million each, increase community college funding by $200 million, and increase K-12 school funding by $6.1 billion.

"I will also ensure that this money goes to the students," he said. "I will propose that we cap school officials' salaries."

To pay for these measures, he would ask voters to approve income tax increases of 1 percent to 3 percent on families with incomes above $500,000. Another proposal: Require the annual reassessment of non-residential property for tax purposes and eliminate the current loopholes allowing businesses to sell property without triggering a reassessment.

Regarding his other priority, Rosas said: "Money has an undue influence on our political system. Not only do campaign contributions influence politicians, but all the spending on advertising for ballot measures corrupts that system as well."

Rosas' civic experience includes being a youth leader in Peninsula Interfaith Action; leadership in local California Common Cause and Democracy Matters citizens groups; and participating in the Occupy San Jose movement.

Chengzhi "George" Yang

Yang said he's running for the Assembly seat because, "as a father of two kids, I want them to inherit from us a California where the schools excel, UCs are affordable and the state budget is stable."

Listing education and the state budget as the top two issues he would work on if elected, he said: "We should focus on fostering a desire to learn in our students. To that end, we must be willing to explore using new technologies, new systems, as well as new methods in teaching."

Regarding the state budget, he said: "We must stop the boom-and-bust cycles of state budgeting. One way to achieve it is to tie compensation of public servants to (the) median salary factored by the unemployment rate so state spending will rise and fall with economic cycles.

"It will also give public servants a financial incentive to serve the interest of the public."

Yang's prior civic experience was as chair of the San Bruno Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.

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