Pazin Touts His Credentials, Calls Soria a Credit Grabber.
In what could be a tight state Assembly race, two political veterans are running to represent parts of Merced, Madera and Fresno counties in Sacramento.
For months, Esmeralda Soria and Mark Pazin have been touting endorsements, raising money, and airing ads on TV in the 27th Assembly District election.
Soria, a Democrat, is a Fresno city councilwoman. She has the party machine at her back. In recent weeks, not only has Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon campaigned on her behalf but so did the man who attempted to take over as leader — Assemblyman Robert Rivas.
Pazin, the Republican former sheriff of Merced County, is running on his record of public safety.
“That’s the difference between myself and a candidate who opines from the dais that says, ‘I will do this. I can do that.’ Let me say emphatically, I have done this. I have done that,” Pazin said.
Both candidates have law enforcement endorsements. Both are advertising heavily on TV.
When it comes to fundraising, Soria is doubling her opponent.
Soria has raised $1.4 million for the year (through Sept. 24). Pazin raised $733,000 in the same time period.
When it comes to voter registration, advantage Soria. The newly drawn district is +16 Democrat over Republican (43% to 27%).
In the primary, Soria led the field with 40.1% of the vote, followed by Pazin at 35%.
But Pazin says he’s undeterred.
GV Wire conducted an interview with Pazin. The same offer was made to Soria, but her campaign team didn’t respond to the request.
Pazin on the Issues: Against Gas Taxes
Pazin disagrees with Gov. Gavin Newsom calling for a special session of the Legislature to discuss a windfall profits tax for oil companies.
“There’s already enough taxes and regulations out there,” Pazin said.
Pazin criticized the Democratically-controlled Legislature for not suspending the gas tax, in line with his free-market philosophy.
“If it walks, they tax it. If it talks, they regulate it. If it does both, they end up destroying it,” Pazin said.
Soria, when she campaigned for Congress in 2020, took the Green New Deal pledge. She reneged this year, taking campaign contributions from oil companies.
Differences in Support from Labor
Pazin and Soria also have different views on labor. Soria is heavily backed by labor unions. Pazin said employers should have more discretion over employees.
He opposes AB 257, the recently-signed bill that would create a statewide “fast food council” that is expected to raise hourly wages in the industry. Fast food corporations are circulating a petition to let voters decide. If a ballot measure is successful, implementation of the bill would be delayed.
“To have a commission to dictate how much somebody should get is onerous on the employer. I realize that my opposition is heavily vested with the labor groups and this is why,” Pazin said.
Infrastructure Fix: Cut Regulation
Similar to his view on gas prices, Pazin says regulations are the problem when it comes to state infrastructure such as housing and water storage.
“I am a free-market individual. I don’t mind meeting with people to find a solution, but everything can’t be legislatively fixed. I mean, look at the situation we’re in right now. No water storage. Why? Environmentalists get upset because it’s going to impact something,” Pazin said.
More taxes, Pazin said, is not the answer.
Pazin: Soria Credit Grabbing
Pazin was the chief law enforcement officer for the state Office of Emergency Services — a position he accepted after resigning as sheriff at the end of 2013.
He takes credit for Operation Room Key, a state program through OES, to help fund the purchase of old motels to house the homeless.
He doesn’t appreciate Soria claiming credit for the program.
“That was not you. Just like the $2 billion that you’re touting on some of your commercials. It’s called passing the Fresno City Council budget. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t know where you got $2 billion to give to the city of Fresno, but it was money that was passed through from the federal government, state government down to the city. Very, quite frankly, disingenuous,” Pazin said.
Pazin also took a shot at Soria’s ethics during her eight years as a Fresno city councilwoman.
“I don’t have to recuse myself on every other vote because (of) conflicts of interest,” Pazin said.
Soria is engaged to developer Terance Frazier, who often has business in front of the Fresno City Council.
Asked whether those recusals were a sign of being ethical by not voting on items benefiting Frazier, Pazin said:
“Valid point, but you’re still not getting anything done.”
Pazin also criticized Soria for not revealing her vote on funding Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza’s criminal legal defense with taxpayer dollars.
“That speaks for itself. You talk about transparency. I’m going to be fighting for the Valley. It’s the antithesis of what’s going on. Quite frankly, if those are Fresno city tax dollars and you want to be transparent, then explain how the vote went and why,” Pazin said.
Shutting Down During the Pandemic
As the pandemic enveloped California and the world, state and local governments opted to shut down. Soria, while on the city council, supported policies that shuttered businesses and parks.
Pazin, through his role at OES, said he had conversations with Gov. Newsom at the time on what to do.
“It was a public health hazard. So a lot of it was put down to the local levels as far as what was going to be decided,” Pazin said.
Did the governor and OES react correctly?
“I think at the time, it was truly biblical at Cal OES — floods, fires, pestilence. Pestilence in the form of COVID. Initially, it was very thoughtful and we — when I say we, the governor — was taking a firm stance on it and it trickled down to the local level. I would submit this to you in hindsight. There was a time frame that it went from a pandemic into more endemic, that it was going to be the flu. Hence, some of the stricter measures I did not agree with,” Pazin said.
Soria Talks About Path to Politics
At a recent event at the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation, Soria told her life story and why representation matters.
“There are probably many people that didn’t think that I could get to where I’ve been and what I’ve done. And there were many obstacles and barriers, but I never gave up. And that’s what our Latino community is about. It is about resilience. It’s about falling, getting back up, and working 10 times harder,” Soria said.
Soria grew up in a Lindsay farming community. She did not learn English until she attended kindergarten. Inspired by her parents, Soria attended college and earned her Juris Doctorate (at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, respectively).
She entered into a life of public policy, even interning at the White House. From there, she was encouraged to run for office. She won election to the Fresno City Council in 2014 and won re-election in 2018.
In 2020, she tried to primary Rep. Jim Costa but failed. Now she looks to win her next office to represent the Valley in Sacramento.