Pugno, Pan battle for 5th Assembly District

By: Art Garcia Telegraph Correspondent
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Voters in the 5th Assembly District that includes Folsom have a clear choice to make between Republican candidate Andrew Pugno, a Folsom attorney, and Dr. Richard Pan, a Democrat and associate professor of pediatrics and director of the University of California, Davis Pediatric Residency Program. There’s little common ground the pair share, from priorities to statewide propositions, in one of the most competitive races in the state in a district almost evenly split in Republican and Democratic registration. The district spans parts of Sacramento and Placer counties. Each makes their case. Voters should mark their ballot for Pugno “because I’m the only candidate who will make job creation a top priority and cut spending to balance the budget without higher taxes,” he said. According to Pan, votes should go his way because he’s a community leader “who brings people together” Both are small business owners, Pugno as head of his own three-person law firm and Pan co-owner with his wife, Wen-li Wang, of a dental practice which, he said, has given him good experience in meeting a payroll. One area of agreement between the candidates is the key issues in the election. “Getting our economy going again and jobs, even for those who have jobs but face uncertainty, especially state employees,” said Pan, 45. Strengthening education and tackling rising health care costs are also on his list. “With federal health care passed, California is going to have to develop programs and systems that work for California,” he added. Pugno, 37, said the number-one issues are jobs and the economy “and the need to improve the environment for employers to start taking risks again and hiring and expanding the economy. Right now, the regulatory and tax burden is keeping too many employees on the sideline.” It’s too expensive to operate a business in the state and California is sending businesses to other states, where they can operate more efficiently, he said. The biggest problem facing the district “is the same thing. It’s the economy, which includes a high rate of unemployment in the region,” Pugno said. “Especially the state budget crisis, which impacts a large number of people in the capital region.” There’s no simple answer but the first thing that needs to be done “is stop pushing off tough decisions into the future because that just multiplies the problem for the next generation.” Pan said high unemployment is a challenge in the 5th District, partly because of the high percentage of state employees who live there. Schools in the district have been cutting back, he noted, and the infrastructure — roads, water and flood control — needs attention. He also pushes for promotion of local businesses, such as Intel Corp. in Folsom and others, to keep jobs in the area. “Voters recognize Mr. Pugno’s brand of extremism and division and that’s exactly what they don’t want in Sacramento,” alleged Pan. “An author of Proposition 8 (which seeks to overturn a court order banning same-sex marriage), Pugno doesn’t believe women should have a choice regarding abortion and he opposes organizations that support stem-cell research,” he said. Pugno, on the board and the vice president of the pro-life Sacramento Life Center, counters that Pan is “raising divisive issues, making untrue claims to avoid addressing the real issues voters care about. I am 100 percent pro-life. Richard Pan’s TV ads are untrue and seriously misleading.” Pan pointed out he has lived in the district 10 years and knows the community well. He lives in North Natomas with his wife and children ages 4 and 3 months. Pugno moved to Folsom from Gold River last February, “but I’ve lived in this area for 15 years,” he said. His law firm has been located in Folsom for seven years. Pugno, father of children 15, seven and eight months, contends the “unique thing” he would bring to the state legislature is “the perspective of someone who has actually run a successful business and had to personally deal with government regulations, the tax burden and all the other things that discourage economic growth, which as a public employee my opponent has never had to do.” Pan and Pugno are on the same page regarding Proposition 19, which would legalize the sale and growing of marijuana in California. Both are opposed, expressing concern passage would increase marijuana access by children. Pugno supports Proposition 23, which would suspend greenhouse gas rules, saying “our economy is too fragile to be loading more regulations on job creators.”  Pan is against Proposition 23, believing proposed emission standards for California “are an opportunity for public and private industry to invest in industries and technologies that could create new jobs and bolster our economy, while mitigating climate change.” Pugno is against Proposition 21, a proposed $18-a-year vehicle surcharge to help fund state parks, “because it’s a tax increase and we should be paying for parks out of the taxes we already collect, not raising taxes.” Pan favors passage “in the absence of adequate general funds for our parks. Access to safe, well-maintained parks benefits California families and businesses.”