These 2 GOP lawmakers are battling for California’s 34th Assembly District – San Bernardino Sun

On Election Day, voters in the High Desert’s 34th Assembly District will choose between two well-known, well-liked incumbent Republican legislators who pride themselves in getting things done in Democrat-controlled Sacramento.

Across California, legislators found themselves sharing districts in late December, after the state redistricting committee redrew boundaries, as it does every 10 years. In most districts, legislators of the same party worked it out, with one legislator or the other opting to seek another office or to take a break, possibly in preparation for a future run.

But in the newly drawn 34th Assembly District, neither Assemblymember Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, nor Assemblymember Thurston “Smitty” Smith, R-Apple Valley, blinked.

“In politics, as in military combat, civil wars tend to be especially nasty,” Jack Pitney, a professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College, wrote in an email. “Republicans cannot be happy about burning resources on a district that they would be sure to win anyway.”

The new 34th District straddles San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Kern counties. In the June primary, Lackey and Smith performed well in their High Desert home bases. Lackey got 45.36% of the vote in the Los Angeles County portion of the district in June, and Smith got 40.61% of the vote in the San Bernardino County portion. In Kern County, where 2,374 people voted in the district in June, Lackey beat Smith, 45.15% to 15.73%.

In the end, Smith led with 31.1% of the overall vote count in the June primary, and Lackey came in second with 29.7%, sending the two Assembly members to a November runoff.

Smith just finished his first term in office. Lackey is seeking a third and final term, due to term limits.

The two men talked the situation over on the Assembly floor in January, they said.

“I tried to get him to be in a different district,” Smith said of Lackey. “He was adamantly ‘no.’ And I said, ‘I look forward to the campaign.’ “

“We indicated that we were friends then, and we needed to be friends during the campaign, we need to be friends afterwards. That was the agreement,” Lackey said. “Not sure that that’s where we’re headed.”

The pair almost tied in the June primary, with 1,041 votes separating them out of 76,043 votes cast. But each says they’re confident the vote will go their way in November.

“We’ve got 60% of the district” in San Bernardino County, Smith said. “We need to have a voice in Sacramento, and I’m the candidate to fill that spot.”

Smith ran to the right of Lackey, with mailers that spelled out Lackey’s name in the style of the Hollywood sign and warned that he was going to bring “liberal tax increases and rampant crime from the streets of the Hollywood to our conservative High Desert.”

Lackey, a former California Highway Patrol officer, bristled at the mailer’s message.

“I think it misrepresented who I really am,” Lackey said. “I mean, defunding the police? Seriously?”

On paper, Smith and Lackey look similar.

Both men stress their ability to get things done as Republicans in the Democratic-majority Assembly.

“I think the only reason I’m successful is because I do really look for the common ground without giving up principle,” Lackey said. “Relationships are meaningful, and you have to just be a genuine communicator, and and not punch people in the mouth unnecessarily.”

“As a freshmen in my first two years, I was able to get bipartisan support for all my legislation,” Smith said. “Crime, water issues, homeless issues. Those kinds of issues resonate with everyone.”

During the last term, Lackey introduced 29 bills and had four signed into law, including a bill requiring police officers to holster stun guns or Tasers on the side of their body opposite of where they carry their firearms, and one requiring the state to study the participation of homeless and foster youth in state apprenticeship programs and report its findings and recommendations.

During the same period, Smith introduced 28 bills and had five signed into law, including bills to allow the city of Needles to link existing roads to trails on federal lands to create a unified network for off-road vehicles and one that gives honorably discharged veterans a 50% discount on contracting licenses or renewal fees.

If reelected, Lackey said he wants to pass legislation to prevent deaths like those of 8-year-old Lancaster boy Gabriel Fernandez and other at-risk youth, wants to reinstate a state death review panel to investigate alleged child abuse deaths, and continue advocating for the developmentally disabled.

If Smith is reelected, he said he wants to crack down on illegal marijuana farms around the state, relax what he sees as redundant construction mandates and reform the California Environmental Quality Act to make it easier to build more housing.

As of Oct. 24, Lackey’s 2022 campaign committee had received $594,355 in contributions, according to the California Secretary of State’s office, along with $7,210 in contributions in the current cycle to his 2020 campaign committee.

Major contributions to Lackey include a $4,900 contribution from San Bernardino County Professional Firefighters Local 935 State PAC Fund; $4,850 from State Building and Construction Trades Council of California PAC; $4,900 from Jordan Cunningham for Lieutenant Governor 2026; $4,900 from Melissa Melendez for Lt. Governor 2026; $4,900 contribution from home builders Ravello Holdings; $4,000 from BNSF Railway Co.; $5,000 from California Professional Firefighters PAC; $5,000 from Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters Political Action Fund; $4,900 from Walmart Inc.; $4,900 from the Los Angeles Police Protective League PAC; $4,900 from PG&E Corp.; $4,900 from California Medical Association PAC; and $9,700 from CREPAC – the California Real Estate PAC.

Meanwhile, as of Oct. 24, Smith’s 2022 campaign committee had received $505,087 in contributions, along with $12,150 to his 2020 campaign committee.

Major contributions to Smith include $4,900 from High Desert Jobs PAC; $4,900 from Friends of Frank Bigelow for Lt. Governor 2026; $4,900 from United Auburn Indian Community; $4,900 from warehouse company 55555 Amargosa LLC; $4,297 from property management company Desert Pacific Management LLC, $4,900 from San Bernardino County Republican Party chairman Phil Cothran; $4,700 from aircraft maintenance, charter and jet sales firm Prima Air; $4,900 from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association PAC; $4,900 from the Eagle Real Estate Group; and $4,900 from the California Medical Association PAC.

And even more has been spent beyond direct contributions.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, as of Oct. 24, at least $541,891 had been spent by independent parties in support of Lackey, including $199,736 from the Standing Committee on Political Education of the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO. Another $200,875 had been spent by the California Alliance for Progress and Education opposing Smith. On their website, the alliance describes themselves as “an alliance of business organizations. Committee major funding from California Association of Realtors, California Building Industry Association, California Correctional Peace Officers Association.”

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