As the special election here in the 15th State Senate district gets underway – the primary is still scheduled for June 22 and unlikely to change – it’s clear that offshore oil drilling is one of the primary issues of the campaign. And Sam Blakeslee, the Republican candidate and former leader of the Assembly Republican caucus, is on the wrong side of public opinion on this key issue.
John Laird is out with his first TV ad of the campaign, which you can view at right. In the ad, Laird contrasts Blakeslee’s support for drilling with his own work opposing drilling and protecting the coastline and the jobs that depend on our beaches and oceans not being fouled by oil slicks, as we’re seeing happen in the Gulf of Mexico.
Here’s the background. Sam Blakeslee has extensive connections to the oil industry. He worked for Exxon as an executive, hired by the company in 1989, the same year of the notorious Exxon Valdez spill. He has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from oil companies, including BP. And in his time in the Assembly, Blakeslee has embraced offshore drilling.
In 2009 he played a key role in attempting to reopen the California coast to offshore drilling, 40 years after the 1969 oil spill caused such widespread damage to the Santa Barbara coast. Blakeslee, whose district includes coastal San Luis Obispo and much of coastal Santa Barbara County, took up the fight for the Tranquillon Ridge project. Here’s how the Santa Barbara Independent explained it last fall:
Assembly minority leader Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) resurrected legislation to authorize the lease, using what is called a “gut and amend” move; that’s Sacramento-speak for grabbing a pending bill, which typically is going nowhere, removing all of its language and substituting the text of the new measure, bypassing pesky procedures for actually introducing a bill.
The bill was AB 1536, and although it thankfully died in committee, it would have opened the California coast to drilling long enough to allow the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project to go forward.
Blakeslee isn’t exactly proud of his work to open California’s coast to offshore drilling. Last summer, you may recall, the Tranquillon Ridge project was included in the July 2009 budget deal. The bill allowing that drilling was shot down by the Assembly, with 43 votes against it. Blakeslee, of course, voted “yes.” But you can’t find the record of that vote – it was immediately expunged. As Capitol Weekly reported at the time, sources claimed the vote was expunged at Blakeslee’s request.
Sam Blakeslee is willing to risk the economic livelihoods of his constituents and put their coastline and oceans in jeopardy in order to please his oil company friends. John Laird stands strongly against this.
Laird has a long record of opposition to offshore drilling. When he was a Santa Cruz city councilmember he led the effort for a successful strategy to block offshore drilling by requiring a vote of the people to construct drilling facilities along the coast – a strategy that was eventually adopted by 26 local governments in California. And in the Assembly, he authored a bill to strengthen California’s oil spill response funding.
There are many other reasons why we need to help send John Laird to Sacramento. He is a strong progressive leader, particularly on the state budget. He fought against Arnold’s cuts, and has proposed sensible methods to fund our core services, such as using a small increase in the vehicle license fee to fully fund state parks – and enable Californians to go to the parks for free.
Laird was a leader in the LGBT equality movement, authoring a series of bills strengthening anti-discrimination law and providing for training on how to stop discrimination and hate in our schools. And of course, if he and Anna Caballero get elected to the Senate this year, Democrats would have a 2/3rds majority, enabling them to end Republican obstruction in that chamber.
On those merits alone, Laird deserves our strong support in the SD-15 race. When you add in Blakeslee’s reckless support of offshore drilling – especially when we are witnessing a massive, devastating tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico that came as a result of offshore drilling – it becomes clear that John Laird is the right person to protect our coastline and beat back the “drill, baby, drill” crowd that Blakeslee represents.
Note: I do some work for the Laird for Senate campaign