It was a so-so, no-show night as the El Dorado Hills Tea Party held a debate for candidates running for different county offices Wednesday evening.
A seemingly unevenly matched debate was between incumbent Vern Pierson and challenger Judson Henry for the position of District Attorney.
Henry struggled at times making his case as he began by saying he only recently moved to Placerville, although he has been in business in the county for several years. “My ex-wife and son live in Rocklin, not me,” said Henry, saying he visits them on weekends.
A bankruptcy attorney, Henry said he decided to run for DA after talking to different people in the community and concluding there was an overuse of the justice system. “I’m running to change the administration of the office,” he said.
Henry emphasized repeatedly that the primary job of the DA is to decide which complaints to prosecute and which to not, and that he would exercise that discretion differently than Pierson. “I will focus on instituting uniformity of discretion,” he said. Henry went on to say that his qualifications for the job included that he has “improved, reorganized and brought back to life different entities.”
Asked about the Tea Party’s current problems gaining tax exempt status with the IRS, Henry commented that the tax code is too complicated and people pay too much. The administration in Washington is using the IRS to bully people and now are trying to get private tax preparers to do their dirty work for them, he said.
In contrast to Henry, Pierson began by emphasizing his military background when describing his qualifications for the job, saying he first served in the Army and then the National Guard.
“My job is to pursue justice,” he said, adding that he has been a prosecutor for 23 years. Pierson said his greatest professional accomplishment is the people working in his office as he listed some of the cases they have successfully prosecuted.
“We also started an economic crimes task force, a cold case homicide unit and now have a paperless office. But my greatest personal accomplishment are my three children,” he added. In response to questions about the administration in Washington, Pierson said the Obama administration was “drunk with power” and was using different agencies, like the IRS, as political operatives.
The second debate was a polite exchange between incumbent Joe Harn and challenger Mike Owen for the position of Auditor-Controller.
Owen began by describing his career in Silicon Valley where he audited and financially managed large companies. He said his biggest accomplishment was handling a stock offering for a company he took public.
“My crowning glory was the prospectus,” he said. Since leaving that career, he has opened his own winery and bistro in Camino.
Saying his goal is to be a “citizen politician,” Owen went on to say he has experience converting computer systems from DOS, a challenge the county is currently going through, and also talked about the need to reel in public pensions. When asked about the idea of privatizing libraries, he said if the services are at the same level, he didn’t object to the idea. Asked why he only recently renewed his CPA license and changed party affiliation, he responded, “You can’t lead from the outside.”
Harn then took over, saying residents deserved a county with cash set aside, adding that the county now has $54 million in carryover reserves that can be used for a rainy day. Harn emphasized that he had changed the culture at the county by discouraging frivolous debt and then went on to give examples of what he considered good investments the county had made in infrastructure, including two libraries and the Missouri Flat and El Dorado Hills interchanges.
“Our infrastructure is better and we have more services for seniors,” he added. Harn said he was not in favor of privatizing the library although he did think the Public Defender’s Office could be contracted out.
Listing his accomplishments, Harn said he was almost the only person at the county to stop the increases to the CalPERS contract with the savings to accumulate over 30 years. The county actually has a cheaper plan than EID, GDPUD or Folsom, he said.
As a manager, Harn said he tries to find the best and the brightest people he can and then lets them run with projects. He also commented on the Obama administration, saying that the country is in bad shape when defending the Constitution is considered a political activity by the president.
Left to debate themselves were Bill Schultz, who is running again as Recorder-Clerk, and Cherie Raffety, who is running again as Treasurer-Tax Collector.
Schultz’s opponent, Chris Amaral, didn’t attend because he said he was too busy, according to Tea Party President Steve Ferry. Raffety’s opponent, Supervisor Ron Briggs, didn’t show.
Emphasizing some of the key accomplishments of his 19 years in office, Schultz described the installation of touch-activated voting screens and an electronic recording system for documents. “We have one of the most forward-looking offices in the state,” he said.
Raffety discussed the over $1 billion her office handles and the reputation her office has for excellent customer service. “We ask what we can do for, not to, our taxpayers and how we can improve things,” she said.
Improvements she has made include having information online so people can check their tax bill and installing a system so people can pay their taxes with a credit card or electronic check. She brought up that she disagreed with Briggs on the idea of selling the delinquent tax rolls to a third-party, saying it would cost the county millions. Asking about her best accomplishment, Raffety said it’s treating every taxpayer the same.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.