<!--:es-->Candidates for 80th 
Assembly debate in Coachella<!--:-->

Candidates for 80th Assembly debate in Coachella

Coachella Chamber of Commerce coordinates the event

Al Vasquez

La Prensa Hispana

Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella was the center of attention Thursday for voters wanting to hear both Gary Jeandron and Manuel Perez debate the issues. The moderator Martha Saldana, News Director from Univision drafted up a series of fourteen questions, both candidates received the same amount of time to respond. The debate was well coordinated and neither candidate attempted to over-ride the clock.

Each candidate started out with a short synopsis on whom they were and reasons for running. Manuel Perez, the son of local farm workers and a Harvard graduate in political science expounded on his familiarity with the community and issues relevant in particular to the East Coachella Valley and Imperial County. Gary Jeandron, former Palm Springs Police Chief who holds a license as a Marriage and Family Counselor focused on his 35 years in law enforcement and his traditional values in respect to Gay issues and immigration.

Manuel Perez highlighted the need for taking a critical look at income vs. expenditures in regards to the budget and examining tough choices. He did not take a hard line approach towards raising taxes but rather an examination of the needs. Jeandron was adamantly opposed to raising taxes and concentrated on capping out of control spending. Both candidates alluded to the rich possibilities for alternative fuels in their 80th district including geo thermal, bio fuels and the expanded use of hybrids.

Both candidates were in agreement in regards to education reform to include a greater emphasize on counseling, parental education and becoming more socially responsible within the framework of education. The high number of Spanish speaking students is a roadblock for the success of many students due to the testing requirements initiated before many students have a command of English. Manuel Perez wants to make education more relevant and provide incentive as well as coaches to work with teachers to address special needs. Jeandron would encourage back to basics with programs to include auto shop, technical training and a greater emphasize on sports. Both candidates are members of school boards and can relate to educational needs.

Crime brought back memories of a special friend for Perez who would seek to ascertain monies were included in the budget to address neighborhood violence and neighborhood watch. Jeandron would include programs such as PAL which he introduced in Palm Springs.

On the topic of immigration, there was a sharp divide between the two candidates, Manuel Perez stressed public safety in the need to issue illegal immigrants some type of a driver’s license to assure drivers understood the laws and would require auto insurance. Jeandron opposed the driver’s license idea stating issuing driver licenses to illegal immigrants would be inconsistent with the laws. Both candidates agreed that police officers should not be required to become border patrol agents. Jeandron stipulated local law enforcement should assist only when there was a need to support the agency in regards to community safety.

Health programs hit a personal note for Perez with his current background as a director for a non-profit agency involving health care in Borrego Springs. The states budgetary problems could place many health clinics in danger of closing. Jeandron considers preventative health care as a major issue and stressed early help to minimize higher costs later.

In closing, Perez asked for the opportunity to represent the 80th, a community which he feels has been underrepresented and he promised to be accessible to all who sought his help. Jeandron stressed his humble beginnings and his many years in law enforcement where he acquired leadership skills that would make him a particularly effective legislator. The audience seemed very pleased with the performance of both candidates.

Simplicity seemed to rule the day and a cordial atmosphere prevailed in a very hotly contested race. Mayor Eduardo Garcia running for re-election performed host duties while his opposing candidate Jesse Villarreal participated with the opening prayer. Issues ruled the day and political party affiliations were hardly mentioned. Many community leaders were seen in attendance.