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Anderson begins meeting with prospective constituents as state Senate race narrows

State Assemblyman Joel Anderson, who has emerged as the leading contender for an open state Senate seat in the Nov. 2 general election, began meeting with his prospective new constituents last week in Fallbrook.

Similar sessions are expected elsewhere in southwest Riverside County and northern San Diego County in the coming weeks, an aide said.

Anderson, R-La Mesa, outdistanced a pair of tenacious Riverside County foes to capture the Republican nomination for the 36th District seat. That seat will become vacant because Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, is subject to state political term limits.

Anderson spent much of his time at a 90-minute meet-and-greet session detailing his political style and countering criticism that emerged prior to the June 8 primary election.

“I’m going to do what I’ve always done,” Anderson told a participant of the June 25 function held at Fallbrook’s historic Elder House. “I’m not going to change (the state’s problems) overnight, but I’m chipping away.”

Anderson countered criticism raised in recent months by his primary foes that he dodged candidate debates and forums. Anderson said he believed his current constituents wanted him to remain in the state capital to help tackle the state’s looming $20 billion budget deficit and other problems.

“That’s where the people wanted me to be,” he told an event participant. “They said: ‘Stay in Sacramento and do your job.’ ”

Anderson also deflected criticism raised in media reports that he frequently used taxpayer-funded mailers to promote his political views. He said the mailers are an important way to solicit feedback from constituents, and many other legislators have exceeded the number of mailers sent from his 77th Assembly District offices.

Anderson’s Assembly district is home to more than 420,000 people and takes in all or parts of El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Jamul, Lakeside, Ramona, Alpine, Borrego Springs and the city of San Diego.

Much of the criticism of Anderson could resurface as he squares off against Paul Clay, his Democratic rival for the Senate seat that spans portions of two counties.

The Senate district takes in Murrieta, Temecula, Fallbrook, La Mesa and many other Inland cities and unincorporated communities. It is home to more than 850,000 residents and covers portions of Riverside and San Diego counties.

About 235,600 of the registered voters who live in the district are Republicans. Another 148,000 residents are Democrats and 105,500 voters declined to state a party affiliation in their registration materials.

Much of the electorate – about 377,800 registered voters – lives in the San Diego County portion of the district. By contrast, about 133,725 registered voters live in the Riverside County portion, according to recent statistics.

Anderson finished first in a four-candidate field for the Republican nomination with nearly 43,200 votes. Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone finished second among the Republican candidates with nearly 32,900 votes. Kenneth Dickson, an attorney and Murrieta school board trustee, finished third with more than 20,600 votes.

The final election results – which were delayed in Riverside County due to an array of problems – illustrate the population, political and name recognition imbalances between the two segments of the Senate district.

Stone received more than 47 percent of the Republican votes in Riverside County, where Anderson finished third among the four-candidate field. Conversely, Anderson received nearly that amount of support among San Diego County voters. Stone finished second in San Diego County.

Clay, who did not face any Democratic opposition in either county, received nearly 41,000 votes. He is a teacher and former businessman who has been active in education reform issues. In the past, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Murrieta City Council and a regional Congressional district seat.


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