California State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and Big Bear Lake Mayor Bill Jahn are both seeking conservatives' support as they seek to represent the High Desert in a newly drawn state Assembly district that unites Barstow and the Victor Valley for the first time.
The change comes courtesy of the voter-approved Citizens' Redistricting Commission, which drew new legislative district maps that take effect this year.
The Barstow area is no longer part of Assembly District 34, which sprawled from the High Desert region north to Inyo County, and west to parts of Tulare and Kern Counties. Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Visalia) has represented the district since 2008.
Those factors are important because representatives cannot always take into account the interests of disparate groups of people, said Commissioner Stan Forbes.
The 34th Assembly district "may have been the worst," Forbes said.
The new district will make it easier for Barstow residents' voices to be heard in Sacramento, Forbes said.
As a result of the change, Donnelly, who lives in Twin Peaks and represents parts of Los Angeles County as well as Apple Valley and Hesperia, shifts to a district where Republicans have a larger voter registration advantage.
Donnelly said his top priority was to help High Desert residents get back to work. He said he would be reaching out to Barstow residents in the coming months of the campaign.
Donnelly, a political newcomer, was elected to the Assembly in Nov. 2010 to fill a vacancy left when incumbent Republican Assemblyman Anthony Adams declined to seek reelection.
Donnelly's challenger, Jahn, vowed to focus on creating jobs and improving the economy in the High Desert, calling himself a "common sense conservative."
"Our problems are so serious that we can't solve them from the extreme left or the extreme right," Jahn said. "We need to work together, and I've done that my whole career."
He added that he would focus on finding areas of agreement with Democrats without compromising his principles on issues like raising taxes. Donnelly "hasn't been able to get anything done," Jahn said, "and that's got to change."
Jahn said that Big Bear Lake has balanced its budget and trimmed its work force by 20 percent through attrition rather than layoffs. He said that all bills should undergo a job impact study to make sure they did not negatively impact the economy.
Donnelly said that even though he has not passed a law, he was proud of his accomplishments.
"I don't think we need any more laws," Donnelly said. "I think we need to repeal a lot of laws."
His campaign for a ballot measure to repeal the California DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants to obtain state financial aid to attend college, failed to obtain the required number of signatures last month to make the ballot.
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