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May 1, 2014
Endorsements: Steve Cohn for Assembly District 7 and Darrell Fong for Assembly District 9

Steve_Cohn.JPG(May 1 - By the Editorial Board)

With electoral musical chairs in the Legislature opening up two Sacramento-area Assembly seats, there's no shortage of local officeholders who want to make the leap to the Capitol.

Thanks to revised term limits, the winners could conceivably keep these seats for as long as 12 years, making this year's election even more significant.

Assembly District 7

Voters have three accomplished local officials to choose from June 3. Veteran Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn gets the edge for The Bee editorial board's endorsement over West Sacramento Councilman Mark Johannessen and Sacramento Councilman Kevin McCarty.

All three are Democrats. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move on to November's runoff. The winner will represent the district, which covers much of Sacramento as well as West Sacramento and Antelope, Elverta and Rio Linda in Sacramento County.

To make his first run for the Legislature, Cohn, a former top lawyer for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, is giving up the east Sacramento council seat he has held for 20 years.

He has compiled a strong record, on parks and public safety in particular. He has disagreed with colleagues without being disagreeable, a trait that would come in handy in the Legislature.

He vows to be a problem solver, not a partisan. Wisely, he already knows what he wants to focus on as a legislator. Better yet, he can hit the ground running because it's an area where he has expertise - infrastructure, including transportation, water and utilities. He rightly sees the need for a comprehensive water strategy, including more reservoir and groundwater storage and stronger conservation.

Either Johannessen or McCarty would be a worthy challenger in the fall.

Johannessen joined the West Sacramento council in 2006, had an ill-fated run for mayor two years later, but has mended fences enough to play a helpful role in that city's noteworthy progress the last few years in developing its riverfront and becoming a food industry hub.

In his 10 years on the Sacramento council, McCarty can claim success battling slum lords and gun violence. He has been willing to ask tough questions - on the proposed downtown arena, for instance. McCarty nearly won this Assembly seat four years ago, but lost to Roger Dickinson, who is trying to move up to the state Senate this year.

Assembly District 9

In this race, Sacramento City Councilman Darrell Fong is the best choice.

Fong is facing two experienced opponents - Elk Grove Vice Mayor Jim Cooper, who ran unsuccessfully for Sacramento County sheriff four years ago, and Sacramento City Unified school board member Diana Rodriguez. Both are Democrats, as is Fong.

The top two finishers on June 3 move on to the runoff; the seat almost certainly will be won by a Democrat in November. The district starts in the Pocket/Greenhaven neighborhoods of Sacramento, then runs south to Elk Grove, Galt and Lodi. Richard Pan is giving up the seat to run for state Senate against Dickinson.

The Bee's editorial board has not always agreed with Fong during his single term on the council. He has been more obstructionist than helpful in his opposition to the city's deal for the arena, for example.

But Fong took a leadership role by pushing to extend a bicycle trail along the Sacramento River through the Pocket, an important step for the region but not one that was popular among some of his constituents.

Fong, who served 30 years with the Sacramento Police Department, would bring a much needed cop's-eye view of criminal justice issues to the Democratic-controlled Legislature. He displayed a welcome independent streak by voting to cut the department's budget in 2011 after concluding that the police union had failed to agree to sufficient contract concessions.

As a result, police unions are lining up behind Cooper, who appears to be his main opponent.

Fong's common sense and unpretentiousness would help a Legislature sorely lacking in both.