Aug 14, 2010 1:36 AM by Danielle Lerner

Immigration a hot topic at candidates forum in Paso Robles

The four people hoping to represent California's 15th District in the State Senate shared why they're the best for the job Friday.

The special election will be held August 17.

The 15th District includes most of the Central Coast, it runs from Santa Cruz down the coast into Santa Maria. That seat was left vacant when Abel Maldonado became Lt. Governor.

On Friday the candidates answered questions submitted by the voters, addressing everything from the budget crisis to Arizona's controversial immigration law.
About 100 people packed the room for Friday night's forum in Paso Robles.

Candidates for San Luis Obispo County Sheriff and the Assembly's 33rd District joined the four men hoping to represent Senate District 15.

KSBY's Carina Corral moderated the event.

When it comes to Arizona's controversial immigration law, all four say they disagree with it.

They also agree that illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Democrat John Laird says the federal government needs to take charge. "They need to step up on secure borders and they need to step up to a path to citizenship for people that are willing to play by the rules," said Laird.

Libertarian Mark Hinkle believes reinstating a guest worker program is a step in the right direction. "They would be sponsored by various farmers they would come up, work the fields during the harvest season and at the end of the harvest season they went home," said Hinkle.

Independent John Fitzgerald also favors a government work program along with tighter security. "I do think there should be a fence on the border and I think it will help as far as safety too," Fitzgerald said.

Meanwhile Republican Sam Blakeslee says more should be done at the state level. Things like cracking down on sanctuary cities and people, or employers, who profit from illegal immigration. "That is the top priority, as opposed to making the person who is here the top priority for the folks in law enforcement," said Blakeslee.

During the primary election in June, Blakeslee received 49.7 percent of the vote, just shy of the 50 percent plus one needed to avoid this special election.

If Laird wins the runoff it would pull Democrats to within one seat of a two-thirds majority in the state senate.


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