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Actor, activist challenges Republican incumbent to represent SLO, Santa Barbara counties in State Assembly

Posted: 6:45 PM, Nov 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-01 22:39:00-04

The race for California’s 35th District Assembly seat weighs money spent in politics against money spent by taxpayers.

Bill Ostrander (D), who lost the 2016 Congressional primary to Salud Carbajal (D), is challenging incumbent Jordan Cunningham (R) for the traditionally Republican-held district.

Ostrander made a name for himself as an actor, starring as Buddy Repperton in the 1980s horror flick, “Christine.” He entered the world of politics as an activist, proposing legislation to cut out dark money from campaigns.

Cunningham, who is finishing his freshman term in the Assembly, touts his record there as a reason for voters to re-elect him.

“We had 16 bills signed into law in the first two years, which is I believe more than any freshman at least in my party,” Cunningham said.

The Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation to stop human trafficking, invest in infrastructure, fund career technical education and respond to the Diablo Canyon Power Plant closure.

“I think it’s a shame we’re losing Diablo because that’s 10 percent of our state’s energy made right here,” Cunningham said. “That decision was made before I got into office, so we have to march forward.”

Challenger Ostrander is a proponent of Measure G, which would ban all future fracking on the Central Coast.

Ostrander believes in universal health care and he also supports 100 percent renewable energy, unlike Cunningham, who said a total move to clean energy would hit Californians in their pocketbooks.

But perhaps Ostrander’s biggest issue is campaign financing.

“If you consider that we require our public representatives to seek private funding for campaigns, there’s an inherent conflict of interest in that,” Ostrander said.

Ostrander argued that this is true of his opponent.

“91 and a half percent of his money is coming from corporations and political action committees and most of them don’t necessarily exist in San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara counties,” Ostrander said. “To me, that’s having an unfair, undue influence on our elections.”

Cunningham said over 50 percent of his campaign is funded locally.

“We’ve built a big coalition and I don’t apologize at all for raising resources, that is what it takes to get your message out to voters,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham’s message includes an attack of his own on his opponent, claiming Ostrander filed for bankruptcy multiple times and failed to pay child support.

“He’s flat-out lying,” Ostrander said. “I was never ordered to pay child support. We had contentious issues over money as everyone has during divorce but they were resolved a long time ago, no big deal.”

Cunningham was elected to the Assembly in 2016 after claiming nearly 55 percent of the vote.