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First debate personal style separates
Assembly candidates

California 12th Assembly District contenders Fiona Ma, left, and Janet Reilly
hold few policy differences
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Pat Murphy

April 6, 2006

Personal style more than policy difference distinguished 12th Assembly candidates Fiona Ma and Janet Reilly in their first debate Wednesday night.

Ma spotlighted hands-on legislative experience while Reilly pointed to visionary organization skill as both San Francisco women vie for Democratic Party nomination in the June election.

Although billed as a debate, candidates were provided questions prior to the forum except for audience submitted written questions. Television personality Belva Davis moderated the State Building forum.

Ma left the podium separating candidates from audience as Reilly demonstrated oratory skill from behind podium.

One audience question revealed policy difference on whether voting age should be lowered to 16.

Reilly said she would consider lowering voting age to 16 while Ma preferred voting age remain at 18.

"Only if they have a lot of 16-year-olds in the 12 Assembly District who are going to vote for me," Reilly drew laughter.

"I don't know," continued Reilly.

"That's a question I've never actually thought about.

"Sixteen-years-old, I guess you can drive at sixteen-years-old so maybe, I don't know. I guess I'd have to look into that... I'd have to have a group of young kids come try to convince me of that."

Ma recalled the question had been considered by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

"That proposal actually came up before the Board of Supervisors," said the District 4 supervisor.

"But I think 18-years-old is a good age," Ma continued.

"I think it's exciting that young people want to vote. I see a lot of young people here today. But it's also about earning the right to vote, studying the issues. So I would support keeping the voting age at 18."

Each candidate echoed support for universal health care, reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and adoption rights, as well as a publicly funded California high speed rail system.

The candidates difference on the death penalty.

"Some crimes are so heinous and certain that we must uphold justice," Ma asserted.

Reilly disagreed.

"As a civil society, we need to look into our souls and say 'Should we kill people?' The answer is no," Reilly contended.

Both framed experience in political elected office differently.

"Fiona has spent the better part of the last decade in politics," Reilly stated.

"I think that some of that experience has served her very well but I don't think it's the important experience that we need right now to bring change to Sacramento."

Ma likened political experience to airline pilot experience.

"Let's face it. Running for the Assembly is a political job," responded Ma.

"Somebody wants to be a pilot - they go and they sign up for flight school, they read all the manuals, take all the tests, take a flight simulation test, go and watch the plane take off from the ramp.

"But they have never actually gotten behind the wheel. How many people would go on that first flight?"

Visit campaign websites at FionaMa.com and JanetReilly.com.




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