DOWNEY - As the economic recession continues to hover over many weary Californians, the thought of fulfilling the American Dream may seem farfetched to some, but Ricardo Lara hopes his campaign for the State Assembly can reignite that dream."I come from a working class family - a modest upbringing," said Lara. "I'm an example of how with enough hard work and tenacity, you can achieve the American Dream." Lara is just one of four candidates in the 50th District vying to become the Democratic Party's nominee in a race that will elect a new assembly member next year. With nearly $150,000 collected in contributions, Lara, who lives in Bell Gardens, significantly leads his opponents in fundraising, which Lara believes is a result of his work and message. "I'm proud and humbled by the support I've received," said Lara over the phone. "We've received donations in small checks from $25 to $50 to $100. It's tremendous and paramount to running a campaign." Lara, 34, traces his interest in politics back to his days at San Diego State University, where controversial state propositions 187 and 209 led him to student government and activism. Since graduating, Lara has spent the last 13 years in the legislature working with former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu?±ez and Assemblyman Marco Antonio Firebaugh. Lara currently serves as Communications Director for Assembly Member Kevin De Le??n. "I am the best qualified candidate in the election," Lara said. "I have a proven record of delivering resources to the 50th District. I worked on legislation with Fabian Nu?±ez to increase minimum wage and pushed for new schools in the district." As the state watches unemployment rates steadily increase, Lara acknowledges that the issue of jobs is an important part of his campaign. "Southeast Los Angeles County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the county," said Lara. "We can create jobs. It's imperative that we create a regional plan for economic development to bring neighboring cities together." Lara believes that more sustainable jobs can be created if local cities partner up and vie for resources collectively, making smaller communities more competitive with big cities. "I've ran into so many people - they don't want handouts, they want innovative jobs," Lara said. "We need to sit down and go beyond our jurisdiction and create a plan." Although Lara is one of the more experienced candidates running for the Assembly seat, sole republican candidate P.J. Mellana suggests that candidates like Lara, if elected, will only continue the wasteful spending practices of Sacramento. Lara agrees that spending should be curved, but believes voters deserve an honest conversation about fiscal restraint. "The social programs we have in effect are working," said Lara. "Our budget is a reflection of our morality. For example, academic preparation programs - they work. The added support makes a difference. Government is here to help people in need." Lara, who is openly gay, maintains that voters are concerned about jobs, health care and education, issues that he is committed to focus on throughout the election. "Legislators in Sacramento empower working families," Lara said. "I went to Sacramento with my core values of service and I've seen government work for people. The American Dream is real."
********** Published: October 2, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 24