Two vie in Assembly runoff

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat October 23, 2012 08:15 am

Voters in State Assembly District 5 will choose between two Republican candidates in an unprecedented single-party runoff this November.

Rico Oller, of San Andreas, and Frank Bigelow, of O’Neals, were the two top vote-getters in the June 5 primary, which marked the first use of California’s new top two primary system that set up similar single-party runoffs across the state.

As a result of the new system, more money has been poured into races where one party has historically been strongly favored.

Bigelow has outraised and outspent Oller since the primary, according to election filings.

Between July 1 and Sept. 30, Bigelow spent $101,264, while Oller spent $31,890. Bigelow has raised a total of $553,704 since the beginning of the year, with Oller trailing behind at $315,468.

Oller, 54, has been betting name recognition will help bridge the financial gap and propel him past Bigelow on Nov. 6. Oller has previously served four years in the Assembly and four in the State Senate.

If elected again, it would be Oller’s last two years in the Assembly because of term limit rules. He remains eligible for another Senate term.

“I can do it very quickly without being coached,” Oller said of his past experience as a legislator. “I can hit the ground running and there’s no learning curve for me.”

The years of experience have also helped Oller learn how to develop bipartisan relationships that he said are essential to accomplishing legislative goals.

“It’s important to learn how to develop relationships,” he said. “It’s not about selling out or giving in.”

Oller also noted his years of experience as a businessman in San Andreas and Jamestown, where he is owner of a building materials company that he founded, which he said makes him keenly aware of the economic issues facing both the district and state.

He said high gas prices in California coupled with pushes for expanding transient occupancy taxes have negatively impacted tourism and believes he can improve the situation.

“We have a unique and distinct fuel blend that makes our gas more expensive than other states,” he said. “We’re paying more for fuel in California than they are in Hawaii and that’s absurd. It’s just a foolish decision on behalf of the Legislature that can be fixed.”

Bigelow, 58, is also running on his business experience and a conservative platform of reduced taxes and government regulations.

He’s served 12 years as the Madera County District 1 Supervisor and is vice president of Ponderosa Telephone Co. Bigelow is also active in the operation of his family’s cattle ranch, Bigelow Farms.

“I have the basic ground-level training in government by being at the local level and that’s where the rubber meets the road,” Bigelow said of his years service in Madera County. “A lot of our legislators don’t have our skill sets when they get there and haven’t seen the cause and effect of legislative actions.”

Bigelow said his first plan of action should voters elect him is to build relationships with fellow legislators to hopefully obtain positions on key committees where he can spearhead his vision for the state.

“My goals are to get a reduction in taxes, a reduction in regulations and a government focused on what it’s supposed to be doing — serving the people, not dictating to the people,” he said.

One of the major differences he cited between himself and Oller was the potential for re-election. Bigelow would be eligible for as many as six terms, which he saw as an advantage.

“It’s only 18 months if you take out the two recesses and that’s not enough to get anything done,” he said of a single term. “I believe that we’ve seen a revolving door as of late of some folks who have come and gone and we need some consistency.”