Democrat says turnout is vital
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/12/2010 05:29:55 PM PDT

In 2008, Democrat Carl Wood beat Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, in the Riverside County section of Cook’s 65th Assembly District.

But Wood came up short in San Bernardino County. In 2008, he didn’t have a campaign to speak of on this side of the county line. This time around, he’s aiming to fix that.

“I had no campaign at all in Yucaipa and the High Desert,” Wood said. “Now I do have a campaign. I have people knocking on doors, I have people doing phone banking in all of those areas. I’m certainly expecting better results in San Bernardino County this time, just for the reason that I have a campaign.”

Wood’s performance in 2008 was by far the best showing by a Democrat in the district this decade. Before 2008, Cook and Republican candidates before him had won lopsided victories – margins of victory of about 24 percentage points on average – in the 65th District, which stretches from Big Bear Lake to Hemet and from Yucaipa to Twentynine Palms.

But in 2008, Cook’s margin of victory was just 6.6 percentage points. Repeating that showing will be difficult though, as Wood was almost certainly helped by the groundswell of Democratic voter turnout that propelled President Barack Obama to victory and boosted many other otherwise-longshot Democratic candidates.

Wood knows turnout will be key this year if he hopes to build on last year’s near-success.

“That’s what makes this race so unpredictable,” he said. “It’s so heavily dependent on voter turnout. If there’s good turnout, I think I stand a good chance of winning.”

To drive that turnout, this time without a national campaign for backup, Wood said he’s talking about jobs and immigration – issues he said should excite people.

“This area, we’re not No. 1 in the country in unemployment,” he said. “People can either be despondent or they can be angry, and I think there’s some of both. With the anger part, the challenge is to focus it in some direction. It really comes down to talking to people one on one and persuading them that (voting) makes a difference in their lives.”

Wood, a former union leader who was appointed to the state Public Utility Commission by former Gov. Gray Davis, said he knows how to bring jobs to the area. He said Cook hasn’t done much to help ease the state’s unemployment rate.

“If I get elected, I’m going to be focusing on issues that affect the people here,” Wood said. “I think I have a record of achievement in this area, and I don’t think Paul Cook can point to much of anything he’s done to improve services for the people of this area.”

Cook said that’s plainly untrue. He had 13 bills get through the Legislature this year – quite a few for a Republican – and says he has pushed unsuccessful legislation to spur employment.

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