Bob Buster and Kevin Jeffries

 

09:50 PM PDT on Monday, March 14, 2011

By DUANE W. GANG and JIM MILLER
The Press-Enterprise

A battle is brewing for the 1st District seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries said this week he is running and will hold an official campaign kick-off event April 7.

In a statement posted on his website Sunday, Jeffries said his experience as a business owner, volunteer fire captain and a “tax fighter at the local and state level” makes him qualified for a seat on the board in next year’s election.

Currently, Jeffries is up against incumbent Supervisor Bob Buster, who has represented the district since 1992.

But county supervisors still must redraw supervisorial boundaries to reflect new census figures and unknown yet is whether Lake Elsinore will remain in the 1st District.

Still, Buster, 66, said he is ready for the challenge.

“I am going to campaign very strongly on the two major issues I have been working on — getting our pay and pensions and budget reformed and in balance and also to improve our health care throughout the county,” Buster said in a telephone interview.

Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, has to leave the Assembly next year because of term limits. He declined to run for an overlapping state Senate district last year, saying he was frustrated with how the Capitol operates.

Jeffries, 50, is among the Assembly’s most conservative members. In 2009, he was among the Republicans who voted to place an $11 billion water bond on a future ballot.

Jeffries declined to criticize Buster or any of the actions he has taken in his 18 years in office.

“My campaign is not about beating up any candidate or incumbent,” said Jeffries, who opened a campaign committee for supervisor earlier this year.

A possible flashpoint in the coming campaign is pensions for public employees.

Last October, Jeffries was among several Republican lawmakers who abstained from voting on legislation to roll back state-employee pension benefits to what they were in 1999.

At the time, Jeffries said he abstained on the measure because he felt like he was “caught up in a game” between then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the union.

Buster is a strong proponent of changing pension benefits, saying they are unsustainable.

He has clashed with the Riverside Sheriff’s Association and other local unions over the issue.

Buster has faced opposition in each of his five campaigns for the board, and the sheriff’s association has regularly backed Buster’s opponents.

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