By Beau Yarbrough, The Sun
Posted: 03/23/14, 6:04 PM PDT |

San Bernardino >> At a lightly attended political forum Thursday night, organized by radio station KCAA, AM 1050, three of the five candidates seeking to replace Bill Emmerson as the state senator from the 23rd District squared off.

After nine years in office, Emmerson announced in November that he was stepping down, citing a diminished passion for the job. The Redlands politician represented the Inland Empire in the state Legislature since 2004, when he was elected to the Assembly. He won his state Senate seat in 2010 and would have been forced out of office by term limits in 2016.

In the end, five candidates will vie for his seat at Tuesday’s special election: Democrats Ameenah Fuller and Ronald O’Donnell, Republicans Mike Morell and Crystal Ruiz and Libertarian Jeff Hewitt. Fuller, Ruiz and Hewitt met in the late-campaign political forum Thursday night.

The three fielded questions on a variety of hot-button issues, including abortion.

“Even though, I, myself, would not, I want everyone to have the choice to decide on their healthcare, with their own doctors, what they want to do,” Fuller said. “As a woman, I don’t want anybody deciding for me, and I don’t want to decide for someone else.”

She was alone in that opinion among the candidates, however.

“I do understand the consequences of it,” Ruiz said. “I understand what happened preceding (the legalization of abortion), and that scares the heck out of me, but you know what, no, I’m not supporting abortion at all.”

Hewitt, the Libertarian, came down on the more conservative side of the issue.

“There’s no one on this Earth that is of age to conceive a baby that doesn’t know what causes conceiving a baby,” he said. “I think it’s a reflection of the soul of a society when people don’t take responsibility for their actions.”

Hewitt also opposes California issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.

“I think that a driver’s license is not a right; it’s a privilege that we all earn,” he said. “Citizenship has to mean something and I think it’s wrong to go ahead and give them driver’s licenses because as long as we have this unbridled flow, we cannot maintain our society as a certain level of prosperity.”

Fuller disagrees, on practical grounds.

“We need to know that everybody who’s living here,” she said. “They do need to have some way to track and be a part of our society.”

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