Ma is best choice for Assembly

The Democratic primary race for California’s 12th Assembly District pits two smart, energetic candidates in Fiona Ma, a longtime state Senate aide and current member of the Board of Supervisors, and Janet Reilly, who currently serves on the Golden Gate Bridge board. The 12th Assembly District covers the west side of San Francisco and parts of Daly City, Colma and Broadmoor in San Mateo County.

While we believe residents would be well-served by either candidate in Sacramento, our nod goes to Ma, whose legislative experience and understanding of state politics give her the edge.

Ma has exhibited a much-needed common-sense approach on a Board of Supervisors that too often takes off in ideological flights of fancy. A moderate legislator, Ma has supported homeownership opportunities for city residents, more funding for public schools, pedestrian-safety improvements and incentives for business development. She has also emphasized fiscal responsibility and accountability in government, subjects that often don’t get headlines but are appreciated by taxpayers.

Though the candidates have been laudably issues-oriented during the campaign, the race has not been free of mud-slinging. Reilly’s campaign charged that Ma illegally collaborated with an ostensibly independent political action committee with which she had close ties and which supported her campaign financially. Though perhaps not illegal, the letter-of-the-law funding surge casts a slight taint on the Ma campaign.

An attempt by the Reilly campaign, meanwhile, to spread to the media alleged links between Ma and ultraconservative South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds backfired when the evidence in question — an IRS Web site that listed Ma as a treasurer on the politician’s campaign — turned out to have been the result of a computer glitch. Reilly disingenuously suggested it was the media’s job to check whether the story was true.

It was a blemish on what has otherwise been astrong campaign by Reilly. Clear, articulate and passionate, Reilly impresses us with her knowledge of the issues and her forthrightness. The cornerstone of her campaign is a bold proposal to establish a single-payer, universal health care system run by the state government that she says would result in reduced bureaucracy and massive cost savings. While we are skeptical that such a plan wouldn’t turn into its own massive bureaucracy, it shows she’s got big ideas and isn’t afraid to push for major reforms in areas of need.

Ma, who has spent four years as a supervisor and seven years before that as an aide to former state Senate powerhouse John Burton, understands how things work in Sacramento and how decisions made there affect constituents back home. Reilly was a TV news reporter, public relations executive and aide to former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan before being appointed to the Golden Gate Bridge board. Her experience, while broad and impressive, would put her at a disadvantage, at least initially, in the important work of ensuring that local residents’ concerns — and funding needs — were represented in Sacramento.

Reilly is a capable candidate with a good future. Right now, Fiona Ma is the best choice for state Assembly.

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