By Nick Diamantides
Republican Christopher Salabaj believes it’s time to change things in Sacramento, and he hopes the voters send him there to do so. Salabaj is running against incumbent Democrat Warren Furutani for the California Assembly 55th District seat.
“The main reason I am running is because I and many other people in this district feel that our current politicians are not working for us,” he said. “It is very clear to all of us that our politicians are looking out for the people who are contributing to their election campaigns and that’s why we are in the mess that we are in right now.”
Salabaj ran against Janice Hahn for the 15th District seat of the Los Angeles City Council in 2009 and lost. He said that race taught him much about how the election process works. “It’s not about whether you are a Democrat or a Republican– it’s about making decisions and passing laws that put the people first,” he said. “I want to represent the people of our district and make changes that Mr. Furutani can’t because he owes favors to the various unions and special-interest groups that contribute to his campaign.”
Salabaj said that Furutani demonstrated his loyalty to his large campaign contributors during his last term. “If you look at all the bills that he drafted, they all relate to who gave him money and have nothing to do with helping our district,” he said. As an example, Salabaj mentioned a bill authored by Furutani that would have taken away the requirement that high-school students complete two years of physical education before being able to graduate.
“Mr. Furutani wrote a bill that would have eliminated that requirement and instead offer the kids trade-school classes,” Salabaj said, adding that it was unconscionable for Furutani to try to get such a bill passed during a time when the youth of the country are experiencing an obesity epidemic. “It did not make sense to me that someone would offer a bill that would do away with a class that could help rid the nation of that epidemic,” he said. “The bill was obviously a favor to the unions, but it was not even passed by the Assembly.”
Salabaj added that Governor Schwarzenegger recently vetoed another bill authored by Furutani that would have replaced many foreign-language and fine-arts classes in the public schools with trade-school classes. “So once again, during this severe budget crisis, he is hammering away trying to get this thing passed for a special-interest group,” Salabaj said.
“My first priority is job creation,” he said. “We have to create jobs in California, and I am very interested in creating jobs in my district. We have such a great location to bring in companies and small businesses that can offer jobs to our residents, and we are not taking advantage of that.”
“My second priority is our schools,” he said. “Our state has to go through major educational reform. The first thing is our relationship with the schoolteachers. In order to be successful, school districts have to be like small communities that govern themselves. School districts like LAUSD are just too spread out to be run the right way. The state needs to step in and break up the huge school districts to give more power to the parents and the teachers. That’s the only way the schools are going to be run in the right way.”
Salabaj also said that as a state legislator he would look into how school districts, colleges and universities purchase books. “The way that we purchase our books is state-mandated and questionable,” he said. “It basically opens the door for corruption.” He explained that he suspects that taxpayers are footing the bill for exorbitantly overpriced textbooks and college students are also forced to pay outrageously high prices for their textbooks. “The books are basically chosen on the basis of who knows who.”
Salabaj said his third priority would be to attack the corruption that exists in state government. “I have talked to people who are in office who say that is a losing battle,” he said. “But someone has to be in office who really questions what the other politicians are doing and brings it out to the public.”
Salabaj noted that recently Harbor College invited Furutani to speak to the students there, but neglected to invite Salabaj. He said that was a form of corruption because the school is funded by taxpayer dollars and yet seems to be encouraging students to vote in a particular way.
Salabaj graduated from the University of Laverne with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and is now completing a teacher credential program at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He has been a real-estate salesman for the last nine years. He had worked for LAUSD as a physical-education instructor for several years but was laid off last February and is now a football coach for Bishop Montgomery High School, a private school in Torrance.
“It is very important that everyone get out and vote in this election,” he said. “We are in a pivotal point in our state’s history, and we need to pick the right leaders to represent the people and not special-interest groups.”