With the June 5 election just weeks away, Uken Report asked the two candidates — Manuel “Manny” Perez and Jan Harnik — vying for Riverside County’s Fourth District Supervisor seat a series of questions. Each candidate was given identical questions with a promise that neither his nor her responses would be edited, cut for space or diced into sound bites.

Perez, 45, currently holds the seat after being appointed in 2017. He is seeking election to a four-year term.

Following are Perez’s answers in his own words.

1.       Exactly why are you running?

I believe in the power of people and community. I believe that as a united voice, we can accomplish more.

I have a deep sense of responsibly and obligation to serve the public, and I am running for the Board of Supervisors to improve and protect the quality of life for residents of the Coachella and Palo Verde Valleys. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the past year in office, but there is much work to be done in order to tackle the growing homelessness crisis, expand on veterans services, maintain safe neighborhoods, improve the delivery of county services, and deal with the budget deficit.

I’m running on a positive message of bringing people together to solve problems. This is not a race about what side you are on, but a choice of who actually has the education, experience and ability to execute policy to unify all of us to further our economic and social well being.

2.       What quality or qualities do you have that you believe your opponent does not? In other words, what sets you apart?

I believe that my personal story, my education, my experience, and my record of execution in office make me uniquely qualified to serve on the Board of Supervisors.

Education

I am a native son of the Coachella Valley. I attended local public schools and I went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Riverside, and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After school, I decided to return home to the Coachella Valley and devote my life to public service.

Experience

It’s been my great honor to serve our district as a local School Boardmember, State Assemblymember, City Councilmember, and County Supervisor. In every capacity, I have listened to the needs of residents and worked to bring people together in order to get things done.

Execution

As a School Boardmember, I led the passage of a $250 million bond to construct and renovate schools in the eastern Coachella Valley. In the State Assembly, I authored more than 60 pieces of legislation that were signed into law, including important bills that expanded access to healthcare, ensured clean drinking water, made it easier for veterans to stay in their homes, helped clean up the Salton Sea, and jumpstarted California’s renewable energy economy. As a local Councilmember, I helped the City of Coachella stabilize their budget and improve the services that maintain neighborhoods.

Now, as a member of the Board of Supervisors I am focused on aggressively dealing with the root causes of our homelessness crisis, increasing access to mental health and substance use services, responsibly managing our tax dollars, protecting public safety funding, and serving as the accessible and effective advocate that our district deserves.

I also believe that our district needs a leader who can bring us together and not divide us. I believe that I have the experience and relationships needed to unite our district and secure needed policy and funding victories at the federal and state levels.

3.       What is your single biggest achievement in political office?

Early in my tenure in the Assembly, I was sent to Washington, D.C., by Speaker Karen Bass to meet with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. At the time, I was Chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy. I was also Chair of an ad hoc committee related to Stimulus, Economic, Recovery and Jobs (SERJ).

During that trip, I was briefed on President Obama’s plan. When I returned home, we introduced legislation that allowed our state to access hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for infrastructure projects. A number of these projects were in the Coachella Valley, including some of the 10 freeway overpasses.

4.       Identify one, just one, time when you rallied opposing viewpoints in support of your plan, proposal, initiative, etc.

One of the most controversial pieces of legislation that I worked on was AB 1318, which built the Sentinel power plant. The natural gas facility is a standby or “peaker” power plant designed to complement wind and solar generation facilities in the area by backstopping energy shortfalls due to changing wind patterns. Economic benefits of the facility included a $900 million investment, the creation of 350 jobs, and significant revenues that were created by local business taxes, sales tax, and property tax.

In order to build the plant, we needed to build a bipartisan collation. In the end, we worked with and secured support from Republicans such as Congresswoman Mary Bono, State Senator John Benoit, Assemblymember Brian Nestande, and Desert Hot Springs Councilmember Yvonne Parks.

5.       How much to you expect to spend on your race?

I expect our campaign to raise and spend around $900,000.

6.    Who is your political role model and why?

Former County Supervisor Roy Wilson is one of many political role models that I have. He united our valley, and he went out of his way to ensure that every community was given attention. He cared about our youth, he cared about our most vulnerable, and he cared about our entire valley. He put people above self and service above ambition. I have done my best to emulate his leadership and honor his legacy.

7.  What are the three most notable endorsements you have received to date?

I am honored to have received support from a number of local business, labor, and public safety organizations. I have also received endorsements from over fifty local elected leaders. Three of my most notable endorsements include Cal FIRE Local 2881 (who represent Riverside County’s firefighters), the California Desert Association of REALTORS, and the Riverside County Sheriffs’ Association.

8.       Who recruited you, or did you decide to run on your own?

From an early age, my parents, who were both immigrant farmworkers, taught me the value of hard work, education, and giving back to the community. That’s the reason I became a school teacher, and the reason I eventually ran for the school board. That desire to give back was also the reason I decided to run for State Assembly in 2008, and it’s ultimately the reason I decided to seek the appointment to the Board of Supervisors.

Following the passing of Supervisor John Benoit, a number of people from all political spectrums reached out to me to encourage me to seek the appointment. I made the decision to seek the appointment after consulting with my wife, my family, and a number of community leaders from throughout the Coachella Valley.

9.       The Supervisor’s office is a nonpartisan office. Do you consider yourself a liberal, conservative or moderate and what does that mean to you?

I don’t know that any of those three labels encapsulate my political ideology. I consider myself to be results oriented and to be a pragmatist. As your Supervisor, I am focused on improving the delivery of county services, finding solutions to problems, and being a responsible steward of our county’s tax dollars. I am proud of the fact that I have bi-partisan support in this position that is about achieving results and not advancing a political ideology. I am the only candidate who can site bi-partisan elected official support.

10.       What is the single biggest challenge facing Riverside County?

In addition to homelessness, increasing veterans services, maintaining a basic social service net, providing access to healthcare and creating economic development and jobs, I believe that the structural budget deficit, which is only going to increase over time, is the single biggest challenge facing Riverside County.

Riverside County has a budget of $5.5 billion, but only around $800 million is considered to be discretionary. Of the $800 million in discretionary funds, around 70% go toward public safety. The challenge we have is devoting appropriate funding to keep our neighborhoods safe, while also ensuring that we are able to fund indigent care, social services, and programs that improve our quality of life. We are going to have to deal with targeted cuts, hiring freezes, and asking departments to do more with less. The budget is a balancing act and the details matter tremendously.

Unlike my opponent and other colleagues, I have been a leading voice on talking about concrete steps to increase county revenues. I haven’t just talked about this, I have worked to implement policy to stimulate economic growth, decrease burdensome regulations on our developers, and to focus on areas within our county budget to maximize revenues going forward.