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Sandre Swanson Helps Dems While Eddie Ytuarte Prays For Miracle

'David and Goliath' battle for state assembly seat

Article Last Updated:10/24/2006 07:49:17 AM PDT

OAKLAND — In the largely Democratic stronghold of the 16th Assembly district, which blankets Piedmont, Alameda and nearly all of Oakland, does a little known Peace and Freedom Party candidate by the name of Eddie Ytuarte have a chance of defeating Sandre Swanson?

Probably not. Then again, it was in the 16th district where upstart Green Party candidate Audie Bock triumphed over Democratic stalwart and former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris in the April 1999 special election.

Democrat Swanson, 57, former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee and policy adviser for former Congressman and now Oakland Mayor-elect Ron Dellums, said he's not worried but he's also not taking anything for granted.

Swanson has kept his campaign office open and his volunteers busy since the June primary when he overcame three strong challengers. But Swanson said it's because he is working to elect Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides by registering more voters and getting registered Democrats to the polls on Election Day.

"We continue to raise money and register voters and stimulate interest in this election," Swanson said. "I said before that I was not running against any person, that I was running for the issues — education and health care.

"That was the principal reason why we continued our campaign, and the additional reason is because I think Angelides needs to win. I was 12 points behind in the tracking polls two weeks prior to the primary election and I ended up winning by eight points ... never take anything for granted. This may be a close race for governor and we need people to show up."

Swanson intends to work to restore full funding for schools, libraries and preschools, as well as increase funding for trade schools so people are trained to work on major construction projects funded by state bonds.

He wants to make health care accessible to everyone, and he would reduce crime rates by working to expand prison rehabilitation programs that help prepare inmates for life after jail.

In some ways, Swanson's platform is not so different from Ytuarte, 61, who is the Oakland Tenant Union's coordinator and a producer of a disability-oriented show on KPFA radio.

He is calling for the government to fully fund the schools by having businesses pay a greater share of taxes. Ytuarte said businessesbenefit from having the public education system educate their workers. He also opposes privatization of schools.
Ytuarte supports labor and would work to double the minimum wage and require that all companies who contract with the state be required to pay a living wage.

He would work to strengthen laws that protect renters, unlike the current law which excludes from rent control apartments built after 1983.

"When we had debates, he was in favor of universal health care. Me, too," Ytuarte said. "But I favor higher taxation on businesses and wealthy individuals. All this time, corporations and business has had the advantage of having its workers subsidized by the state (under our system) of free education."

Ytuarte knows it's a long shot for him to win. But if his candidacy helps elevate the discussion about health care, education, a bigger piece of the economic pie for workers and renters, as well as equal rights for people with disabilities, Ytuarte feels he has done his job.

Ytuarte had polio as a child and uses a brace and sometimes crutches to walk. He said he wants to get legislators and businesses talking about disability rights.

"I think the state could do more in drawing attention to the fact that there needs to be more compliance with laws such as the Americans with Disability Act," he said. "We need to educate small businesses to be in compliance with the law. I think it's perfectly appropriate for the Assembly to have hearings and see how people with disabilities could have better access."
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