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Park La Brea residents will see a familiar name when they go to the voting booths next week. Matthew Gene Craffey, a university development director, has lived at the community for four years and is running as a Republican against incumbent Assemblyman Richard Bloom, 50th District.
Craffey grew up in Ventura County and worked at California Lutheran University restructuring the research and management program before UCLA recruited him to be director of prospect management and then development director. He also has been an LGBT activist for years, which he admitted wasn’t always a characteristic readily associated with members of the GOP. However, his work as president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Los Angeles County helped him “reconcile that.”
“Before, you were generally told you can’t be both,” he said. “I knew I was Republican before I knew I was gay. But I knew I didn’t want to sacrifice because I was gay.”
At Log Cabin he said he has been able to “change the party from the inside out” to be more open and inclusive of LGBT issues. Log Cabin helps influence the party’s platform at state conventions and advocates on behalf of LGBT Republicans.
“I’ve been able to persevere and change minds and find common ground,” he said. “I’m not a divisive person. I try to hear every side, to hear people out. I feel like that’s lacking in current representation.”
Among his accomplishments, Craffey and Log Cabin helped remove anti-LGBT language from the state party’s platform, he said. In addition to their work at conventions, they meet with politicians who make cases for why gay Republicans should support them, and in the process he has been able to connect and form relationships with sitting members of the Legislature who have “imparted wisdom.”
“It’s also been a great learning experience,” he said.
Craffey has never run for office, but he believes now is the time for someone like him to help balance the state.
“I really do feel, not just as a Republican, but as a citizen of the state, that having one party in almost total control isn’t good,” he said, referring to the Democratic majority in the Legislature. “Even if the Republican Party has a supermajority, I wouldn’t want it because then they are not accountable. I think it’s a real opportunity now for common sense, for 21st century conservatives to start winning back these races.”
Craffey described himself as fiscally conservative with a “hands off” approach in terms of government involvement and regulation.
Craffey said he has not met Bloom and has nothing against him personally.
“But he’s one more person who is part of the problem,” Craffey said. “What I’ve been concerned about is he’s voted with Democrats on almost every issue,” Craffey said, pointing to regulations on the state’s tech industry, such as Uber. “Basically there’s this sense from the Democrats that we need to regulate every industry. He has been part of that process.”
Craffey also raised concerns that the Legislature hasn’t done enough to reduce the government’s burden on taxpayers, or enough to encourage industry leaders to stay in California.
“Look at what’s happened with Toyota leaving,” he said. “Those are large industries and Bloom and others in his party should have found a way to work with the companies to meet halfway so they don’t leave.
Craffey said he would push to improve education, which he said would strengthen the long-term economy by addressing poor schools in poverty-stricken communities.
“If you look at a lot of problems in society, they can be traced back to education and equal access,” he explained. “I believe if you give everyone equal tools then it’s up to them to be successful. We don’t have that right now.”
Craffey said he would push for increased spending on tuition systems for low-income families, in which the state would help more students who want to attend private schools or religious schools but can’t afford it.
“If you’re a child in a low-income home then you, more than anyone, need access to good education,” he said. “In the long run, improving access to education and improving schools will end up saving us money.”
He said through increased accountability and improved transparency, the state should remove poor performing teachers and pay the successful ones more money. He also said the state should encourage more charter schools.
Assemblyman Bloom was held up on the Legislature floor for most of the week, but was able to answer questions via email.
Bloom said he has not met Craffey yet.
“However, I respect his candidacy and look forward to meeting and hearing his ideas for our district and state,” Bloom said.
Reflecting on his career, Bloom pointed to banning plastic microbeads from being used in products such as soap and toothpaste.
“Not long after my bill was signed into law, the federal government followed suit with a national microbead ban,” he said.
He also pointed to his work as the chair of the budget subcommittee on resources and transportation.
“Transportation and natural resources are especially critical issues right now, as California and the whole world continue to grapple with climate change and sustainability. I’ve been able to advance important policies for the people of California through the budget, on issues ranging from access to water in the midst of a drought to expanding funding for important transportation initiatives,” he said. “I am also proud of having participated in, and voted on, three on-time budgets. The last three budgets have advanced a broad range of accomplishments including restoring funding to programs heavily cut during the recession and helping bring more Californians out of poverty.”
Bloom said his homelessness and housing crisis legislation has been a significant part of his current legislation package, an issue he said he will continue to address moving forward.
Bloom also responded to the notion that there is too much government oversight from the state in terms of industry regulations.
“I believe that when Californians understand what government oversight means for their day-to-day lives, they not only understand the need for oversight, but are also supportive of it,” he said. “The water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the gas leak in Porter Ranch have only underscored the need for good government oversight. Now more than ever, people across the state are asking for that oversight and regulation.”
Bloom added that it has been a pleasure and an honor serving the the 50th Assembly District since 2012.
“I look forward to the results of this election in the hope that I will be returned to office for another term,” he said.
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