Assemblyman Juan Arambula on Being Independent

July 10, 2009 7:34:30 PM PDT
California's overdue state budget is mired in partisan politics but when the next version goes to a vote Fresno Assemblyman, Juan Arambula, won't be towing any party line.We caught up with him at this Fresno office and learned that leaving the Democratic Party may turn out to be an advantage. He has plans for his life beyond the politics of elected office. He has no regrets following his choice to exit the Democratic Party and reregister as an independent voter. Here in California that puts him in the "Decline to State" category. The assemblyman put it this way, "This isn't a decision I made lightly or quickly; I've been thinking about making this change over the last couple of years."

Juan Arambula was elected as a Democrat to the State Assembly in 2004. From the beginning, he says, he was expected to vote as party leaders said, regardless of the needs of his district, "We as elected officials we have an awesome responsibility to try to be fair and see the big picture. We should not be there just to please certain people that happen to contribute significant sums of money.'

Specifically, he says, the powerful special interest labor groups that often support Democrats. In early June of this year he'd had enough and dropped out of the Democratic Party, If anything, I wish I had done it sooner." This newly registered 'Decline to State' is now free to serve as an independent legislator. "My base of support has been very broad so I'm not beholden to any particular."

But his current committee appointments: Public Safety, Water, Education and others were assigned by the Democratic leadership. It will decide if he is to keep them. I asked him, "Have there been political repercussions from that? The usual slap down? He replied, "Not yet. There may well be in the future."

So, what do his fellow rank and file legislators think? He put it this way. "Talking to my colleges in Sacramento, both Republican and Democrat, many of them wish they could be more independent."

As for his future at the end of this, his last, term in office he says he'll come home to Fresno and work with like minds to improve the Central Valley outside of the legislative process, "And that independence I think is very characteristic of the people of the San Joaquin Valley."

Assemblyman Juan Arambula still has 18 months to serve in the state legislature and he's determined to use his independent status to benefit his district until then.

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