The five candidates vying for Sen. Mike Morrell’s seat met the evening of Oct. 2 for a candidate forum in the Solera clubhouse in Beaumont.
Seeking to succeed Morrell are: Rosilicie Ochoa-Bogh, a Realtor and member of the Yucaipa/Calimesa school board; Kris Goodfellow, an entrepreneur and former journalist; Abigail Medina, president of the San Bernardino City Unified School District; Christina Puraci, a teacher in the Colton Joint Unified School District, and Lloyd White, software developer at ESRI and Beaumont city councilman.
Morrell will term out in 2020.
The forum was open to Solera residents.
Each candidate had two minutes to introduce themselves and then they were asked a series of questions before their closing statements at three minutes each.
Ochoa-Bogh said she has lived in the Pass area since 1990. As a Realtor, she is familiar with affordable housing.
“I’ve seen the quality of life diminish in the Inland Empire,” Ochoa-Bogh said. “Unfortunately, it has to do with the cost of housing.”
Goodfellow said that the Inland Empire is a beautiful place to live, but that residents face income inequity, the worst air quality and problems with education.
Medina emphasized how important education is to her and how it is a pathway out of poverty, She is proud of the San Bernardino City Unified School District and its 95 percent graduation rate.
It also is the ninth largest school district in California.
Puraci said she wants to see members of both parties get along better. “I would be working hard to change the disparity between Democrats and Republicans,” she said.
White said that a comparison can be made in the decline of schools to the rise of power of the Democratic party.
“I’m the only one with local elected government experience,” he said.
The candidates were asked about their top priority if they are elected as senator;
Goodfellow said she is deeply concerned about the environment.
Medina said we have to look at our under-performing school districts.
Puraci proposed that school districts teach the whole child.
White also agreed that the educational system needs to be fixed, but he is more concerned with taxes.
Puraci talked about bringing business back to California, to a place California was at when Puraci moved here in 1992.
Ochoa-Bogh said her father owned a small business and that taxes hurt him and others like him. “We think we are taxing the top people. It always trickles down to the little people,’’ she said.
Goodfellow said she is a small business owner and cannot support taxes.
They also talked about how bullying affects children. White said that the administrator’s hands are tied and unfortunately, students are committing suicide.
Ochoa-Bogh said that there are behavioral and mental health issues associated with bullying, which has increased over the past 20 to 30 years.
Goodfellow said we have to start treating each other with respect. “We have to stop attacking one another,” she said.
Medina said that bullying has to end. “Bullying is not acceptable at all,” she said.
The candidates were asked how they would bring the Democrats and Republicans together to resolve their issues.
Ochoa-Bogh said the hurt feelings have to go away. “There is a lot of animosity and hurt in our counties and state,” she said.
Our leaders have to set the standard, she said.
Goodfellow said everyone would have to practice good listening.
“What I did learn is that we have to listen to the other side,” she said.
We have to be open to hearing the concerns of others, Goodfellow said.
Medina said that it’s not unusual to have differences; we just have to respect those differences.
Puraci said that her parents taught her to be respectful of others.
White said the problem is tied to social media. People need to turn off their TVs and phones.
During her closing statement, Goodfellow complimented the audience.
“You are the solution to all of the problems that plague our society,” she said.
Goodfellow said that people feel disconnected to their government.
Medina said that candidates need to be willing to have the experience to build relationships and push for things when people are against you.
Puraci said there is no balance in the Senate.
California needs people who will work together.
White said that he is proud of his business background and his role on the Beaumont city council, working with his colleagues to resolve corruption and bring jobs to Beaumont.
Ochoa-Bogh said she lives every day with gratitude in her heart and to be respectful and civil to others.
After the forum, the candidates had an opportunity to meet with Solera residents.
George Vawter said he believed that the four women were more focused on one subject, but thought that White had a broader background.
Dennis Rice did not want to say who he thought had the strongest platform, but complimented all five.”I was very much impressed with them,” Rice said. “I thought that they were very professional and well-informed on most of the issues.”
Marcia Casem also did not want to reveal her choice. “I think they brought out some good points,” Casem said.