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Candidate forums scheduled for March primary
heath flora and Paul Akinjo
District 12 Assemblyman Heath Flora (right) and challenger Lathrop City Councilman Paul Akinjo will answer questions at a candidate forum being hosted by the League of Women Voters at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Stanislaus County Chambers, 1010 Tenth St. in Modesto.

The League of Women Voters Stanislaus County is planning a series of forums for the coming March primary election, giving voters the opportunity to meet the candidates, hear their statements and listen to responses to questions from the audience about the issues important to them.

At 6 p.m. Jan. 23, candidates for California’s State Senate District 5 and State Assembly District 12 will answer questions at the Stanislaus County Chambers, 1010 Tenth St. in Modesto. While State Senate District 5 doesn’t include Turlock voters, the city is located within State Assembly District 12, currently represented by Republican Heath Flora of Ripon.

Flora is seeking a third term and is running against Democratic challenger Paul Akinjo, who is running for state office for the first time.

While Flora was a political newcomer when he was first elected in 2016, the Ripon resident now has some experience under his belt.

Since his election, Flora considers some of his greatest accomplishments to be securing $12 million for Stanislaus County Fire radio improvements as well as $1 million for the local Boys and Girls Club. He also believes building relationships with Democrats in Sacramento is something vital to the job, and an effort he’s taken seriously since taking office.

If reelected, Flora would like to tackle ongoing issues in the state like the Central Valley’s water supply, as well as strengthening that Valley’s voice in the Capitol. Air quality will also be an upcoming issue, he said.

Akinjo migrated to the U.S. from Nigeria in the early 1980s and has since relocated from Oakland to Lathrop, where he’s lived since 2001. The Democrat was inspired to run thanks to his heart for advocacy, he said, which has seen him travel to the Capitol to speak for causes like homelessness, housing, natural disasters, water and transportation.

Akinjo said if elected he would focus on transportation funding, as he commutes to the Bay Area for work and is upset with current transit, mental healthcare and housing. He’s currently in his seventh year as a Lathrop City Councilmember, where the town has gone from no reserves to $10 million in savings and has experienced immense growth recently in terms of housing and business.

Turlock voters will also have the chance to vote for three new Stanislaus County Superior Court Judges in March, and can hear from the candidates during a forum held at 6 p.m. Jan. 30, also at the Stanislaus County Chambers in Modesto.

There will be a three-way race for Superior Court Office No. 5 between Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne, retired prosecutor Jared Carillo and Superior Court Commissioner Kenneth Hara, and another between Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees, attorney Daniel Johnson and former Deputy District Attorney Samual Getrich for Office No. 6.

In the race for Superior Court Office No. 2, two candidates with Turlock ties are going head-to-head.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar and Modesto law firm managing partner Colleen Van Egmond are both vying for a seat on the bench.

The son of immigrant parents, Mangar has been with the DA’s office for over 21 years and has handled approximately 10,000 cases during his career, including thousands of felonies. He’s also a Certified Legal Specialist in Criminal Law, a licensed real estate broker and serves on countless Boards throughout the county.

Mangar lived in Turlock prior to moving to Modesto, though his wife Lina still works in the city. His extended family also live and work in Turlock, he said.

Mangar believes that his experience prosecuting in the courtroom every day will help him make split-second decisions thanks to his mastery over the rules of evidence and court. He also has the proper background to make decisions when signing warrants, he added, ensuring justice gets done and a person’s liberty is never jeopardized.

Though Van Egmond’s address is considered a Modesto residence, she’s close enough to Turlock that she’s constantly in the city and her children attend Turlock schools. She primarily handles civil litigation in her line of work — experience she believes is needed on the bench.

Van Egmond believes it’s her own experience that makes her the better candidate, whether it be the wide range of cases she’s handled, sitting as a Pro Tem judge in traffic court or serving as an arbitrator for the California State Bar.

The Superior Court Judge forum will be held in conjunction with a forum for Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Districts 1 and 5.

For more information on either forum, contact the League at 209-324-3375.