One of the Democrat representatives who voted for 7 of the 8 tax increases that passed the state house Friday is state representative Cherylin Peniston (D-Adams County). Peniston voted for every one of the tax hikes except, strangely, the one on non-essential food containers.
To me, House District 35 is a darkhorse race to keep an eye on. Republican challenger Edgar Antillon faces the daunting odds of a district that is 46 percent Democratic to 22 percent Republican, but he’s looking to run a focused and energetic campaign to oust Peniston from office.
Antillon contacted me yesterday after the votes had been recorded to explain his basic philosophical distinction with the incumbent on these tax hike votes. He emphasized that the Ritter/Peniston approach would only increase the financial burden on the families and businesses in his district — especially with an already painful 7.5 percent unemployment rate. “A balanced budget means taxpayers first, not big government,” he said. (Jobs and fiscal responsibility are two of his leading issues, but I also like his views on education.)
Based on the Tarrance Group poll I highlighted yesterday evening, Antillon is not only on the right side but also the popular side of that argument.
To play a little hypothetical game, imagine that the active voters in HD 35 supported the respective candidates according to their views captured in the poll. In other words 85 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats pull the lever for Antillon, while 9 percent of Republicans, 22 percent of independents and 44 percent of Democrats cast a ballot for Peniston. Even giving all undecided voters to the incumbent, the outcome would be a landslide win for Antillon.
Of course, votes don’t break down this cleanly in real life, and even in a best case scenario the HD 35 challenger wins a close one. But there’s no doubt the clear divide on the “dirty dozen” tax hikes is a winning issue for Edgar Antillon. If he can find a way to drive the message home and translate it into victory come November, then it’s a sign both of his own hard work and success as well as of a landslide GOP takeover of state government. We’ll have to see how this plays out in the months to come.