Eric Rigard

Eric Rigard, a Republican, will challenge Assembly Member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, in the District 9 Assembly primary election on March 3.

District 9, which includes Galt, extends from south Sacramento to Lodi.

Also planning to run against Cooper are Democrats Tracie Stafford and Mushtaq Tahirkheli, and Peace and Freedom Party candidate Dennis Terrill.

Rigard, a first-time political candidate and seven-year resident of the Elk Grove area, noted that he is a lifelong Californian who grew up in Inglewood and majored in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He later moved to the Bay Area and built a career in sales.

Rigard now heads the public awareness ministry at the Calvary Christian Center. He said that his political activism began after he attended a clergy summit in Washington, D.C.

“(At that summit), I really got my eyes opened to pro-life issues, really, to anti-abortion issues, and that spurred me on even further, with some activism,” he said. “And then, earlier this year, I was asked by a couple of ladies to run.”

After consulting his pastor and praying, Rigard decided to challenge Cooper for his Assembly seat.

“After praying about it and spending the time, I really felt impressed that where the state is going, somebody has got to stand up and start to make a difference,” he said. “We’re going down a line here (in this state) and we’ve just gotten off a step, a step, a step, just a little bit at a time, little compromises. And now we find ourselves on this side of the street saying, ‘How the heck did we get here?’”

Rigard told Herburger staff that one of his main concerns is the cost of senior housing.

“It’s not that senior housing isn’t being built, but (the cost) is astronomical,” he said. “People who are here who have grown up here, who are from this area, literally are being priced out of the area. When you look at a one-bedroom apartment and it’s going to cost at the low end $4,000 to get into that facility, that’s crazy. A senior citizen can get a discount to go to Denny’s, to go to their grandkids’ basketball game, to go to the movies, but they can’t get a discount for housing. Something is wrong with that picture.”

Rigard noted that homelessness is a subset of that concern.

“It is crucially important that we deal with the homelessness,” he said. “There are a lot of homeless people in the area that live in their cars. They’re actually going to work. They can afford the rent. They might not be able to afford the first and last months’ rent – the deposit to get into a place.”

He also mentioned a need to acquire state funding for facilities to assist homeless people who are suffering from mental illnesses.

“They need the treatment,” he said. “My uncle was in Camarillo State Hospital. As long as he was going to the hospital, dealing with his doctors, everything was great in his life. As soon as he got off of those meds and didn’t have those doctors to go to, you would find him on bus stops all over LA.”

Rigard argued that stronger measures are necessary to address addictions to illegal drugs.

“I know it sounds rather crude, but they have to have one of two choices: You have to either go into treatment, go to a rehab facility; or you’ve got to go spend some time in jail,” he said. “I think what we’ve done is we’ve handcuffed the police and district attorneys, where they can’t even bring a case against somebody like that.”

Another issue that is important to Rigard is the fees and regulations of farmers.

“There are some rather onerous regulations and fees and whatnot for pesticide use, for this, for that, for the other,” he said. “There should be an oversight committee that all of that is funneled through.

“You hit the farmers one time and tell them what they can and cannot use. You don’t keep nitpicking them all day long, because these people are growing the crops that feed us. They should be taken care of. As far as their water is concerned, we’ve passed bond issues for dams and water storage. But have they been built? No.”

Rigard summarized why he feels he is the best candidate.

“I am a Christian, I am pro-life, I am pro-family, I’m definitely a conservative, and I’m pro-the people,” he said. “I really want to hear the heart of the people that are here in this district and see what they want, and give them back representative government.”