Michael Harrison in front of the Town Crier office in Idyllwild. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Michael Harrison in front of the Town Crier office in Idyllwild.
Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Michael Harrison, deputy district director for Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50), announced in 2014 that he would run for the seat currently held by termed-out Republican Assemblyman Brian Jones (AD 71), which becomes vacant for the 2016 election. He recently visited Idyllwild and met with Town Crier publishers Becky and Jack Clark, News Editor J.P. Crumrine and Staff Reporter Marshall Smith.

AD 71, which encompasses the Hill communities of Idyllwild/Pine Cove, Anza and Aguanga and areas north and east of the city of San Diego, is heavily Republican, with a voter registration edge of around 43 percent Republican to 28 percent Democrat.

Harrison has never before held elective office but has served for 20 years on the staffs of Congressman Duncan L. Hunter and currently with his son Duncan D. Hunter, representing San Diego’s East County. Harrison worked in the nation’s capitol as congressional aide for Duncan L. Hunter for over a decade and now serves as Duncan D. Hunter’s deputy director in the congressman’s East County office.

Harrison touts his experience in water management, agriculture, property rights, transportation and infrastructure and veterans’ rights — experience gained while working in staff positions for the two congressmen.

In conversation with the Town Crier, Hunter stated he is solidly conservative and wants to be a conservative voice in the heavily Democratic California Assembly. He said he believes common ground can be found with Democrats on certain issues but that he would always adhere to his core conservative beliefs. He said, if elected, he would be guided by three things: to stand on principals; to find and address small challenges within larger challenges; and to know his district and be a voice within the Assembly for his constituents.

Harrison has already garnered impressive establishment Republican endorsements including Darrell Issa, Brian Billbray, Ron Packard and both Hunters.

Harrison hews closely to the current Republican line, both on national and California issues. On the issues, he opposes the California high speed rail project as “an inexcusable waste of California taxes and resources” and advocates better use of that money for water and road infrastructure projects, job programs, education improvement, incentives for local business growth and “direct tax refunds to California taxpayers;” advocates more local control and parental choice in K-12 education; and believes government “over-regulation” and a “backward tax code” is hurting California’s ability to attract new industry. Citing San Diego’s healthy economy in which military, hospitality, agriculture and bio-tech have established a proven track record, Harrison advocates for what he calls a “Blue Economy” — investment in underwater technologies, robotics and clean water resources – as well as investment in renewable energy and academia.

It is in water management that Harrison seemed most energized, touting the record of the San Diego area in setting forward-looking water management policies and diversifying its water management portfolios. “I support pursuing investment in every resource, including desalination, reclamation, conversation and, most importantly, water infrastructure construction projects such as dams and surface-storage reservoirs.”

While at the Town Crier, Harrison stated there is no shortage of water in California. What is lacking, he opined, is proper water management policy. “The lack of water is created by over-regulation,” he said. “We don’t lack water. We have released million of gallons of fresh water into the ocean to save fish.”

Harrison stated that Gov. Brown’s Executive Order mandating water conservation was not necessary and that the governor was just burnishing his image — that the failure was one of policy, in not having used California infrastructure effectively to capture and store adequate storm and rainwater during wet seasons for use during drought.

On his visit to Idyllwild, Harrison said if elected he would be a regular presence in Hill communities, is committed to learning about Hill residents’ priorities, and would stage Town Hall listening sessions to educate himself and his staff about what residents care about in the northern-most part of AD 71.

Harrison is likely to face opposition for the seat, including Santee Mayor Randy Voepel, who identifies as a staunch conservative, saying he is more in line with Tea Party ideals of lower taxes and smaller government. Harrison holds an undergraduate degree from California State University, Stanislaus, and a master’s degree from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He serves on several community organizations, including the Ramona Kiwanis Club, the Ramona Historical Society, the Ramona Pregnancy Care Clinic, and the Lemon Grove Rod and Gun Club.

Harrison, as an NRA life member and “proud member” of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said he is committed to supporting Second Amendment rights, including “the right to carry.”

For more about Harrison’s bid for AD 71, visit www.mikeharrison.com.