“I was raised like a Great Depression kid and I’m living proof of the American Dream,” says 63-year-old Ken Dickson, a Murrieta Valley Unified School District board member who is taking a shot at the 67th State Assembly District seat.
Dickson is running against local candidates and , who both serve on the Lake Elsinore City Council, as well as and William Akana.
Under redistricting, the 67th stretches from Murrieta to Lake Elsinore, and includes Winchester, Menifee, Homeland, Nuevo, Canyon Lake, Wildomar and parts of Hemet.
but Dickson argues his humble beginnings and life “blessings” put him in a unique position.
“With all due respect to my opponents, I don’t think they carry the same experience that I do – not by a long shot.”
Shaped In The Heartland
Dickson was raised on a Kansas farm, and after attending college in his home state went on to pursue law at Duke University. He joined the U.S. Air Force, married an educator who now works for the county, had two kids, served in the Air Force reserves, and spent most of his career as a judge advocate, primarily handling government contracts.
He’s a family man, a devout Christian, and longtime Murrieta resident. With his background, it’s no surprise Dickson characterizes himself as a Conservative Republican, and his biggest pitch is one that many of his constituents in the GOP-held 67th might subscribe to.
“Freedom is what makes you productive,” he said. “The modern equivalent of the slave owner is the people who run the Nanny State.”
The Nanny State, Dickson contends, is controlled by liberals who are overregulating and overtaxing.
“We are destroying our free enterprise system,” he said. If elected, “I would be fighting to reduce the amount of taxes that affect the freedom of citizens.”
Dickson’s experience as a JAG led him into environmental law, including work he did representing the government on the March AFB cleanup. He argues environmental regulation is killing California business.
“There is a heck of an industry” in environmental regulation, Dickson said. “You shouldn’t foul your own nest, but regulation is convenient to use by people who don’t want competitors.”
Dickson cites the as an example.
“It was a poster child on the same level as the Keystone Pipeline Project,” he argued. “It was the right thing to build that quarry. It was not just jobs -- it was environmentally safe for starters and it would have helped the schools.
“People were whipped into a frenzy about their health and it just wasn’t there,” he continued on the quarry issue. “I’m not a rape-the-earth kind of guy, but now we are leaving resources in the ground that could fund education.
“How clean is clean? How safe is safe?” he added.
Dickson also has strong opinion on another area of experience: public education.
“Local control of education is one of my deals,” he said, arguing that Sacramento “is easily co-opted.”
“There’s too much centralized control. Give more of the flexibility to spend the resources we do have to local districts,” he said. “Free them up to raise 21st Century learning.”
For Dickson, 21st Century learning includes utilizing technology to improve distance-learning programs.
“With a couple of clicks, these kids can connect with the world. That’s where public education needs to go,” he said.
On some social issues, Dickson’s Christian values are hard to miss. In his campaign, references to God, faith and prayer are ever present. And when asked, he makes no compromises.
“Do rights come from government or our Creator? We are accountable for what we do,” he said. “You’re forgiven, now what are you going to do about it?
“A Christian does not impose his faith on anybody,” he continued. “Am I going to impose? No.”
But Dickson said he makes his faith “available.”
“I stand up for what I believe in,” he said.
Those beliefs include strong views on the hot-button issues of abortion and homosexuality.
“Biologically, scientifically, that is a baby,” he said of an unborn child. “What about the baby’s rights?” he said of a woman’s right to choose. “We are accountable for what we do.”
On the issue of gays and lesbians, Dickson sees them as “confused” people.
“Why do we promote confusion? I don’t know. It’s not based on science and they do have a choice,” he said. “It’s a very sad lifestyle. The ‘yuk’ factor is huge on it. It’s no worse a shortcoming than greed and gluttony. They’re denying reality. The solution is there in my Christian view.”
Dickson’s judgment on another hot topic – illegal immigration -- is less boisterous. He advocates for secure borders, but he sympathizes with hardworking people.
“I can’t blame anybody from wanting to come here, but we can’t take in everybody. We must control our borders and be compassionate about how we treat people. There’s got to be a political discussion,” he said, arguing that illegal immigration creates an unfair playing field for small business owners who don’t hire undocumented workers.
Dickson blames free services – and the left -- for the current state of illegal immigration.
“We’re bringing in victims,” he said. “The liberals love good little slaves. But when you have people in the shadows, they are vulnerable. When folks come here illegally, they can’t participate. It is a challenge for our time.”
Perhaps the biggest point Dickson has to make is his campaign war chest. During this March 6 interview, however, he made no claims to frontrunner status, despite having the biggest pile of money in his coffers. Instead, when asked, Dickson said he was blessed to have the financial means to run.
Dickson also has campaign experience, having run and lost his bid for the 36th Senate District.
“I knew it was a big step up to go from the school board to the Senate,” he said.
During this 2012 campaign, Dickson maintains he is focused and prepared, but said he has an excellent fallback if things don’t work out in the June primary.
“It’s a privilege to serve this community,” he said of Murrieta and the school district. “If I am number three (in June), I will probably run for school board again.”