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Standing Asunder

Sunder Ramani, candidate for AD 43.

AD 43 Candidate Sunder Ramani talks to Griffith Park Wayist

"All I really need to know is where the men's bathroom is," GOP hopeful Sunder Ramani told me over coffee at Say Cheese in Silver Lake yesterday.

He wasn't referring to the men's room at the popular Hyperion fromagerie and coffee house. He was referring, with some hope, to learning his way around the Sacramento State Assembly. Sunder Ramani aspires to represent the people of Glendale, Atwater, northern Silver Lake and Los Feliz in State Assembly District 43. The election is next Tuesday.

As a small businessman and small business advocate, Ramani feels that his experience is as valid as opponent Mike Gatto's, who has previously worked for local career politicians Mark Ridley-Thomas and Brad Sherman. Ramani has been doing small business advocacy work as a board member of the National Federation of Independent Business.

"I think people are cut from the same cloth as I am," Ramani says.

Our wide ranging conversation included much discussion about present State issues and also touched on Ramani's personal journey from India to LA to small business and ultimately into politics. I learned that Ramani went to St. Casimir's elementary school, which is down the street from me. As an adolescent in America, Ramani had a paper route in this neighborhood delivering the Herald Examiner, and puzzled over selecting optimal shortcuts through Griffith Park. Later Ramani put his wife through med school; she became a dermatologist. He worked for a long time as a commercial printer both during and long after college, and he also began advocacy work on behalf of small business.

But he's also kept a close watch on State legislative matters. In the course of our conversation, I brought up several bills currently in State legislature that I thought were the most prominent of the current crop. I found to my surprise that I didn't catch him off guard about any of them. Here's a breakdown:

AB 2254: He's against the Assembly bill that hopes to legalize marijuana.

SB 1451: He's iffy on this bill and wants to see more briefs on this new Senate bill. This is the new textbook bill that would put school textbooks under state review. He says he saw some info that indicates that Texas and California don't control the textbook market the way some alarmists say they do.

AB 1998: He's for banning plastic bags at supermarkets.

Recycle Bond: He'll likely be against the $9 billion bond backed by state recycling. He cited Rob Reiner's cigarette tax: "How did that work out, really?" He doesn't think it worked out so well.

SB 1475: He's for punishing drivers who text message more severely than they are punished now.

AB 2578: He says he's still studying the bill and has no position yet. The bill would submit any health insurance rate hikes to State commission review. He did duck in that opponent Mike Gatto has taken a lot of money from Anthem.

Pressing him a little on the last point, he admits that "Insurance providers have not been part of the solution. There's little transparency when it comes to costs. There are three parts of the cost issues--patient, provider, and insurer--and we need input from all three to solve some of the greater problems."

In general, Ramani is a small business apologist who believes that small businesses contribute not only to the economy but also to the social well being of the State, more than they are given credit for.

"When you go to a Little League game, who do you see sponsoring the teams? You don't see IBM or MicroSoft. You see local businesses. We need to make life easier for these, not for the big corporations."

We spoke a little of his expressed interest in bipartisanship. "Our problems aren't Democratic problems or Republican problems, they're our problems. When Tom Campbell said to have respect for the system, I said that it's not about respecting the system, it's about changing the narrative."

With regards to development in Griffith Park, he says the only criterion should be, "Do we NEED it?" He agrees that we don't, for instance, need a water slide. He took shortcuts through the Park as a paper boy when he was an adolescent and says he appreciates the hiker's experience of it.

Ramani has been hopeful to engage opponent Mike Gatto in a debate, a hope that has thus far been thwarted since the primary. Still, because of the smaller pool of Republican donors in the District, Ramani is running at a considerable dollar disadvantage.