Eric Rigard

Eric Rigard, who challenged Assembly Member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, in last year’s California State Assembly District 9 election, will once again run for that seat in the 2022 race.

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

Cooper, a former Sacramento County sheriff’s captain, announced last December that he is interested in running for Sacramento County sheriff in 2022. However, he has not yet ruled out the possibility of seeking a fifth term as an Assembly member next year.

Rigard, a Republican who lives in Elk Grove, told the Citizen that he feels he will have greater success in the 2022 election.

“I think that I did fairly well the first time through,” he said. “I got close to 80,000 votes, and I had not really taken into consideration how large the district really was. So, I spent a lot of time in Lodi, spent some time in Galt, spent time here in Elk Grove, just meeting people on the street and stuff like that. I didn’t really spend a lot of time in south Sacramento.”

Last year’s Assembly District 9 general election resulted in Cooper receiving 142,088 votes and Rigard obtaining 73,742 votes.

Rigard described his current campaign as having a much broader network.

“I just needed to tighten up my organization,” he said. It was very grassroots. It was just me basically running last time on my own fuel. Now I’ve got people looking out for me, getting me in different places.”

Among the issues that are most important to Rigard is homelessness.

“I think (homelessness) is popping up in areas that we didn’t see before,” he said. “Here in Elk Grove, I don’t think that we see a lot of it or it’s not very visible on the street all the time. But it’s happening in Sacramento, it’s happening just south of us in Galt and in Lodi.

“And there’s some happing in Elk Grove, believe me. Maybe it’s not as visible, but it’s going to be if it’s left unchecked.”

Rigard added that providing housing for the homeless is “only one element” to approaching this issue.

“We’ve got to provide these people with mental health services, and they don’t need to go to a big state hospital,” he said. “We need to have mental health clinics that are local, that are accessible to these people, where they can get the help that they need, whether they’re mentally ill or it’s a drug issue.

“And some laws have got to be changed there, so that the cops, when they go out and they see these folks and they’re trying to help them, they can’t just hold them for 48 hours and they have to kick them back out on the street – and in a lot of cases 24 hours and not even that.”

Referring to a three-pronged approach, Rigard mentioned that in addition to providing housing and mental health services for the homeless, they also need job skill training to “be able to get back in the game.”

The candidate noted that the success of small businesses is a priority issue for him.

“Small businesses, I think, were hurt very badly during the pandemic, and I think that the government turned their back on small businesses, and I think the municipalities around here turned their back on them,” he said. “And they need to have an advocate – somebody speaking up for them.”

Rigard mentioned that during government shutdowns of small businesses, many of those business owners suffered significant financial hardships.

“The small business owners that may have weathered that storm and now they’re up and trying to run again, they’re crippled trying to run their businesses now after having taken all that time and money and everything else away from them,” he said.

Rigard added that a state fund should be established to assist small businesses.

“We had the (Paycheck Protection Program) from the federal government early on (in the pandemic),” he said. “I think there should be a state fund set aside, as opposed to giving it to illegal aliens. Those funds should be set aside to help put some money into small businesses.

“I don’t believe you should be giving illegal immigrants money. They come here trying to achieve something. OK, you’re here. You came here illegally. You didn’t come here through the right way, but now it’s on you. You’ve got to survive. Small businesses didn’t have any choice as to whether or not they got shut down. You had a choice of whether you came here.”

Rigard additionally identified education as one of his high-priority issues.

“Especially with what’s happened in the pandemic, education is huge – education of our kids and what has happened in education,” he said. “I think there needs to be a choice. Parents need to have the choice to be able to self-direct their tax dollars to whatever school: charter, private, public or home schooling.”

Rigard explained why he feels he is the best candidate to serve the people of District 9.

“I have a heart for the people, and I believe that just morally my compass is set,” he said. “I’m following the teaching and the training that I get through the ministry that I’ve been involved in through Calvary Christian Center (in Elk Grove).

“I’m trying to build something sustainable (in the district) and I’m keeping my focus on the people.”