Flórez eyes new position Launches campaign for lieutenant governor

State Sen. Majority Leader Dean Flórez, D-Shafter, officially launched his campaign to become California's next lieutenant governor by holding a one-hour "job interview" on the Internet last Friday.

"I see this as the first interview for the job of lieutenant governor," said Flórez, who outlined his reasons for seeking an office that has mostly been the most overlooked of the state's eight constitutional officers.

"The lieutenant governor can and must weigh in, and be visible and be a force to be reckoned with," said Flórez. "I don't take lightly that this is somehow a second role for a government official."

Potential challengers include state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a Democrat, is leaving after one term to run for governor.

Flórez, who was first elected to the state Assembly in 1998 and will be termed out in the state Senate in 2010, is using the Internet to promote himself and the issues he promises to focus on:

Farmworkers: Promote worker safety; enforce workplace safety policies; hold unannounced worksite inspections; and, improve housing.

Green jobs and education: Convert the California Conservation Corps into a California Green Energy Corp to provide youth with green energy-focused jobs and skills; push for energy and green jobs curriculum in state technical schools; convert some of the state community colleges into green energy-training facilities; and, stabilize educational spending.

Government accountability: End no-bid contracting; abolish local boards and commissions that fail to meet open meeting laws; and, prohibit political appointees and high-level staff members from lobbying their former employers.

Flórez also outlined his positions on other issues like food safety and health care on his Web site:

In his video press conference, Flórez spent the latter half answering questions from the public after promoting himself as a leader who isn't "afraid to stir things up, to shake the tree."

"We need someone to tell it like it is," he said. "Those who love the status quo and who benefit from the current dysfunctional nature of state government should fear us. In fact, I believe we need a new face at the statewide level ... someone who can see the new California."

In reaching out to the public through the Internet, Flórez passed up on the traditional press conference to announce his candidacy. Part of the reason, he explained, is because the public has "never let me down."

"Whenever I have gotten into trouble with the Sacramento elite or the shot callers, I have always turned to you, the public, and you have responded with a force that not only holds government accountable but steers me in the right direction towards making government work for you," he said.

Flórez said that as lieutenant governor he will "fight for you every day without the politics and the political restraints, and without the business-as-usual attitude."

He cited his legislation that banned wooden seats on farmworker vans that were blamed in the 1999 accident that left 13 farmworkers dead near Five Points. "A (certified) farmworker van crash has not occurred in the Valley since," said Flórez.

Flórez has raised about $700,000 for his campaign, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Flórez earned an MBA in business from Harvard Business School, and served as student body president in UCLA. He was also a staff member for former state Sen. Art Torres.

The grandson of farmworkers, Flórez would become the second-ever Latino elected lieutenant governor. Cruz Bustamante was on the state Assembly before being elected lieutenant governor in 1998.