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First Republican Comes Forward to Replace Harkey in State Assembly

Rancho Santa Margarita's youngest councilman has eyes for the 73rd District in 2014.

Who will replace State Assemblywoman Diane Harkey? The first area Republican has stepped forward to run in 2014

Current Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilman Jesse Petrilla, who launched a two-year campaign that led to his becoming the youngest city councilman in RSM history, said this week he will have a go at higher office.

Petrilla, 29, announced Thursday his intention to run for the California State Assembly in the 73rd District, a two-year seat currently held by Harkey, R-Dana Point.

The seat seems a lock for whichever Republican prevails in the primary. First elected in 2008, Harkey handily beat Democrat challenger James Corbett, a history teacher at Capistrano Valley High School, 64 percent to 36, in November. 

Even though California voters changed the term limits for state politicians in the June 2012 election, Harkey is grandfathered in under the old rules that allowed an Assembly member to serve only three, two-year terms.

Petrilla served a tour in Afghanistan from April to September with the California Army National Guard. He said in a press release he would be honored to fight for Californians in Sacramento.

"California is where I was born and raised, and I want to do my small part to help ensure our future is the best possible for all our families," he said. "I look forward to meeting with the voters of South Orange County between now and the election, and would be humbled to have their support."

Petrilla says his platform consists of fighting for lower taxes, pension reform, and bringing jobs back to California.

His term as a councilmember expires in 2014. He was elected in 2010 after an aggressive campaign he says included knocking on every Rancho Santa Margarita door twice.

Petrilla did not respond to a text request for a response.

His time in elected office has not been without obstacles. After attending four council meetings, he spent nearly four months in training at Fort Knox in 2011 before missing the five months in 2012. He also made statements through social media without being able to document his claims, and gave misleading answers about receiving council benefits though he was still receiving them at the time. Patch asked, during the public comment portion of Petrilla's last council meeting before departing to Afghanistan, to explain his false statements and correct the record; he did not respond.

Petrilla is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton and married his wife, Vesna, in 2009.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated Petrilla would face Harkey in the 2014 election, but she must follow an older term-limit law that has her termed out in 2014.

Whiskey Bent January 05, 2013 at 11:38 PM
Isn't Harkey termed out?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 06, 2013 at 12:09 AM
You're right. Harkey was not affected by the new term limits law passed in June 2012. The story has been corrected.
Shripathi Kamath January 06, 2013 at 03:43 AM
"He said in a press release he would be honored to fight for Californians in Sacramento." And Harkey is fighting for whom? Martians? Yezidis? "Petrilla says his platform consists of fighting for lower taxes, pension reform, and bringing jobs back to California." Wait, his platform is based on slogans written on a placard from a Tea Party rally of 2009? How exactly does he plan to present the viability of his platform? Is there a pp...pl....PLAN or is it just an idea? If the latter, what's wrong with failed HR candidate John Webb?
Whiskey Bent January 06, 2013 at 03:52 AM
I like Petrilla. He is a legitimate conservative, however do we know who else is running?
Dagny January 06, 2013 at 06:10 PM
I want to see fiscal conservatism and more social inclusion and acceptance. I.E., I am a fiscal conservative, social liberal. Although I want to see limited government, revamping of the tax system, I also want to see more acceptance when it comes to lifestyles: marriage, religion where you want to send your kid to school. It IS TIME FOR A CHANGE. Yes, it can be done.
Alberto Barrera January 06, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Won't make a difference who wins, the Super majority doesn't even need to acknowledge their existence now.
April Josephson January 06, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Petrilla's candidacy is not unexpected. This has been part of his master plan since coming to RSM. For those considering his candidacy as viable, I suggest you go back and read the last two year's worth of Patch stories on his participation on our city council. After two years, Petrilla is still inexperienced— for example, he has yet to participate in a budget process—even though he insisted on not being replaced while on active duty for the express purpose of allowing him to participate in city decisions. Our city manager made sure he had opportunity to do so. He chose not to provide any input whatsoever. This will be an interesting Republican race. I'm sure there will be other, more experienced, Republican candidates coming forward soon.
Dan Avery January 22, 2013 at 07:15 PM
April, Are you saying he's the Cathy Schlicht of RSM? Scary if so....

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