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Democrat John Laird officially threw his hat into the ring in the race for the 15th District Senate seat, taking on Republican Sam Blakeslee for the position vacated by Abel Maldonado, who was recently appointed lieutenant governor.

Blakeslee announced his bid Friday at a press conference at his San Luis Obispo home.

Nipomo resident Jim Fitzgerald also has taken out nomination papers to seek the Senate seat, running as an independent, but had not returned those papers at press time.

Laird, 60, made his announcement Monday in front of about 100 supporters and members of the press in his hometown of Santa Cruz.

In his announcement, Laird talked about how “people have lost confidence in state government — and rightfully so.”

He said he wants to “reach across the aisle” to Republicans to solve the state's problems, something he said he has a track record of doing during his stint as an Assemblyman from 2002 to 2008.

Laird said the first priority if he is elected would be to help solve the budget problems that have plagued the state, saying “the state government process is a national embarrassment.”

“When I chaired the budget committee for four years, I brought people together to save money for the state,” he said. “It’s something I have in-depth knowledge and experience with.”

He also wants to deal with the issue of unfunded state mandates to cities, counties and school districts, which he called “a huge problem.”

Laird said when he previously served on a committee on state mandates that put forth a five-bill reform package, he was asked why he would take on such an issue.

His reply was, “It’s something the schools, the cities and the counties needed, and it’s something good for the state.”

Laird said he is also committed to supporting education, creating green jobs and protecting the California coastline from offshore oil drilling.

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“I have been historically opposed to (offshore drilling), and I really stuck to my principles, even when the voters of the state were starting to change their position on it,” he said.

But he said the massive oil spill now fouling the waters off Louisiana show why it’s an important issue.

“We have to protect the precious California coast from such oil spills,” he said.

Laird said he launched a campaign website Monday at, but he noted the site is still being developed.

The 15th Senate District covers southern Silicon Valley, portions of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, all of San Luis Obispo County and a portion of northern Santa Barbara County.

The state has set June 22 for a special primary election, with a special general election Aug. 17 for the 15th District seat.