Riverside County will likely face an $80 million deficit in the next fiscal year and calls for pension reform will be a major sticking point as officials grapple with how to address the county’s budget woes. Supervisor Bob Buster has gone so far as to call for an across-the-board 5 percent pay cut and has posited that his tough stance toward the county's public employee unions is necessary in light of the deficit. However, as the county weighs how to deal with its budget, voters will have to weigh who they think will best manage the county’s fiscal issues and come June 5, 2012, Supervisor Buster will have two challengers for his seat. The election is far in the future but during these tough economic times the competition already looks to be fierce. Buster has emphasized that the tough budget situation and poor economy demand his experience and that a change would be unwise at this point. Buster is running for his sixth term on the county's governing board and he is being challenged by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, and retired California Highway Patrol Lt. Mike Soubirous. Buster’s rivals are calling him divisive and confrontational. The North County Times reports on the upcoming race:
“UC Riverside political science professor Shaun Bowler said the contest, as it is shaping up, promises to be an interesting one. At this point, Bowler gives Buster the edge. Bowler said that is because Jeffries, a three-term state Assemblyman, is known primarily in Southwest County and lacks significant name recognition in Riverside. He said that although Soubirous is backed by the well-funded sheriff deputies' union, the Riverside Sheriffs' Association has had minimal recent success promoting its causes. Representing 3,200 deputies, investigators, probation officers and deputy coroners, the union pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of Buster opponents in 2004 and 2008, and lost.”
Buster has fought back already by arguing that his challengers are exactly what’s wrong with local government because Soubirous is backed by the deputies union and Jeffries is “looking for a place to roost” since he will be ineligible for another term in the Assembly. See more about how the upcoming race will shape up here.