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Top Army Surgeon Vies to Represent Santa Monica, Southbay in State Senate

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By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

March 4, 2014 -- When Colonel Vito Imbasciani, the State Surgeon of the California Army National Guard, rounds out nearly 30 years of military service in June, he hopes to go to Sacramento.

Imbasciani, who lives in the Hollywood Hills with his husband and two adopted children, is one of five candidates vying to represent State Senate District (SD) 26, which encompasses West Hollywood and the coastal cities from Santa Monica to Palos Verdes.

“Individual people with a good idea whose time has come can actually change the climate in the state,” Imbasiciani told The Lookout Friday.

Imbasciani, who sits on the board of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, said that after years of treating people on an individual level, and working closely with elected officials, he wants to make a difference on a bigger scale.

“There's health and wellbeing,” he said. “Where do you draw the line at wellbeing? That's the air you breathe and the water you drink.

“So the circle goes out. From the body to the body politic,” he laughed. One thing he thinks needs to be addressed is access to education. He is a strong advocate of funding programs that get “kids as young as three and four in school all day,” Imbasciani said.

“Our children are scoring 20th among the children of the world and if we get outpaced by India and China that may be a slope we might not be able to climb back up,” he said.
While Imbasciani considers himself a progressive Democrat, an advocate for early childhood education, immigration reform and expansion of healthcare coverage, he is also “fairly fiscally conservative.

“I like balanced budgets,” said Imbasciani. And, as a doctor, he thinks he can offer valuable insight to some major challenges facing California.

“The thought of having a doctor in the legislature is so attractive right now because we are going through the birth pangs of Covered California,” he said, referring to the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“At the same time, we've got problems with Medical and Medicare and expansion of healthcare coverage,” Imbasciani said.

There’s also the “initiative that's looming in the fall that threatens to tinker with a beautiful law that's been  running well for 35 years that keeps medical malpractice costs low,” he said, referring to a ballot initiative that would quadruple the cap on damages awarded in malpractice suits.

If the initiative passes, doctors could cut back on the high-risk services they offer, limiting patient access, Imbasciani said.

His experience as a military doctor deployed four times in two different wars has also made him keenly aware of the issues facing veterans returning from overseas.

“We have to help them on a very fundamentally basic way,” he said, referring to expanding services and supportive housing. Wellbeing includes having a home to live in, he said.

Though he is a gay man who served nearly 30 years in the military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy,” Imbasciani said, “I almost take acceptance for granted now.”

President Barack Obama cited Imbasciani’s service as an inspiration for repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2011.

Imbasciani is vying for a seat in a crowded race. He is one of five candidates running to represent SD 26 after the district’s current senator, Ted Lieu, announced he would seek the congressional seat left open when U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman retires at the end of this year.

Also running are Santa Monica-Malibu School Boardmember Ben Allen and women’s rights activist and attorney Sandra Fluke. ("Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Member Launches State Senate Bid with Major Support," February 10, 2014).

Manhattan Beach mayor Amy Howorth also entered the race recently. (“Manhattan Beach Mayor Makes Bid to Represent Santa Monica, Southbay in State Senate,” February 26, 2014)

Former State Assemblymember Betsy Butler, who was unseated by former Santa Monica mayor Richard Bloom in 2012, is also in the race.

The five candidates will square off in the June 3 primary and the two candidates who get the most votes will move on the General Election in November.

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