Former San Diego City Councilman and ex-mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, a Republican who is running against Democratic Congressional Dist. 52 incumbent Scott Peters, promised locals during an open forum Aug. 11 he will transfer his reform-mindedness from San Diego to Washington, D.C. if elected in November.
“I want to take our reform agenda from San Diego and bring it to Washington, balance the budget, create jobs, support workers and small business and start changing the culture of Congress,” DeMaio told Mission Bay Rotarians during a campaign pitch.
“Both parties are broken and the dysfunction is outrageous, which is why nothing seems to get done. We’ve got to clean up the mess and dysfunction,” he said.
DeMaio’s was the first of two back-to-back meetings hosted by Rotarians, which featured Peters at the same venue, the Catamaran Resort Hotel.
Touting his legacy as a pension-reforming City Councilman, DeMaio pointed out opinion polls currently show only a 7 percent approval rating for U.S. legislators.
“Congress needs to wake up. They’re out of touch with the American people,” he said, noting he’d institute a number of reforms to streamline federal government.
DeMaio proposed making the federal government more transparent by posting legislation like amendments online prior to votes, eliminating special-interest lobbyist and corporate funds for Congressional members’ travel and removing members’ political perks.
“I want to make Congress members more transparent and accountable by stripping them of special subsidies for their healthcare and pensions,” DeMaio said. “I don’t believe members should be given benefits that are better than the constituents they serve.”
DeMaio said if Congress members are removed from the pension system and have to rely on Social Security, they’ll “make sure those two systems remain solvent and secure.”
Asked why voters should choose him rather than Peters, DeMaio replied, “Peters was on the City Council for eight years and he [helped create] the city’s pension crisis and put San Diego on the road to bankruptcy while slashing public services. I was on the City Council for four years and was able to dig the city out of that hole and make the changes necessary to save our city from bankruptcy.”
DeMaio fielded questions from audience members especially interested in his stand on immigration.
“You have to force Washington to do its job and secure the border,” he answered.
“We have to secure the border as a prerequisite to any additional changes we do to make to our immigration system work,” he said.
DeMaio said he felt there’s room for compromise on the immigration issue, saying, “The American people agree on 65 to 70 percent of reform.”
He said it’s the extreme elements at both ends of the political spectrum that are complicating attempts at reform.
Asked his views about the Arab-Israeli conflict, DeMaio said, “I’m 100 percent in support of the Israeli position, particularly seeing the consistent refusal of Hamas to participate in peace accord after peace accord.”
DeMaio also gave his take on health-care reform.
“I don’t know why health-care exchanges are government-managed,” he said. “I would keep the exchanges but allow them to be privatized. I would pass a bill that would allow you to take any health-care policy from any employer and convert it in an open exchange to a cash equivalent and buy any policy you like.”
DeMaio said he’s heard from too many working people who’ve lost their doctors because of Obamacare.
“Why should people have to give up their doctors with health-insurance changes?” he asked. “You should be able to keep your own doctor.”
DEM PUSHES BI-PARTISANSHIP, ECONOMIC STIMULATION
Trading on his bipartisanship and collegiality, 52nd Congressional District, incumbent Scott Peters, a Democrat, branded his Republican challenger, Carl DeMaio, as “divisive, something Congress doesn’t need right now.”
Speaking a week after DeMaio at the Mission Beach Rotary Club at Pacific Beach’s Catamaran Hotel, Peters said his record shows he’s adopted a “less-partisan, less-divided approach to Congress.”
Peters told Rotarians he’s been ranked as one of the most independent Congressional Democrats.
“I’m willing to vote with both sides to solve problems,” he said, outlining his political priority list to Rotarians. “I put country first. The district is second. My party is third.”
Peters defined political courage as “the ability to come to the middle, sit down at the table and work out a solution. That’s what I’m committed to do.”
A former San Diego City Councilman and San Diego Unified Port Commissioner, Peters said he chose to be on the House Armed Services and the Science, Space and Technologies committees because he wanted to be involved in areas to help San Diego spur its economy.
“San Diego’s economy is driven by tourism, the military and science and innovation,” Peters said. “One-quarter of our jobs come from the military. We’re the second-leading city in telecommunications with Qualcomm and the third-leading city behind Boston and San Francisco with biotechnology.”
Toward that end, Peters said he’s been supportive of local efforts to promote alternative energy, including the development of algae as a biofuel and solar energy for use by the military and in building technology.
Concerning immigration, Peters said, “The border’s a mess.”
Disagreeing with DeMaio, who favors shipping children who are illegally in the U.S. back to their home countries, Peters said, “We’d be sending them back to gang violence, rape and murder — and that’s just not what we’re about.
“We can’t be against human trafficking on the one hand and then just say kick the kids out on the other,” he said.
Discussing health-care reform, Peters said that’s one of the areas where he’s deviated from the mainstream-Democrat line in Congress.
“I think (Obamacare) needs a little help,” Peters said, adding quickly, “It won’t be repealed. We can’t go back. A lot more [reform] work needs to be done. I’m ready to talk about a real solution.”
Peters said he’s also out front in the effort to take some of the financial burden off students paying for school.
“There’s more student debt than credit-card debt now,” he said, noting he’s authored a Congressional bill that would “refinance all student debt to 4 percent. We shouldn’t be gouging kids by requiring them to pay as much as 8 to 10 percent.”
Peters said student debt has become a huge drag on the economy, forcing students to delay important decisions like getting married or buying housing in order to pay off accrued student debt.