On Tuesday, March 3 local voters will hit the polls for the Presidential Primary Election in California and on the ballot for both Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties is the race for the 10th Congressional District. The two candidates getting the most votes in the primary will qualify to move forward to square off in the November General Election.
In order to get to know the candidates on the ballot a little bit better, candidates were invited to participate in a brief ‘Question and Answer’ session. The person ultimately elected in November will represent the area in the U.S. House of Representatives for a two-year term. Currently, Democrat Josh Harder holds the seat in the 10th District and is seeking re-election. The other candidates running for this position are Veterinarian Ted Howze, County Supervisor Bob Elliott, Robotics Engineer Ryan Blevins, Lawyer/Accountant/Programmer, Michael J. Barkley, and small business owner Marla Sousa Livengood.
Candidates Barkley and Livengood did not respond to the questions.
Question: Water continues to be one of the main issues of concern in the Central Valley, with the region’s economy (and the nation’s food tables) dependent on the wide variety of products coming out of our fields, how can you work to secure a steady, dedicated water supply for our farmers and growers and keep the water from being diverted to Southern California interests?
Harder: Water is the lifeblood of our economy – protecting access to our water has been my top priority since I took office. I’ve fought to keep our water in the Valley – where it belongs – rather than being sent to Southern California. Last year, I worked to secure $14 million for federal investments in four Central Valley water storage and water recycling projects – the first new money for a storage project in our area in 50 years. And the very first bill I introduced, the SAVE Water Resources Act, would provide even more investments in storage and other infrastructure as well as support research into desalination and other technologies.
Howze: We must keep our water where our farmers need it and I will work to protect the Federal water rights of our regional water agencies against State water grabs. I’ll fight to build new water storage projects in conjunction with hydroelectric dams that provide both the water storage and power necessary to drive our agricultural economy and provide reserves of water for urban use.
Elliott: We need to scrap the plan to build a tunnel under the Delta, and pursue a portfolio of options. These options should include building additional water storage, recharging our underground aquifers, increased use of recycled water, increased emphasis on regional self-sufficiency, desalination, repair of our levees, and continuing to explore new ways to improve water usage efficiency. These measures can actually make more water available in times of insufficient rainfall and snowfall. By implementing these measures, we can achieve greater regional self-sufficiency in terms of water supply, which will reduce the demand for our water to be sent to Southern California.
Blevins: One of the issues that we have with water in the Central Valley is that we use our water for electricity generation, during drought years the water does not flow and the cost of electricity in the Central Valley skyrockets. It is important that we expand our options for electricity generation. If we can decrease our need for electricity generation from hydroelectric dams, then we can improve our water shortage capacity; providing more water for our farmers.
I support the Green Nuclear Deal; not to be confused with the Green New Deal that will effectively eliminate fossil fuels from our electrical grid, while also lowering cost, and minimizing environmental impact for a very reasonable price.
Q: Partisan politics can be a major hindrance to enacting legislation, regardless of the subject matter. How would you work across party lines in the best interests of the constituents?
Harder: Getting things done is more important to me than getting caught up in the partisan nonsense that happens out in Washington. I choose to support or oppose bills based on what’s best for the Valley rather than any political party. That’s why nearly 90 percent of the bills I support are bipartisan – the highest number of any Democrat in the House of Representatives. Every Wednesday morning, I meet with 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans to discuss real solutions to the challenges we face together as Americans. This cooperation has helped me pass bipartisan bills through the House of Representatives, including the first bipartisan immigration reform bill to pass the House in decades.
Howze: I intend to sit down with each member of Congress individually to get to know them personally and identify areas of common interest as well as concern. Finding common ground on the challenges that face our nation will be my priority in order to make progress on important issues.
Elliott: As part of my military service, I was assigned to diplomatic duty at our embassies in Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, Korea. In that capacity, I interacted with people of many different backgrounds, languages, religions and points of view. In order to get anything done, it was necessary to find common ground and build consensus. My experience in dealing with this very diverse group of individuals helped develop the skills that will enable me to bridge the gap between groups of seemingly opposing interests. My diplomatic experience will serve me well in working to deliver positive results for the people of the 10th District.
Blevins: I have created the UBI caucus, a coalition of 36 candidates including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. We all agree on the policy idea of a “Universal Basic Income”; this idea has had strong bipartisan support in the past and I am confident that we can find common ground on other issues.
Republicans have referred to our plan as “The holy grail of tax cuts,” Democrats refer to it as “The bill to eliminate poverty,” and the founding fathers called it “A right.”
Q: In your opinion, what are the two most pressing issues that need to be addressed here in the Central Valley – and what is your game plan for getting those issues to the forefront?
Harder: The two most pressing issues facing folks in the Valley are the high cost of health care and the homelessness epidemic. Health care costs are completely out of control – and anyone can see how serious the homelessness crisis is by driving down the street in many of our cities. Since taking office, I have voted to cut prescription drug prices by up to 75 percent and introduced a bill to declare a homelessness emergency to bring in more funds to combat this crisis. My approach is simple – listen to the needs of the Valley, cut through the partisan fighting, and work across the aisle to get things done.
Howze: The biggest issue we face locally is the high cost of living driven by an imbalance between high housing prices and low wages. The solution is streamlining regulatory burdens and attracting a greater number of higher paying jobs to the valley. Something I’ve already done successfully as an elected official.
The explosive growth of homelessness is another issue we must solve. l will prioritize an approach that seeks to treat the real root causes of homelessness which are addiction and mental illness. We must re-empower law enforcement to enforce quality of life laws to keep our communities safe while investing in diversionary treatments, such as addiction therapy, to move the homeless out of a destructive cycle. After completion of a diversionary program we should provide transitional housing and job training programs to complete the transition back to mainstream society.
Elliott: Two urgent issues facing our district are illegal immigration and increasing homelessness. To address the issue of illegal immigration, we must secure our borders and establish an effective guest worker program. To effectively address homelessness, we must collaborate at all levels of government – federal, state, and local – to achieve success. We need to increase shelter bed space, address the mental health problems and substance abuse issues that are prevalent among the homeless population, and we must also restore individual accountability in the process.
Blevins: I am from Oakdale, I graduated from OHS in 2013. Over the past seven years, many of my classmates have left! Some have left to Silicon Valley in search of high paying careers, while others have left to states like Nevada, or Arizona, or Kentucky where the cost of living is significantly cheaper.
Our most pressing issue is the economy, the stock markets may be at record highs and it may not feel like a crisis is coming, but that’s exactly what 2006 was like and the signs are already here!
In the short term we must invest heavily in education to bring technical jobs to Stanislaus County and to create the initial framework for Universal Basic Income for the future that is flexible and responsive to our economy and our needs.