KPBS Hosts 52nd Congressional District Debate
March 15, 2012 8:35 a.m.
The three major candidates for the newly redrawn 52nd Congressional District joined in a debate held at KPBS Television studios on Wednesday.
Related Story: KPBS Hosts 52nd Congressional District Debate
CAVANAUGH: Hello. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to a special broadcast of KPBS Midday Edition, the race for Congress. Today, we'll hear from the top candidates running for the 52nd U.S. congressional district in a debate, moderated by KPBS evening edition host, Joanne Faryon. In an effort to conduct a discussion that allows for time to delve deep into the issues, KPBS set the threshold for participation at 10% factorability in an independent poll. Each candidate will have a chance to make an opening statement, followed by questions from our panel of journalists, and questions submitted in advance by our audience through the public insight network. Stay with us as we explore the issues over the next hour, and we'll talk about the substance of the debate right after it ends with my guest, professor Carl Luna. Now, here's Joanne Faryon.
FARYON: We have three candidates taking part in today's debate, incumbent Republican Congressman, Brian Bilbray. Democrat, Scott Peters, and Democrat Lori SaldaÒa. Our panel of reporters, KPBS senior political correspondent, Gloria Penner, UT San Diego reporter, Christopher cat lag no, and Steve Atkinson. Opening statements, each candidate has one minute. The order was determined by random draw.
BILBRAY: It's great to be here, but mostly important, it's great to be here with Gloria Penner. Gloria's really been an icon for our community of the it's great to be able to participate with you. I appreciate this. As Gloria will tell you as a nation, we're in a very, very precarious situation. San Diegans know that almost one in ten San Diegans is unemployed today. It's a real challenge of how we can create jobs. At the same time we're talking about that, we're talking we're at 14, $15 trillion with the debt, and we're facing a potential according to the president, within ten years of facing a $26 trillion debt. And one of the biggest challenges is how can we work together but also say no to the overspending in Washington? And that is why when president bush tried to throw money at the problem and tried to spend too much money, I said no to him on his bill, and when President Obama did what Washington does too often, and that is rather than address the problem, try to buy their way out, I said no to President Obama. Thank you.
FARYON: Scott Peters, your time begins now.
PETERS: I'm Scott Peters. I currently serve you as a member of the board of port commissioners for three years, I was at the San Diego City Council, where I served as your first president under our new form of government. At the port and city I developed a representation as someone who solves problems by, 1ing across the aisle, whether it's finishing things like Petco Park or Highway 56, or cleaning up our beaches and bays by reducing sewer spills by over 80%, creating the city tea first ethics commission, or at the port, working to support the north embarcadero project after 15 years of deadlock, or the Convention Center expansion which will mean thousands of new jobs. Congress is broken, and we need to fix it.
FARYON: Thank you, Lori SaldaÒa, one minute.
SALDA—A: It's very clear, this election is about protecting the middle class, and reinvesting in the things that we know will create a strong middle class moving forward. We need to reinvest in education and innovation, protect healthcare for seniors, we need to make sure that our servicemen and women who are coming back from the longest combat in the nation's history have the resources they need to get on with their lives. So this election couldn't be more important to the future of our country, and investing in young people, which I've done as an educator for many year, including here on San Diego state on this campus, making sure seniors have dignity and respect, Medicare and Social Security are protected. And our servicemen and women have the resources they need to come back in the veteran community in San Diego, come is the largest in the country, and make sure they have the resources to continue to contribute to our community back at home. Those are the issues I'll be working on in Congress, those are the issues that really affect everyone in this country and that matter the most in this election.
FARYON: Thank you, Lori SaldaÒa. This first question is to all candidates from our public insight network, women's health was among the top three issues raised by our public insight network where we've been asking voters to submit questions throughout election seen. 75 year-old Mary of San Diego asks "do you support health insurance covering women's healthcare, specifically birth control?" Again, determineds by random draw, we begin with Scott Peters. And you have one minute to respond.
PETERS: Absolutely. It's remarkable to me that we appear to be on a precipice of a new war on women where we're going to fight the battles that women like Mary fought and won 30 or 40 years ago. It is great outrageous that we would be talking about this kind of thing when this battle should have been done. My wife and I have been long time supporters of planned parenthood. Mr. Bilbray voted to defund it which is the wrong way to go. We ought to be getting the government out of these chases between a woman and her doctor, and worrying about the big things in this election about jobs and the economy, but absolutely I support it.
FARYON: Lori SaldaÒa? One minute.
SALDA—A: Well, my thoughts are well with Mary. I have members of my family that like Mary in their '70s, '80s, rely on Medicare, and the proposal that Mr. Bilbray supported in the past would turn Medicare into a voucher system. Women live longer and rely more on public healthcare plans. It's interesting a 75 year-old woman is concerned about family planning and birth control, butt she knows that's the best investment we can make for women's health. Women who choose to plan their pregnancies have healthier babies, the women wind up having wealthier pregnancies, and that means healthier families. The No. 1 leading cause of bankruptcy in this country is medical billings that aren't paid. And that's why healthcare coverage for everything, including women's healthcare is essential. And the bankruptcies are people who have healthcare that's not sufficient to cover their medical bills. So healthcare for all, especially for healthy women, and healthy babies.
FARYON: Your time is up.
BILBRAY: Let me say as a father of three daughters and a grandfather of three granddaughters, absolutely, I think it's an essential part of the healthcare network. I think that as Mr. Peters said, the problem is when the federal government starts getting between the patients and the doctors. That has always been an issue. These decisions should be made in the local communities and with the women themselves. I want my daughters to have these choices. I don't want Washington imposing itself between my daughters and their healthcare system. As a county supervisor, I spent ten years providing these essential services, the baseline services that we take for granted here but are essential that we keep it here in San Diego, not have Washington control those decisions.
FARYON: Okay. Thank you. Now, we are going to our panel of journalists. Christopher cattalago, a question of Lori sal-Dana.
NEW SPEAKER: Disapproval of the president's handling of the economy and gas prices is increasing again. In your mind, how much responsibility should the administration bear for the rising prices of at the pump, and what should Congress be doing about it?
SALDA—A: Congress is actually already doing something very strong about this. And it's a question I had -- planned to bring up later. There is the commodity futures -- commission, there is regulatory oversight that needs to look at speculative trade that is contacting at a cost of over 66 a gallon the price of fuel. President Obama needs to make sure that that commission is having the regulations put in place by legislation two years ago and make sure that it's doing its job of oversight. Right now, there is a letter signed, and I know Mr. Bilbray didn't sign it, 70 members of Congress assigned a letter to the commission asking them to enact regulations approximatut in place by the dod frank Wall Street reform act making sure they enforce the regulatory that's needed. Speculation is what's driving that. We do have to have better oversight, and that is something the president could do. I would like to ask Mr. Bilbray why he hasn't signed onto this letter with 70 of his colleagues, and I think this is the direction we need to go. It was the problems with the lack of oversight that led to the Wall Street meltdown, and now we have the tools in place to have better oversight, and members are Congress that are currently there need to be part of this plan to make sure that the high grass prices that disproportionately impact the lowest income people in this country are managed in a better way. So the president does have some opportunities to do that, but so does Congress. And I think that is very important that we see some leadership, and this is originally created by Senator Bernie Sander, an independent. And I think that as an independent, he is showing true leadership in getting 70 of his colleagues to agree to enforce these regulations that are in place.
FARYON: Congressman Bilbray, you have one minute.
BILBRAY: I think first thing we got to do is recognize that we've got to start giving good choices to consumers. I led the charge on developing green fuel such as algae. I oppose ethanol because the ethanol that we're getting here in California last time it was looked at was $6 a comparable gallon while it was polluting the air. I know that as somebody who worked on the environmental side. But we got to allow consumers to have that choice, and governments got to start saying yes. I may not agree with everything about the keystone pipeline, but the fact is, that pipeline is a political game that's being played rather than a job toward energy independence. Why isn't natural gas available for our automobiles when it's available to most of our houses? Consumers should have a choice between oil or clean gas rather than being forced to have to go with one and people always saying no. And where we could start is it allowing natural gas into our fuel system and allowing people to build the pipelines, and the State Department should not be making the energy decisions or should not be making environmental decisions.
FARYON: Scott Peters, one minute.
PETERS: When I was a kid, I remember my dad pulling into a gas station and pulling out because he says I'm never going to pay $0.44ace I gallon for gas. I paid $4.50 the last time I filled up. Gas prices have only been going up under every president and Congress. And the pressure is more now with Brazil, China, India all seeking to use these depleting fuels. We can use natural gas, but it's more of the same. We have to bridge to a new energy future that's based on renewable and sustainable things. China and Germany are investing in solar. If you can turn your economy away from these depleting fossil fuels toward solar, wind, and toward renewable energy, you can avoid the costs of war for oil, avoid the costs of cleaning up spills, and you have a future where the economy is not so hampered by those high gas prices.
FARYON: Lori SaldaÒa, 30 seconds for a rebuttal.
SALDA—A: Thank you. I think that having consumer choices again is absolutely important, but my emphasis would be on regulatory oversight, which is now available thanks to regulations that were passed a few years ago, but they need to be enforced. And that is something that needs leadership, and there is leadership right now, but the Congress needs to get behind this, and we're seeing the do-nothing Congress that has passed the fewest bills in history is simply not doing its job of making sure speculation isn't driving up oil prices, and again, I think Mr. Bilbray needs to sign onto this letter.
FARYON: And that's time. And now we turn to Gloria Penner, and you have a question for Congressman Bilbray.
NEW SPEAKER: I do indeed. This is an issue that's expected to come up during the next six months, 1 year. It's the issue of illegal immigration policy. It's legislated by Congress, and in California, we know that more than 60% of those polled over the last five years say those undocumented workers who have worked here for at least two years should be allowed to stay, to keep their jobs, and to apply for legal status. What do you believe should happen to illegal immigrants who live and work in the United States?
BILBRAY: You know I'm the only member of Congress who have rescued illegals when they're drowning, recovered their body when is they didn't make it. I've seen them slaughtered on the freeway, and you'll remember that. I've seen what happens when we send mixed messages across the border, and the cost in human life. I think the real key is that we've got to stop the illegal immigration by going to the source. Don't talk about the border. Talk about the employers who are the real culprits here. And all I'm asking that Democrats and Republicans get-together and stop giving tax deduction to the employers who are hiring illegals, and the government giving a business reduction. I strongly support a bill called new idea, that says it's illegal to -- the cost of bribing someone. You shouldn't get a tax deduction as a minimum, if you're hiring illegals. If you have the IRS anding after me, that will do more to stop illegal immigration than all the fences and border patrol. Republicans and Democrats areboth wrong when it comes to this issue, this is something we should be able to talk about, and say we're going to do this first, shut down the illegal employer, and once we do that, then we have great opportunity to talk about where we take the next step. But until we shut that down, we'll be enticing people with that mixed message that's already cost up to 600-700 people a year on our side of the boarder, and 50,000 being killed in the drug and immigration and smuggling wars on the other side of the border. So if you really care about this issue, you spend as much time at the border and south of the border as I have, you understand we've got an opportunity if both sides are willing to take on the build employers. And we can do that as Democrats and Republicans and Americans.
FARYON: Scott Peters?
PETERS: I'm all for cool and calm. I think we need a border policy that's tough, fair to taxpayer, and practical. Of course it costs with border security. And of course we should go after employers who are violating the law. But this notion that anything other than deporting 11 million people, which is the Republican position, is amnesty is not practical. And the idea that you would reinterpret the constitution to deal with what Mr. Bilbray calls anchor babies is not going to happen either. We've got serious problems to deal with, we have to be more practical. A kid comes from abroad to get a PhD. In science at UCSD, we give them the degree, then we kick them back out. So it's possible that the next Qualcomm, instead of being here in San Diego creating jobs here is going to be in India. Now, tourism is having trouble because people can't get vizzaas, so they go some place else. And we have this cross border traffic that's legal which is slowing things down and costing money on both sides of the border.
FARYON: Time. Lori SaldaÒa? One machine.
SALDA—A: Our boarder region relies on the ability of goods and services and people to go back and forth in a secure way. Illegal immigration has dropped because of the economic slowdown, but drug something and dangerous crossers are increasing. 60% of meshes believe we need a path to citizenship for people who have been here, and the only law they have broken was a civil violation on the citizenship or the immigration papers. If they haven't committed a crime, if they have been paying taxes through their purchases and other means, they should have a path to citizenship. I want to say one thing about Mr. Bilbray. I visited his office when I was in office in 1985. His staff posted letters making fun of people writing to his office, asking him to reconsideration his position on birth right citizenship. They posted those letters and fax, made fun of the language, said English should be the official language of the United States. I run two offices as you have done, Mr. Bilbray, why didn't you have your staff take those derogatory moments down?
FARYON: Congressman Bilbray, you have 30 seconds.
BILBRAY: Here's what happens, you cut off a proposal, let's stop giving tax reductions away. Lou Dobbs and edshuts can agree on that. If you can get them to agree, why can't you get the other two candidates up here to agree we should start by stopping subsidizing the employers who are creating the problems? If you can't start by getting to the source of the problem, are the employers and the tax code, how the heck do you expect somebody to be sincere when they get to Washington to actually get-together on this?
FARYON: That is time. We return to our panel of journalists where Steve Atkinson has a question for Scott Peters.
NEW SPEAKER: What can you do realistically as a Congressman to bring more business here to San Diego and more personal stimulate job growth?
FARYON: And I have two minute, Mr. Peters.
PETERS: Well, are the federal government has a real responsibility in investing in our future. There's three basic things I think we could do right now to secure a future for America and San Diego. First, invest in transportation and infrastructure. One of our biggest challenges in getting more trade is our convection to the highway and rail system. America stopped making those investments. We could put people to work right now if we were talking about rebuilding our roads, our bridge, our broadband, our power grid. In China they spend 9% of their GDP on that, in Europe, 5%. Here it's 2.5%, we're trying to figure out how to cut it. Another example, I'm a product of financial aid. I was able to get financial aid in school. We know that kids have to be able to go to college for us to be competitive in this environment, a global economy. And in San Diego in particular, we compete with brain power. Well, the cost of a public education in real terms adjust forward inflation in the last 30 years has gone up 350%. That makes it hard enough for a family to afford it. But then we're cutting the -- the federal government is cutting back on financial aid that really puts us out of the reach of people. That's not the right way to be competitive in the economy, and not the right thing for San Diego. Finally, basic scientific research. Qualcomm grew out of basic research at UCSD, and has transformed not just the San Diego economy, but the world. And every day, people on the mesa are using national institutes of health grants to find cures for Alzheimer's and cancer that they will find. And those will not just transform San Diego's economy, but they'll improve the standard for living for people across the world. Those are three ideas the federal government can take up that they're letting us down on.
SALDA—A: Study after study shows that the way you build a strong work force and a strong economic base, whether it's a region or a country Sby investing in people through education, sparking innovation. That's what's happened here in San Diego. We have the wonderful research university, UCSD, we have San Diego state. We have things that really attract employers to come to San Diego because we have bright, trained professional people. What has hurt us is the cost of housing, the lack of affordable housing, concerns about water supply, things that they look at for the long term. And those are all things I've worked on as an educator, as a president appointee, working on quart quality and water supply, and we need to make that more secure in this region to attract the employers who know they have a trained professional work force and tremendous opportunities in San Diego.
BILBRAY: First thing you got to recognize, we're not Chicago, we're not Detroit, we're not Pittsburgh. We're San Diego. And high-tech and biotech is an essential part of our economic opportunity. And we need to protect those jobs first and foremost. That is why I pushed heavy on being able to get NIH funding to our research facilities. That is why I have been recognized with Congressman marky as being the top legislature when it come to the biosciences this year. Of not because I was doing something for Washington, but San Diego is a pour house, and we need to American money back for American jobs. Our biotech people are coming up with the miracles that will save our lives, our children and our grandchildren. The jobs here in San Diego are essential. The research and the medical breakthroughs are unforgivable, if we allow that to leave this community and this country. And I've led that fight, and I'm proud to get to it. That's what it means to be a San Diego Congressman especially in this district. You've got to stand up for those research facilities.
>> Reporter: Scott Peters? Injure rebuttal.
PETERS: Well, it's time to do that. Our investment in basic science research used to be 4% of the budget. Now it's half of that. And the Republicans are trying to figure out ways to cut it. We're trying to balance our budget on the middle class, trying to give tax breaks to oil companies that have never been more profitable, and if you're serious about supporting these job-creating ideas, you have to deal with that. And the Republicans have not done it, nor has my opponent, Mr. Bilbray.
FARYON: This comes from our audience via the public insight network. This is from 69 year-old shelly plumb of San Diego. She asks "what will you do to foster a green economy and work toward reducing our carbon footprint?" Lori SaldaÒa, we want to begin with you, and you have one minute.
SALDA—A: I was a coauthor of AB32, that was a bill that will bring the state's green house gas emissions down to 1990s standards. AB1103 will insure nonresidential bench marking in buildings in California, and spur the renovation of older buildings to be more energy efficient. I have led the way on some landmark bills that will conserve energy, and make sure people benefit from that greener economy, in very substantial ways. That's the better bottom line for businesses, for air quality, and to reduce the chances that we will see continued climate change going forward. So I've already done many of those things, and I think the green economy in California is Tronninger because of those billings that I coauthored and authored.
FARYON: Congressman Bilbray?
BILBRAY: I am the only member up here that I know that served on the air resources board, are the most successful environmental strategy in the world. We are the people that tried to warn Washington that methanol and ethanol was not going to be good for the environment. And we got attacked for it. I think we need to talk about realty answers, not about turning our corn into bad fuel. We need to talk about algae production. When AB32 was passed by the assembly woman, she didn't except it from CEQA, so that the scientists at UC San Diego who developed the green fuel technology could cite their production here in San Diego where we're talking eight hundred to 1000 jobs removed to New Mexico because we didn't change the government regulation to allow the green option to be produced here in San Diego. I think we need to know what we need to do, be smart, and we've got to be willing to change government to allow these environmental options to go in there. And I can go through the different regulations that I'm working with, Democrats, on things like putting solar panels on, and finally having universal laws so we don't have people blocked from being able to make those options.
PETERS: One of my volunteer jobs has been as chair of the environment industry at the San Diego foundation, where we've provided philanthropic support for good, scientist decision making around climate. We know that San Diegans want -- they support that, and they want the job creation that comes from it to be here in San Diego, not in China, and not in Texas. When I'm in Congress, I'll support a transition to a clean economy based on solar and other renewable energy sources. And we have to be willing to make investments in that. Germany has taken our industry away from us that started here. China investing even more than that. Of if we want to be competitive, we're going to have to be serious, and I'll support in Congress making those investments that provide a more secure, cleaner and greener economy in the years to come.
FARYON: Okay. UT San Diego reporter Christopher cattalago, you have the next question to Brian Bilbray.
NEW SPEAKER: Would you object to President Obama attacking Iran without a congressional declaration of war?
BILBRAY: Yes, frankly if the land troops are not committed, no, I wouldn't. And I'm very concerned that he would do it, but I think diplomatically now, he needs to be tough diplomatically this year, even if it's tough on the election to make sure we don't have to be militarily tough next year. I met with the assistant prime minister of Israel and talked about this expensively, privately. And we're very concerned about this. But there are places for to us do our job. And we need to step forward. I think Congress should have required a declaration of war from Congress before going to Afghanistan. The Republicans and Democrats were wrong on that. When it comes to some of these foreign policy issues, those of us in Congress have to understand, that's the executive branch's department. Until they start committing troops and committing to a long term strategy. So hopefully we'll avoid that. Hopefully we will see a diplomatic position that is strong enough to sense a clear message that the next option may be that as Israel as talked openly about. So I think that we talk about everybody having their jurisdiction and Washington overstepping, I don't think members of Congress should overstep our jurisdiction into the executive branch just because we feel the executive branch stepped over and violated the separation powers the other way. I try to give the man in the White House the benefit of the doubt. He's got a tough job to do. And frankly, we'll be judging him based on those decisions long into the future. And I think that there's a chance to be able to say, it's your call Mr. President, we'll try to support you but only to a point. Thank you.
FARYON: Scott Peters?
PETERS: Well, obviously this is a really critical thing this year, and we know that Israel is one of our closest friends, and we've got to be very concerned about what Iran is up to. Of it's not clear yet, I suppose, whether there is is it actually a plan to develop nuclear weapons in Iran. But I think all indications are that that's highly likely. And I certainly encourage the president to do whatever he can in terms of sanctions and so forth to prevent that. And I would certainly view force as a last resort, but something that may ultimately be necessary, regrettably.
FARYON: Lori sal-Dana?
SALDA—A: Yes, thank you. As someone who has travelled to the Middle East and central Asia, and I think the sanctions need to be given time to work. The united nations needs to do its job of economic sanctions on Iran, and I think they do need to open up their facilities to the international inspectors so we can verify where they are in their uranium inretchment programs. The president has been very clear. If our intelligence shows that they are developing weapons, that we have allies in the Middle East, Israel in particular, that we will have their back. Let me take a minute to say something on the previous question. You suggested that we weaken the California environmental equality act as ABthree 32. Am I would never vote to weaken the California environmental quality act. That is not the purpose of ABthree, and I wanted to get that in because it's important that people understand that that is not the way you protect the environment, by weakening the environmental --
FARYON: You are off top.
BILBRAY: The first legislature wouldn't do it for saving the planet, waiving the quality act in the city of industry. I'm saying the same legislature that did that --
FARYON: I will have to remind you of the original question which was about Iran. You're done with your rebuttal then?
BILBRAY: Just the rebuttal.
FARYON: Okay. We are going to move on then to Gloria Penner who has the next question for Scott Peters.
NEW SPEAKER: It's interesting. We talked about division powers, we talked about the legislature and about the executive. But we haven't talked about the Supreme Court. So Scott Peters, the Supreme Court's going to hear oral arguments later this month in a challenge to whether Congress had the power to decide the minimum coverage requirement of the affordable care act, very controversial piece of legislation. What's your position on this act?
PETERS: Well, you're asking me a legal question I could -- my position on the act itself?
NEW SPEAKER: Yes.
PETERS: First of all, I think we have to make care affordable and available to everyone. And there's a lot to like about this act. For instance, I like the idea that your 26 year-old kid could stay on your plan, I think that's helpful to families. I like the idea that you could not be denied insurance coverage because you had a preexisting condition. That's been a very difficult thing for people to deal with. And it's important that we address those issues. But I don't think we've done enough about affordability. When I'm in Congress, that'll be my focus. We know that there's some effort to create incentives for doctors to provide care in a more cost-effective way, less incentive to provide test after test after test. We need that to work. We know there's some effort to do recordkeeping and management in a way that's more efficient. We need to make that work, and find other ways. The other idea that has come up is the notion that under subis par D under Medicare, we should be negotiating the price of drugs for seniors like a private plan would. And apparently we're just taking the bill from the drug company and paying it. And that's probably a place to save. When I goet to Congress, my focus will be continue to make that more affordable. We're not there yet.
FARYON: Lori SaldaÒa?
SALDA—A: In the California legislature, we passed a healthcare exchange law, we were leading the way in the state to make sure that we have competition in the healthcare industry. And I also supported our efforts in California for universal healthcare for all of our citizens. Unfortunately the bill was vetoed and held at different iterations throughout my time up in Sacramento. I would say this, that we need to frankly get into the 21st century with every other industrialized nation in the world that offers every citizen access to healthcare. It's time for the United States to be part of that. And we also need to look at making healthcare affordable and the affordable care act is going in the right direction. But I do have the support of people like state insurance commissioner Dave Jones, he and I are both progressives in the area of healthcare. We want it to be accessible and affordable to everyone. It's the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in this country, and these are people with insurance, but the insurance isn't sufficient to cover the rising cost of medical bills
BILBRAY: Gloria, I think that everybody agrees that preexisting conditions, the 26 age, all things that we support. The problem with the so-called affordable act was it wasn't affordable. It underestimates the costs by almost 50%. But we didn't do what it takes to reduce the cost. We didn't take on the insurance companies and say we're going to invoke the interstate commerce that the federal government can, allow consumers to buy insurance policies across state boundaries. And we didn't take the other one, and that's having a lawyer here, getting the trial lawyers out of the operation rooms. It's pretty sad when the fact that somebody who's on public assistance have more right to sue their doctor than a marine who's serving his country. And don't tell me that lawyers are essential for quality control. I went to the public -- to the Balboa for my care. I'm sure Lori did too. That was good care, and we didn't have lawyers looking over the shoulder of doctors there. So we need to do something to reduce the cost. If we're going to provide the service.
FARYON: And that is time. Your rebuttal, Scott Peters?
PETERS: We know that the situation before this bill was passed was untenable, unsustainable, and that the cost of healthcare was just rising year after year, and the problem with Mr. Bilbray, and the Republicans was that when a proposal was made, they said their goal was not to fix the healthcare system. It was to make sure that President Obama was a 1-term president. That's in the leadership. If you don't make it, make suggestions, let's all figure out how to make it more affordable. But we know the situation before this bill was passed was absolutely untenable, and was going to break the bank.
FARYON: And now we go to Steve Atkinson from channel 10 where you have a question for Lori SaldaÒa. And you will have two minutes to respond.
NEW SPEAKER: One of the things that most American vs a frustration with is the in-fighting that takes place in Washington, what can you do as a Congress person to break that gridlock?
SALDA—A: I certainly was able as the chair of the legislative women's caucus in Sacramento, the only bipartisan caucus in the state legislature, we focus on the issues that don't have a partisan bent. Simple things like education for everyone and healthcare. Care giving for seniors. I can't tell you how many seniors are providing care for other seniors in their household, and as women live longer and with fewer resources, that becomes a women's issue. In Washington, I want to continue to build on my veterans' affairs issue. I served to veterans affair enforce six year, introduced legislation to help our family across the country be part of the interstate education compat. This is not a partisan issue. When you're dealing with the education of children in military families. And I grew up in a military family. I'm proudly wearing my Marine Corps pendant here, and I know what it's like to move in the middle of a school year, and my mother scrambling to have transcripts in place. I authored legislation, partnered with 30 other states to make sure that families don't struggle and have kids lose credit, and not graduate from school as a result. That's not a partisan issue. Education, supporting our military families and supporting our veteran families, those aren't partisan issues. When I go back to Washington, I will continue to do work on that. I served with a Republican governor for six years. I had dozens of bills signed, learned how to work across the aisle, and craft agreement on key issues, from energy savings and efficiency to healthcare. I was law enforcement's choice on many years because I understood public safety is not a partisan issue. If I want to work hand in hand with people that have serious concerns on public safety, veterans' care, I've done that, I will continue to do that in Washington.
MAUREEN FARYON: Congress Bilbray?
BILBRAY: Yes, Bob Filner and I may have different positions but we worked together to get a two-year budget cycle for veterans. That is Democrat Republican working together as Americans. When you add Congressman Murphy from Pennsylvania, we worked together and saved $98 billion a year. I was honored to have the president have me in the White House for the signing of the bill I cosponsoreded. I invited him to come surfing down in Point Loma with me. And the fact is, when we talk about even the port distribution, when they needed to get a bill to allow them to come here, they asked me to work with Nancy Pelosi to bring in a bill. It took an act of Congress just to hold a sail boat race in San Diego. That shows you how far we have gone in the wrong direction. But yes, the bipartisanship is something you've got to do if you want to be successful and represent this community appropriately, and I've proved I can do that.
PETERS: I love blame the media. If you listen to Congressman Bilbray, you'd think everyone was working together and things are great. My whole stock in trade has been to work together with other people to get things done. That's why I'm not just epidorsed by Democrats by three former chamber of Congress chairs who know I'm in it for the right reasons and I'll work to get things done. I was the first Democrat ever elected to my district, which was a Republican district because those people felt like in the face of all those sewer spills, an environmental lawyer who happened to be a Democrat would be better able to clean up the2 beaches than a Republican nurse. And that's my orientation. I don't want to be one of the teams that's shooting at each other. I want to go to Washington, I want to get things done. That's my record. I compare it to my two colleagues any day.
FARYON: Lori SaldaÒa, your rebuttal.
SALDA—A: I don't know if there's anything to rebut. It sounds like we're all saying that we have some solid accomplishes in a bipartisan way, and that's good for the voters to know. We have worked in cooperative ways and we intend to continue do that. I think I'm the only one when has served under a Republican and a democratic president as an appointee to solve water quality issues, the only one who has served six years on veterans affairs, I know what we need to do to serve those issues very well.
FARYON: And that is time. This next question is for all candidates, and comes once again from our audience, via the public insight network. You each have one minute to respond. Ponyear-old Robert deminnow of San Diego asks "would you support a citizens' effort to see our public tide lands become a great park instead of a wall of hotels or remain Navy headquarters?"
BILBRAY: Actually even though it is not my district, both the property owners and the port has always ask moody to get involved in these issues, and absolutely. I think judicious trying to work with the Navy at finding an option that can work for both, obviously the national mission of national defense is the first priority of the Navy, and of those of us in the federal government. But to work out a compatible approach, and I think the biggest issue there is that you always have people who find reasons to be opposing a proposal so nothing gets done. And that's something that we need to try to work through. But I am very proud that the city, are the port district, and the property owners have come to me to try to work on this. We've worked together before. Stuff like the cruise ships are here today because we were able to work with the port and the city to make that happen. Hopefully we'll be able to make this work to improve our bay front and defend our nation.
PETERS: I'm excite body what we're doing on the waterfront. Last year while I was chairman of the port, we broke ground on the north embarcadero phase 1, which is a project that's been fought over 14 years. We also broke ground on our 18th park on the waterfront, and I would love nothing -- and the county is also building a great project across the street with fountains and open space as well. Something really cool is happening on the waterfront, and you're going to start to see that about 2013. I'd love nothing more than to continue that progress with the Navy Broadway complex, which can be a new building with a lot more open space and can be a public amenity that's much more consistent with what we're doing at the port. And we haven't really gotten the kind of support from Mr. Bilbray that would help us with the Navy, although we've asked him. And that's 1 of the things I would look forward to doing in Congress.
FARYON: Lori SaldaÒa?
SALDA—A: Well, these republic trust tide lands that we're talking about, that was a designation of land that the State of California create body 100 years ago. And sadly those public trust lands have been privatized to the point that people have lost public open space, are and the citizens of downtown San Diego, even though we have more families living downtown than ever before, they don't have enough parks and open space for recreation. A pocket park where you and go and have a nice view isn't sufficient when you're a family and you like soccer fields and open space for kids to have open recreation. Mr. Bilbray forgets, you did represent that district in the '90s, and you helped give land away at liberty station, it was a Navy training center, a developer that you helped, who was one of your supporters and one of Mr. Peters' financial supporters has benefited tremendously from those lands. I think that you do have a record of not protecting public lands in San Diego, and maybe you've conveniently forgotten that, but you did represent that area in the '90s.
FARYON: That is time now. We have another question for all of our candidates. This question is from Lawrence, and he wants to know "how do you plan to represent the electorate without using personal and special interests?" You all have one minute. And this question goes to Scott Peters.
PETERS: Well, I have a long record of working on avoiding conflicts of interest to make sure that people know that government is open and transparent. One of the first things we did at the City Council was create the first ethics commission, which is the only one in the county. We wanted to make sure that people know their government is working for them, and not for interests or developers or lobbyists. And that's been tremendously successful. And we've always been very, very careful. Every docket, I make sure that we review it to make sure there's no conflicts of interest, and I think that's a very important thing I'd like to take to congress.
SALDA—A: I think transparency is absolutely essential. It's something that when I've run for office, by far, the majority of my contributions come from individuals. I have thousands of small contributors supporting my campaign. If you really want transparency, Mr. Peters, do what I have done, show us your taxes, let the people that you want to vote for you know more about your financial background. I think that's essential to transparent government. We take on the obligation and responsibility of serving people and representing people in tough economic times. . I think it's important they know where our resources come from, because that will shape how we represent them back in Congress. I'm a school teacher, I've been a teacher for much longer than I've been in office. I want to keep working for the middle class, I want to represent the people that I know are trying to have a chance at the American dream. And those are my special interests. Of the people that are working every day to pay their bills, afford higher education, those are the people that I've represented, that have supported me, and I'll continue to work for in Washington.
BILBRAY: I think the most important thing is that you remember are the human factor. That is not about dollars and cents, not about power, it's about human beings. And what we do does matter. When it comes to transparency, you're right, I'm willing to show my tax return. Mr. Peters may not, but the world ought to know just how poor a Congressman can be working. But I think it is one of those things that you do as a minimum. We do a lot of this. And Mr. Peters, you're right, there's a transparency. And his own report said that his participation in the pension program was negligent. Is this an attorney who knows better, gets into it. But that's the one thing good about having the open system we have in California. And I wish that we had it more in the federal government, and I continue to fight for more of it in the federal government so you're able to know things like what the report said about the deals that were being made in City Hall at the time that Mr. Peters of there. And I think he'll admit this is why we need transparency.
PETERS: Can I respond?
FARYON: Actually no, but we do have some time for some yes or no questions. I'm going to be -- the same question to all of you, beginning with Lori SaldaÒa. Do you support same-sex marriage?
SALDA—A: Absolutely yes.
FARYON: Another yes or no, and this time I will begin with you, Scott Peters. Do you support legalizing marijuana?
SALDA—A: For medicinal purposes, yes.
FARYON: Again, this is yes or no, but you each will have a minute to explain why as well. And we're going to begin with you Congressman Bilbray, do you support the occupy movement, and do you see yourself as a 1%er or a 99%er?
BILBRAY: I think that when we look at our tax returns, it's going to be obvious that I'm a 9%er. No, I think that the one great thing about the movement was that one lady who really did more than all the people that are camping out on the parks and destroying the grass in DC, who said I'm taking my money out of the big bank, and I'm taking it over to a credit union. I think she's the hero in all of this, not the people that are demonstrating, and people that are camping out. But the lady who found a way within our free system to be able to express not only her wishes but her power as a consumer. So I say yes to her, she's the 99% that I think ought to be given the credit for the great success of everything that's been done on this movement that was her decision to have consumer involvement in the banking system.
FARYON: I'll repeat the question, yes or no, then why. Do you support the occupy movement, and do you see yourself as a member of the 1% or the 99%?
SALDA—A: I've already released my tax forms, it's very clear I am a 99%er. I support the occupy goals, and I think they've succeeded in raising awareness of the increasing income inequality in this country. We are seeing the greatest gap between the richest and the poorest in this country in 100 years, and that's unsustainable. When you lose the middle class in any economy in any country, when you lose the opportunity to become the middle class, which is happening here because of stagnant wages because the budget cuts are being placed on the backs of our lowest income families, that's what occupy has succeeded in doing, in shifting the focus of the media to income inequality. And I think they have done a great job of educating the people here on the panel, and who are part of the media, to pay attention to some of that and realize that we as a country cannot survive when we see too many people living in the lowest rung of the ladder, and worse the rung of the ladder is being cut away and they don't have a chance to move up to a true American dream and middle class existence.
FARYON: Time. Scott Peters, same question.
PETERS: Yes. I want you to know I'm the son of a minister and a church secretary. The government stood behind me so that I could get financial aid and go to college. And I'm running for Congress to make sure that every kid has the same opportunity that I had. I've disclosed every investment that we have, all the holdings I have, anyone can look at it, it's on the Internet. I've got nothing to hide. And I also recognize that? Government has been giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, and it's my belief that those people who have done well in America should do well by America. The important thing is that I want those people who have been fortunate to pay their fair share in terms of their taxes, because we have to give kids like me the same opportunity that I had.
FARYON: Another yes or no question. You have 60 seconds to explain why. Would you support or not support overturning the citizens' united decision and let's begin with Lori SaldaÒa?
SALDA—A: I was invited to speak actually at an occupy the Courts event in January, and I was very clear that citizens united basically gave unanimous, unlimited funds to go to super pacs, and I think that that is a threat to our democracy. People need to know where the money comes from that is going to support the information that is received on any campaign, any election. When I ran for state government the first time, I signed onto the clean elections pledge. I took advantage of something in California that sadly doesn't exist at the federal level, to limit the contributions that I had coming in, and the citizens united decision turns that on its head and basically says that corporations have more rights than individuals, that the corporations can give unanimous money to super pacs, and I completely disagree with that, and I would support the overturning. Unfortunately it could take a constitutional amendment to do that. But I do think that it really is a threat to our democracy, and I absolutely oppose that finding by the Supreme Court.
FARYON: Scott Peters? Would you support overturning the citizens united decision?
PETERS: Absolutely. It really -- I think we're going to see this year the huge risk that this poses, that this anonymous -- huge amounts of money can come in and really try to buy these elections away from people. What I would suggest too, while I agree with Ms. SaldaÒa, why aren't the Republicans behind disclosure? Because we could require that everyone who is making these contributions disclose who they are, so at least voters would know who is funding these massive campaigns we're about to see? And the Republicans have consistently been against that. They want it unanimous, they like it the way it is, I don't.
BILBRAY: I'm the only one standing up here who actually voted for the campaign finance reform that outlawed corporations, unions, and millionaires from buying seats. And if you look at this, the millionaires can write checks unlimited to themselves all they want. And that has as much impact in the process as corporations and unions sticking in. So I supported that legislation. I was an original cosponsor of it. Sadly, again, Congress is limited by a constitution that I may not agree with it, but I respect the fact the Supreme Court makes this ruling. And all of us sitting up here can talk all we want. There again is that separation of powers. I voted to outlaw these kind of contributions, and the fact is the Supreme Court made the final decision it. I accept it, I don't like it, but that's what being American is all about. We've got to live with the ones we don't like too.
FARYON: And we are coming to the end of our question portion of this debate. We now will ask each candidate to make their closing statement. They have one minute. And again, based on a random draw, Lori SaldaÒa, you begin.
SALDA—A: Thank you. Well, I want to thank public broadcasting for making it possible for us to be here today, and answer these questions. I very much love the support of the people I have served for six years in the legislature to continue to represent you in Washington am I think that there's some very clear choices here. And you've had a chance to learn more about us. I'm the only one who has six years of service to our veterans, I'm the only one who has managed Department of Labor grants to fund innovation and information technology in our colleges and universities, and that's how we invest and turn the economy around by investing in people. And before we end, I just want to say I'm thinking of Eleanor Mang a deer friend who passed away this week, she was an icon in San Diego, and I've been thinking a lot about her throughout this debate, and happy I could be here sharing the stage with these gentlemen this evening.
FARYON: Scott Peters?
PETERS: Thanks for mentioning Eleanor, I think we are all going to miss here. I want to thank everyone for their interest in an important race in an important election year. You've heard some political views from a Washington insider, and a Sacramento insider, and my views about working across the aisle to get things done. Our campaign is supportered by not just every democratic leader, by laborer, by teachers, and by civil rights advocates, but also by three former chairs of the Chamber of Commerce who don't necessarily agree with every political position I take, but they know I'll work together with people to make solutions across party lines. They don't see that from congress, and they don't see that from the incumbent, Mr. Bilbray. I'm the son of a minister and a church secretary. This government, this America has given me opportunity beyond my imagination. We deserve better from our Congress. With your support, I'll go to Washington and bring some San Diego common sense.
BILBRAY: Thank you very much for being here and listening to our discussion. This election is going to make a difference. It's not just us, our children. Our grandchildren's future is being decided in this election. That's why at this time in my life, I could be doing a lot of things. I don't need a job, and I'm not bored. But I know that Washington is going to make critical decisions about how to control a $16 trillion debt, how to get the economy back on its feet, and allow American money back to American soil to create American jobs rather than borrowing from China and stealing from our grandchildren. With your support, we can work together. Americans need to come together, and we've proven that that's the future if it's going to be a bright one. Thank you very much for the chance to be here, and God bless America.
FARYON: Well, thank you candidates. That concludes this special KPBS broadcast race for Congress. Am I want to thank our three candidates, Congressman Brian Bilbray, candidate Scott Peters, and candidate Lori SaldaÒa. I also want to thank our wonderful panel of journalists, Gloria Penner, Chris cattalago, and Steve Atkinson, and our audience members to submitted questions through the public insight network. For more on the 52nd congressional race, and complete coverage of election 2012, please visit KPBS.org/election. I'm Joanne Faryon. Thanks for joining us. &%F0
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Here with me for some analysis of the 52nd district congressional debate is my guest, Carl Luna, professor of political science at Mesa College. Welcome.
LUNA: I'm very happy to be here.
Cavanaugh: I'd like our listeners to know that the debate you just heard, and you might have heard one or two of the candidates say this evening, it was taped for broadcast. You heard it live, you can see it tonight on KPBS television. It's going to be broadcast at 6:00 PM. We're going to talk for a few minutes about some of the things we heard, and perhaps some of the thoughts we had, and we don't have a lot of time, but I am going to give out the phone number, if you want to share some of the thoughts you've had. 1-888-895-5727. Carl, gives your impression of how well the candidates handled themselves.
>> This was a muddle in the middle. It's remarkable when you redraw district lines, you might see people converging to the center. I LUNA was less to the right than he had been. Lori SaldaÒa, and Scott Peters tried to trianglulate to the middle class. Job, San Diego, they were all trying to appeal to the middle voters that could decide this race.
Cavanaugh: Each. These candidates is a known quality in San Diego politic, all former politicians, present politician in the case of Congressman LUNA and Scott Peters. I'm wondering, did you hear any surprises from any of these candidates?
LUNA: I was surprised just with again Congressman LUNA, walked away from some of his more state your full name tea party supporters, didn't slam the idea on contraception, didn't slam healthcare. More on immigration. It was interesting to see that Lori SaldaÒa was the first to go negative, and she went negative on both Congressman Peters and POEFRT -- port commissioner Peters and Congressman LUNA. Of the almost person LUNA went after was interestingly enough Mr. Peters, attacked him on his funding and income levels.
Cavanaugh: Lori SaldaÒa kept challenging Brian LUNA on his position on voting against planned parenthood, on his position about voting against Medicare, she even challenged his staff, and the kind of pictures that they had up in his congressional offices. What does this tell you
LUNA: Lori SaldaÒa is looking to November hoping she can squeak past Scott Peters as the rival Democrat in this race. Given her district she used to represent, the state legislature, and the overlap with this one, she probably has a better chance of coming in second in this race and trying to consolidate for November.
Cavanaugh: Is it not a fact that most political experts are expecting Brian LUNA to get through the primary and make it to the November election? So she's -- she really might want to attack Scott Peters. Because isn't it basically don to her and Peters when it comes to that second place?
LUNA: It is interesting, but I think what she may be looking at, if she can show she's the better alternative to Brian LUNA, that's who she wants democratic voters to voter against. And she did take a few shots at Mr. Peters. He is trying to show he can be a viable larger scale candidate than just being on City Council. Of
Cavanaugh: And I do want to remind people that this primary we're going into, June 5th, is a different kind of primary. It's not likely in this particular race, but since we're in a top-two primary, it could mix things up just a little bit. Could you explain that for our listeners again?
LUNA: In our current primary system, the fourth iteration we tried in tent years, the top two vote getters regardless of party go onto November, which means Mr. Peters and Ms. SaldaÒa could wind up going, two Democrats. It's very unlikely.
Cavanaugh: Not in this district?
LUNA: Not in this district.
Cavanaugh: Now, speaking of this district, one of the reasons that this is not a slam-dunk for incumbents is because of the boundary changes. Upon the new 52nd district is very different.
LUNA: The citizeneds panel that was supposed to be more independent, awe to know mouse, but drew these lines, did make a more competitive district here. By mixing some northern San Diego, central San Diego, down to the coast, you have an interesting mix of Republicans and Democrat, and in this district, who turns out on election day will really matter a lot.
Cavanaugh: Exactly. And that's another one of my questions. Primary elections don't always get a very big turnout. Do you see that -- do you see that being the case on June 5th?
LUNA: Ifs Republican presidential race hasn't resolved yet, and it's still live coming into California, that will increase turnout, but particularly more conservative and moderate Republicans which helps LUNA in this race. With the issue regarding pensions on the ballot, that will bring out more union member, but on the whole it's still going to be 20% less turnout than November.
Cavanaugh: Not much time, but we're going a little past the 10:00 hour. A couple of minutes to take your calls if you'd like to join the conversation. Anita from La Jolla, good afternoon. Thank you.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for the debate. I heard you ask for people to comment, and I think that Lori SaldaÒa answered every question that she was asked, whereas LUNA and Peters seemed to -- when asked if you were a 1% or 99%, all Scott Peters said was yes. Well, his tax, what little was put out, indicates he's a 1%er, but he seemed to indicate he was a 99%er. I didn't understand his answer.
Cavanaugh: Okay, thank you very much, Anita. And Scott Peters ofs sort of hammered on the fact he hasn't released his taxes.
LUNA: Yeah, and Mr. Peters' wife is a fairly well to do lawyer. So they have a very complicated family financing. But Mr. LUNA has a congressional salary. Bottom line, if you're a Congressman, you're a lawyer, port commissioner, even if you're in the state assembly, you're making more than the average in terms of the overall pay. A Congressman, you're making $180,000 a year, which is not small cheese, but it's not the 1%. You're not looking at the richest people in America.
Cavanaugh: Occupy at least has done that. It has given us these new phrases of which category we fall into. But yes, even so, both Brian LUNA and Lori SaldaÒa were very quick to say that they are not part of that most -- that upper most strat straof income.
LUNA: And neither I am.
[ LAUGHTER ]
Cavanaugh: Me too! I also want to talk about the fact that when we were talking about gas prices, Lori SaldaÒa used that as an area to challenge Brian LUNA about signing regulatory oversight letter to get gas speculators reined in. Will there were a lot of challenges to Bill Kowba bray, but no fireworks.
LUNA: It's interesting he's going into this election without a huge Achilles hill. This time around, he's trying to approximation him as not being too far to the right, not too far onto the taxpayer revolt movement and the tea party. His approach to energy was simple. You can either have pipeline and a little bit more natural embassy. Mr. Peters was alternative energy. Ms. SaldaÒa, are coming out of the legislature, legislative action, let's try to rein in the speculators out there. The simple fact is there's not a whole lot anybody in the Congress is going to do about gas prices any time soon.
Cavanaugh: Another issue was on healthcare. And I was surprised that Congressman LUNA praised government VA healthcare.
LUNA: When you come from San Diego with a huge veterans' population, you have to be proveteran, proVA healthcare, because that system does work for the veterans. Not as well as one may like, but it is a fairly competents system. So you're not going to get ahead doing anything that seems antiveteran.
Cavanaugh: That veterans issue came up again and again with Lori STAL Dannia, identifying herself and her family and her long term support of veterans.
LUNA: And part of what you do in a XHIN like this is identity politics. You try to show that you have something in common with all the different groups out there, that was their outreach to military family, she knows something of what they're experiencing, and in San Diego, that plays well because most people have some relationship with the military.
Cavanaugh: And all of them gave seemingly hesitant support to the idea of if we had to, bombing Iran.
LUNA: Yeah, that's again one of those issues where Congress has very little input. You want to say that you will support the state of Israel, but how far do you want to go? None of them advocated immediate military action. Mr. LUNA kind of walked it back more toward the center.
Cavanaugh: I wonder what you think if this is a fair question, what do you think needs to be done for one of these Democrats to step out of this race and to really take the lead? If they want to remain in the race against Brian LUNA.
LUNA: Typically what you wait for is for your opponented to screw up, to have that microphone moment that they can't walk back. Short of that, you have to depend on your base coming out. Lori SaldaÒa has a broader base in the voting district than Mr. Peters. So she has an advantage going in. Of it's really Scott heaters who has to play some carbup for name recognize. They're both two competent candidates with a long history, neither have committed the gaff yet.
Cavanaugh: I want to thank you so much. I've been speaking with Carl Luna, professor of political science at Mesa College.
LUNA: Good to be here.
Cavanaugh: And a reminder, the 52nd district congressional debate will be rebroadcast tonight on KPBS television. You can see it. So watch our race for Congress debate tonight on KPBS TV at 6:00 PM.