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California Senate Candidates Differ On Water, Health Care, Budget Cuts

Video by Katie Euphrat

California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) sat down with KPBS Evening Edition Host Peggy Pico Tuesday, October, 23, 2012, to talk about her re-election bid and her stand on issues that impact San Diego.

Elizabeth Emken and Dianne Feinstein, the two California candidates for U.S. Senate, talk to KPBS.

Elizabeth Emken and Dianne Feinstein, the two California candidates for U.S. Senate, are not having a high-profile race like the one the state saw two years ago between Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer. But the incumbent Feinstein and her opponent have differing viewpoints on a number of issues, including water, health care and budget cuts.

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Feinstein told KPBS if the round of budget cuts called sequestration goes through, "California is the big loser."

"It's estimated we would lose 220,000 jobs, of which 137,000 are military," she said. "There is no question San Diego is a city that's hurt. I'm aware of this. But I think sequester is a terrible idea and we have to prevent it."

She said she's proposed keeping tax cuts for incomes under $250,000 and embracing the Bowles-Simpson "formula of the long-term deficit reduction plan combined with tax reform."

"And we do one half of sequester," she said. "But we don't do it with meat ax, we do it with a scalpel."

Feinstein said decisions over whether to restart San Onofre are up to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"I have a lot of concern about these steam generators, they were faulty to begin with," she said.

But she said she does not believe the NRC would make a judgment that does not have safety as its first priority.

Feinstein said she has "no clue" what her opponent Emken means with her criticisms of Feinstein over water. She said she has worked closely with water districts, the farm community and San Diego on water issues.

"We have to build more storage for water from the wet years to hold that water for the dry years," she said. "California is becoming a drier state. It's just fact... It's vital that we be able to hold that water, it's vital we be able to get desalination to a point where by acre-foot it's commercially viable."

Feinstein said if reelected, the most pressing but partisan issues she would like to solve are immigration reform and cybersecurity.

"We did not have 60 votes to move ahead with a cybersecurity bill, which is vital to the security of this nation," she said.

(Story continues below video.)

Elizabeth Emken, the Republican nominee for Senate, talks to KPBS.

Emken, the Republican nominee for Senate running against Feinstein, also spoke to KPBS. She said she first worked in cost and financial management for I.B.M. and then was "drafted" as an autism advocate after her son was diagnosed with autism. She served as vice president for government relations at the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

In that role, she drafted federal bills and bills in 30 different states, she said.

"I know how to take good ideas and turn them into sensible law," she said. "I really decided I was unhappy with the performance of Senator Feinstein and threw my hat in the ring."

Emken said she does not think sequestration will happen, but said Feinstein has been part of a Senate that "atrophied" and has been unable to draft a budget.

Because she is the parent of a disabled adult, Emken said she's in a unique position to look at Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

"I believe we should be looking at the entire budget and looking for ways to streamline operations," she said.

Emken also said Feinstein has "no record of accomplishment on water at all."

"She's been talking about it quite a bit for two decades, but she hasn't moved the ball down the field," she said.

Emken referred to her website, where she presents four different water projects she wants to build.

The Senate candidate also said if elected, one of the first things she would do is repeal "Obamacare."

"It is bad for individuals with autism," she said. "Anyone needing habilitative and rehabilitative care will suffer under Obamacare."

She said she would like to see programs to encourage private businesses to hire disabled people.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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