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DeMaio, Peters On Climate Change, Immigration, Guns, Marijuana

The two candidates for the 52nd Congressional District, Republican former City Councilman Carl DeMaio and Democratic Congressman Scott Peters.

52nd Congressional District

Geography: Runs north from Coronado to La Jolla, and then east to include Carmel Valley, Scripps Ranch, Poway and Rancho Bernardo.

Party breakdown: 386,726 registered voters — 130,166 Republicans; 124,625 Democrats; and 122,014 nonpartisan.

KPBS posed 10 questions to Democratic Congressman Scott Peters and Republican former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio. DeMaio is running to unseat Peters in the 52nd Congressional District, a race that is getting national attention.

The contest is considered a toss up in the Nov. 4 election, with the district's voter registration closely divided: 34 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic and 29 percent nonpartisan.

Here is each candidate's answers on issues ranging from climate change to immigration to women's rights to gun laws.

1. Would you like to see any changes to the Affordable Care Act? If yes, what specifically would those be?

Credit: sandiego.gov

Carl DeMaio in an official photo from the city of San Diego.

Carl DeMaio: We need to stop the political games being played by both political parties — and make sure we address the cost crisis in health care. Instead of enacting reforms to deal with the skyrocketing cost of health care, Obamacare has made the situation worse with the imposition of costly government mandates and limits on individual freedoms to make their own health care decisions.

That said, I would continue to ensure those with pre-existing conditions could not be denied coverage, and replace Obamacare’s costly government mandates with a series of reforms to make health care more affordable. I’m proposing to take employers and government bureaucrats out of our health care decisions by changing the tax code and insurance regulations to permit individuals to select their insurance plans on their own.

Some of my other health care proposals include allowing individuals to buy health insurance across state lines, putting the government exchanges under private management to allow individuals to enjoy bulk purchasing savings, cutting red tape on the approval and use of drugs and medical devices, and expanding health savings accounts (HSAs).

Credit: scottpeters.com

Congressman Scott Peters in an official photo from his campaign website.

Scott Peters: Yes. I support increasing competition in the insurance marketplace to drive down costs. I voted to repeal the Medical Device Excise Tax. I also supported a delay in the business mandate; voted to delay the individual mandate penalty (though not the mandate itself); co-sponsored a bill to delay the health-insurance provider fee for two years; and voted to make some technical changes around expatriate health care plans. I also voted to let people keep their policies if they like them and to define part-time as less than 40 hours instead of 30 hours.

The Affordable Care Act is a work in progress, with the ultimate aim of access and affordability. In many ways, it’s exceeded expectations in terms of enrollment and the impact on the federal budget. But it’s a work in progress and it’s not perfect. However, I have strongly opposed attempts at repealing the ACA – and returning to the pre-ACA status quo. We can’t go back to when coverage could be denied for pre-existing conditions and women were charged more. We must focus on solutions that improve and make the law work, ease the transition for small businesses and families, and don't stunt growth.

I’d encourage you to ask my opponent for a yes or no answer on whether he’d vote to repeal the ACA – not “I’d try to fix it” or “I’m for people making their own health care decisions” but if there were a vote to repeal, how would he vote.

2. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

Credit: sandiego.gov

Carl DeMaio in an official photo from the city of San Diego.

Carl DeMaio: Unlike Mr. Peters, I have a record of balancing budgets without service cuts and tax hikes on working families. To fix the broken budget process, I’m proposing a real No Budget, No Pay law that would permanently penalize the pay of Members of Congress and political appointees in the White House when they fail to pass a budget on time. My proposal would impose real accountability, while Mr. Peters voted to reimburse Members of Congress after they failed to produce a budget on time.

Finally, I’ll emphasize performance audits of every federal program to identify ways to improve performance and save money.

I want to invest more resources in caring for our veterans, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and providing incentives for our best performing teachers.

Credit: scottpeters.com

Congressman Scott Peters in an official photo from his campaign website.

Scott Peters: My priorities are creating a budget that eliminates waste, funds a strong national defense, creates a sustainable safety net, invests in our future (infrastructure, scientific research and education) and lowers debt as a percentage of the economy. With the support of national budget experts, I introduced a bill to avoid the fights over the debt ceiling and actually lower our national debt so that we don’t threaten our national credit rating or our ability to invest in the future.

I'm determined to protect defense spending that is for readiness and mission preparedness and continues our pivot to the Pacific. I also support expanded funding for the VA so that it can provide the best possible level of service. We must also expand our investments in scientific research and especially for the National Institutes of Health.

It’s worth noting that Carl DeMaio has never shown a willingness to be part of a team that can tackle big issues such as the federal budget. During his time on the City Council, he never voted for a single [Mayor Jerry] Sanders budget or for the $700 million health-care reform. He was one of the only council members in decades (maybe the only one) not to be trusted by his colleagues to chair a council committee.

3. Do you believe climate change is real? If yes, do you believe humans caused it? If yes, should the U.S. government implement any new laws or restrictions to combat it?

Credit: sandiego.gov

Carl DeMaio in an official photo from the city of San Diego.

Carl DeMaio: While I believe climate change is real and human activity has an impact on the climate, we must continue to invest in research to determine what is happening, why, and what we can do to mitigate it. I’m proud that some of that research is being done right here in San Diego.

As we improve our understanding of climate change, we must take immediate action — which is why I support a variety of investments in renewable energy and energy conservation.

On the San Diego City Council, I supported the authorization of PACE (Property Assisted Clean Energy) programs to make it easier for businesses to finance solar and other green energy solutions, and in Congress, I’ll champion legislation to extend these programs to homeowners as well.

Because climate change is a global challenge, we must be prepared to enact global solutions — and most cost effective way to do that is to continue San Diego’s leadership in inventing the sustainable technologies of tomorrow.

Credit: scottpeters.com

Congressman Scott Peters in an official photo from his campaign website.

Scott Peters: Yes climate change is real. Yes, human activity is largely responsible, as a consensus of scientists recognize. As chair of the Democrats’ Climate Task Force, I'm particularly proud of my record on this issue. Every year I fight for full funding for the nation's climate research programs. During my first term in Congress I introduced the SUPER Act, based on research from scientists at UCSD, to combat so-called “super-pollutants” such as methane and black carbon. I introduced the STRONG Act, to support community preparedness in the face of extreme weather. I also have led the effort in the House formerly championed by Rep. Gabby Giffords to support the military’s investment in alternative energy; with Senator Udall of Colorado, I introduced the Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2014. And I have voted to protect the EPA's ability to regulate the carbon footprints of power plants through the Clean Air Act, and am a supporter of President Obama’s new approach to carbon regulation by assigning the task to the states. Finally, I have co-sponsored 1) H.R. 764, which would provide grants to help coastal states plan for the impacts of climate change; 2) H.R. 540, which would require federal data centers to be energy efficient and use energy-saving technologies; 3) H.R. 4239, a drought-assistance bill that would modernize reservoir operations and invest in water recycling, among other things; 4) H.R. 1154, which would close oil and gas industry air-pollution loopholes in the Clean Air Act. For this record, I have earned the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Ocean Champions, and the highest rating by Climate Hawk.

My record in Congress follows a long record on climate at the local level. As Council President, I helped pass the 2008 General Plan, which won the American Planning Association award for its leadership in sustainability. As Chair of the SD Unified Port District, I led the creation of a Climate Action Plan, among other things making our port one of the first US ports to plan for sea level rise. Finally, I chaired the Climate Initiative at the San Diego Foundation, a community effort to provide philanthropic and civic engagement support for good local decision-making on climate.

Carl DeMaio now asserts that he is pro-environment. However, he seems never to have volunteered on any environmental cause, received Ds or Fs on the LCV scorecard during his time on Council — the lowest grades of anyone, and enjoys virtually no support from the local or national environmental community. He also dismissed Climate Change as a “divisive social issue” in a recent radio interview.

4. Would you support any new restrictions on a woman's right to choose?

Carl DeMaio: No. Individuals, not their politicians, should make personal health decisions.

Scott Peters: No. These are decisions for a patient and her doctor, not for Congress, a company or a boss. I have a long record of supporting this position, which is why I’ve been endorsed by Planned Parenthood. Carl DeMaio, who refuses to fill out the Planned Parenthood questionnaire, has kept his positions intentionally vague, and was labelled a “stealth candidate” by Planned Parenthood in previous races.

5. Would you support any new restrictions on guns, including assault weapon bans or limitations on who can buy guns?

Carl DeMaio: I support the Second Amendment and believe all but a few individuals can responsibly exercise their personal freedoms. Responsible Americans should not lose their personal freedoms because of a few irresponsible individuals. I do support full enforcement of existing laws as well as more resources to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental health disorders.

Scott Peters: Yes. I supported bills to reinstate the assault weapons ban (HR437), close the fire sale loophole (HR93), and strengthen penalties on gun traffickers (HR452). It’s important to note that California already has strong gun laws and the focus in our state should be on mental health and preventing gun trafficking into the state. I have the endorsement of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.

6. Would you support legalizing marijuana at the state or national level?

Carl DeMaio: I want to get the federal government out of the regulation of marijuana and leave this issue up to the states to decide. In California, we must responsibly and accountably implement California’s voter-approved Medical Marijuana Law and I’ll fight to make sure we can do that free from federal government interference.

Scott Peters: I support California’s medical-marijuana law but would not support non-medical legalization in California at least until we ensure that similar efforts have been successful in Colorado and Washington. I do believe the federal government should defer to the states on this issue, meaning it should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized it, to the extent that they have legalized it.

7. What specifically would you suggest Congress include in an immigration reform proposal? Would you support an expansion of the DREAM Act to dreamers' families?

Credit: sandiego.gov

Carl DeMaio in an official photo from the city of San Diego.

Carl DeMaio: Any immigration reform must start by properly securing the border. If we do not fully secure the border today, we will continue to have crises like the flood of refugees we recently witnessed. Second, we must fully enforce laws on businesses who employ undocumented workers and expand the use of eVerify. Third, we must link immigration reform to welfare reform to ensure that public assistance is not being abused. Finally, we must adjust the number of guest worker and student visas to reflect our economic needs. I’m open to targeted programs for Dreamers, which is why I support Rep. Jeff Denham’s legislation allowing Dreamers who serve in our military to receive green cards.

Credit: scottpeters.com

Congressman Scott Peters in an official photo from his campaign website.

Scott Peters: I support the bipartisan, comprehensive bill approved by the Senate last summer. I prefer and am a co-sponsor of the House version, HR-15, which would set performance standards for border security, a more cost-effective and practical approach than simply mandating a full-border fence. But I would vote for either if Republican leadership would simply allow a vote. I have long supported the DREAM ACT and both comprehensive bills would provide for family reunification.

Carl DeMaio has indicated that he would not support the Senate compromise, which is supported by the U.S. Chamber, labor, farmers, farm workers, domestic workers, technology companies and the faith community. DeMaio says he prefers a piecemeal approach, which is both unlikely to pass and will further delay immigration reform, the top priority of both our national and local business communities.

8. Do you support federal regulation that would ensure net neutrality?

Carl DeMaio: Yes, and as with the issue of keeping our cell and computer records private from government monitoring, I will be a strong and forceful advocate for net neutrality, unlike Scott Peters, who lobbied the FCC to abandon their net neutrality proposal and voted against the bipartisan amendment authored by Representatives [Justin] Amash and [John] Conyers to end the NSA’s privacy abuses.

Scott Peters: Yes. My position is outlined in these letters to the FCC.

9. What specifically would you do to create jobs in the 52nd District?

Credit: sandiego.gov

Carl DeMaio in an official photo from the city of San Diego.

Carl DeMaio: The best way to create jobs is to get government out of the way of small businesses and working families. My Pathway to Prosperity Jobs Plan includes several local and national initiatives to help spur job creation in San Diego. Nationally, I support cutting red tape and mandates that impose unnecessary costs on small businesses, reauthorizing programs to invest in our economic infrastructure, reforming the tax code to encourage innovation and investment, and improving workforce education and job training particularly in the highly-sought STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Locally, my office will continue to build on the reputation I achieved as someone who will always go to bat for small businesses against an unaccountable government. I also will form task forces to further gain insight into each of our main economic sectors — such as my defense policy group that will work every angle in Washington to advocate for the needs of our military bases and protect the defense programs that impacts San Diego’s local economy so much.

Credit: scottpeters.com

Congressman Scott Peters in an official photo from his campaign website.

Scott Peters: We need to recognize that our region’s economy is driven by three areas: 1) innovation and scientific research; 2) the military; 3) tourism. I’ve taken concrete steps to promote job growth in all three sectors and will continue to do so.

In the areas of innovation and scientific research, I introduced the Igniting American Research Act, which would expand and make permanent the Research and Development Tax Credit. I am a supporter of legislation to repeal the medical device excise tax, which has imposed a huge burden on San Diego’s numerous medical device design and manufacturing companies. I introduced bills to expand the use of cutting-edge technology in our military health care, which not only improves health care for our veterans but also will help create jobs in San Diego’s wireless technology sector. I’ve also been leading the push to increase National Institutes of Health funding, which is critical if the U.S. is to remain competitive and which will benefit San Diego’s burgeoning life-sciences industry. As co-founder of the Congressional Algae Caucus, I continue to support tax credits that will benefit San Diego’s nascent clean-technology sector.

In the areas of defense spending and veterans affairs, I have helped make sure our defense budget is smart and strategic and in the process I have redirected money to San Diego, which has helped create more jobs in the region. One example is my successful efforts, working with Rep. [Duncan] Hunter, to redirect money from an obsolete project in South Carolina toward additional unmanned aerial vehicles that are designed and manufactured in Poway. I introduced the Veterans Employment Transition Act, which creates incentives for employers to hire veterans. In addition, many San Diego military contractors are small businesses that employ thousands of people, which is why I have been a vocal supporter of the Make Every Small Business Count Act, to provide better contracting opportunities for small business.

In the area of tourism, I support legislation that would make it easier for tourists to visit San Diego by expediting the visa interview process. I introduced the Safe and Secure Border Infrastructure Act to improve efficiency and security at our nation’s busiest border crossings.

In addition to working in these three sectors, I have also been a proponent of a strong relationship across our border. I support passing comprehensive immigration reform, which, among other things, would reform the H-1B visa program. Such reform is critical for San Diego employers because it will allow more highly skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. Studies have shown that our failure to reform the H-1B visa program has cost the nation more than 200,000 jobs. I also helped lead the successful effort to garner $226 million to fund the next phase of the border crossing at San Ysidro. This project, the top jobs priority for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, will help lessen border waits that cost our region billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs.

Finally, at a national level, I support the eight-part agenda for growth outlined by the Competitiveness Project at the Harvard Business School.

10. What is the biggest way you think Congress needs to change and how would you change it?

Credit: sandiego.gov

Carl DeMaio in an official photo from the city of San Diego.

Carl DeMaio: We must change the culture of the Congress if we want to break through the dysfunction and deadlock that is preventing solutions to our problems. Last year, I unveiled my Fix Congress First Initiative that would force Congress to live under the same laws as the rest of us — no more special exemptions.

My plan strips Members of Congress of their special privileges (such as lavish pensions and health care subsidies) and changes the rules so that those who want to work together can actually get their ideas to a floor vote.

The plan also requires Congress to comply with open government laws so the people know what is really going on behind closed doors. I made similar reforms happen at City Hall — and it was part of my plan that helped save San Diego from bankruptcy. We can do the same in Washington!

Credit: scottpeters.com

Congressman Scott Peters in an official photo from his campaign website.

Scott Peters: Think country first, then district, then party. End divisiveness. Show a willingness to work together and an ability to do so.

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