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Democrats Look To Flip 49th Congressional Seat After 18 Years Of Republican Issa

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October 22, 2018 1:32 p.m.

Democrats Look To Flip 49th Congressional Seat After 18 Years Of Republican Issa


Alison St John, North County reporter, KPBS News

Related Story: Democrats Look To Flip 49th Congressional Seat After 18 Years Of Republican Issa


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is PBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. The race to replace Republican Congressman Darrell Issa in the 49 congressional district is the most politically significant in San Diego County Republican Dianne Harkey is facing off with Democrat Mike Levin for the seat which covers North San Diego's coastal cities Camp Pendleton and south Orange County. PBS North County Reporter Alison St. John says the outcome could help decide whether Democrats gain control of the house.

Speaking at the opening of her Carlsbad campaign office Republican Diane hockey left her supporters in no doubt about the importance of the race for the 49. This is the most watched.

Election in this country. We gotta do this.

Republican Darrell Issa recruited Hockey to run for the seat after he announced he'd step down. I served 18 years in the House UCSD political science professor at that Cadzow says the forty ninth district has great symbolic significance for both parties.

It was held by Darrell Eisen the biggest thorn in the side of President Obama. He had the biggest target on his back and Democrats have been working since the 2016 elections flipped the 49 group that has been incredibly energized and this district has huge symbolic and emotional meaning for the party.

Democratic candidate Mike Levin's campaign office in Oceanside a sign on the wall reads ride the blue wave with Mike there's a photo of former President Barack Obama on his first campaign swing through southern California. Standing would lead a. Health care.

He's been great to see the response since President Obama's visit particularly among those independent voters who really liked when we had a president who carried himself with integrity and honesty.

Resident Donald Trump has tweeted his endorsement of Dion hockey hockey supports Trump in substance if not in style. She focuses on her support for business interests specifically San Diego's high tech industries like.

Life Sciences. It's just this is just a huge industry so facilitated by Washington D.C. craft and actually you know Trump's recent plan to increase the military spending is helping out in a PBS interview Levin said the Republican Party proposed cutting.

Already budgets that would affect high tech companies. He emphasized his commitment to grow clean energy and environmental attorney. Levin knows he has to appeal to independent declined to state photos that now outnumber registered Republicans in California.

It's a coastal district. By and large and you know most those independent voters don't want dirty air or dirty water. We believe in an EPA that actually wants to protect the environment.

During a PBS interview Hockey's position on climate change was less clear.

Do you think it's caused by humans where do you stand on that.

Well there's humans there's also natural disasters you know volcanoes other things that can ruin your whole day. So I think that there is there is probably scientific evidence I can't say for sure I'm not a scientist. The climate change is real that's occurring and I'm sure it is. But my point is always that I want to be sure that what we're doing is not so draconian that people can stay here live work and play in the state that I love on health care.

Levin accuses his opponent of voting five times against covering preexisting conditions.

We've got to do all we can to ensure quality and affordable care for everyone. That will be our first order of business on the path towards universal coverage which I also see as one of the great moral issues of our time. Would you be willing to raise taxes to pay for it. Well I think we've got to look at a variety of options. But what I would do is I would look at the irresponsible tax cuts that this Administration passed that really go to those at the very top. What are our priorities. Do we need tax cuts for people who really don't need them or do we need to take care of people's health care.

Hakeas fundraising has fallen far behind Levon's and she's the focus of attack ads linking her to her husband's investment company. The courts have ruled deprived many seniors of their life savings. Hockey says she wasn't involved in her husband's financial wrongdoings but Koeser says the association makes her vulnerable.

I think of your candidate most voters in this area haven't gotten to know yet and you're not the incumbent and you're running and the odds are against you having a scandal is never the right way to make a first impression.

Both campaigns are working all out to reach their voters and make sure they turn out in November. Republicans got less than 50 percent of the vote in June and Kaiser says Democrats must keep it that way in November if they hope to gain control of the house.

This is one of those districts that Republicans can afford to lose and Democrats can't afford not to gain.

Joining me is K.P. vs North County Reporter Alison St. John. Alison welcome to the program. Glad to join you Maureen. Now we heard in your report that the Republican Congressional Committee has withheld funding from Dianne Harkey his campaign. Does that mean the party has given up on her.

Well she has one of several Southern California Republicans that the National Republican Congressional Committee has not funded they've funded some cable ads for a couple of other than Republican candidates. Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher are up there but they have presumably judged that the forty ninth is not worth the investment the cost of ads in that district is very high because it covers both Orange County and San Diego County that could have been part of their calculations. But yes she appeared at a San Diego Republican Party meeting earlier this month and basically appealed to the local Republicans to help her because she felt abandoned by Washington.

What's the recent polling on the 49ers.

So there's been a couple of polls and both of them have put Mike Levin the Democrat ahead by several points one of them by UC Berkeley Institute said it was 55 percent 11 and 41 to Harkey won by the New York Times made a little bit less ahead more like 51 percent to 41 percent. But basically a pretty wide margin. However polls have been shown to be wrong before so this is just a trend that bears watching. There is still a lot of suspense leading up to the election.

Tell us more Alison about why winning this seat held especially by Darrell Issa would apparently be special for Democrats. What did Issa represent in Congress.

Well he was of course the chair of the House Oversight Committee that went after Democrats specifically Hillary Clinton over Benghazi and also in the whole Fast and Furious case regarding the enforcement of arms imports along the border. He was very aggressive and created a great deal of animosity on that House Oversight Committee even among some members of his own party that he was really more aggressive than was seemly. So I had built up a great deal of unpopularity and bearing in mind that that party that district rather voted for Hillary Clinton by seven points that counted against Nysa is Mike Lubben pushing his democratic credentials in the 49 because I've seen at least one TV campaign ad with no mention of his party.

Well it's interesting because the registration in the 49ers is still slightly more Republican. The Democrats are definitely gaining ground. And in San Diego there are more Democratic registered voters in the district than Republicans but in Orange County. He has to tread a delicate line because there are a lot of Republicans. So he's really pushing more his positions and his values and what he would attempt to accomplish if he got into office rather than his party at this point. And I think the big question is whether the blue wave that has been sort of creeping up from the border will reach up into Orange County in this election.

What is the Democratic Party fully backing Mike Levin's candidacy.

Absolutely. And you can see that reflected in his fund raising numbers. Levin has raised four point three million dollars from all over the country from Democrats who are very interested in his future whereas Diane Harkey has only succeeded in raising one point two million which is an indication of the perhaps the lack of momentum and some missteps in her campaign.

Now you played Dianne is equivocal answer about climate change in your report. I'm wondering where does that come from. Is this her personal doubt about human caused climate change or is there a constituency for that kind of doubt in the 49ers.

I think it is her personal doubt. I think she is genuinely on the fence about climate change dubious about all the scientific evidence and there is probably a number of people who are still in that camp. However it's a risky position to take in a coastal area because many of the coastal voters now are even if they're Republican becoming far more aware environmentally because climate change affects them personally. Loss of property values threatened by sea level rise. And as people get more educated I think that position that she took is becoming increasingly a minority position. As President Trump's support hurt Archey president Trump has tweeted his support of her quite early on she didn't really make very much of that but he has also tweeted more recently in support of her and his son has come by to help campaign. She did have a campaign fundraiser with a member of his family but she has very much played that down bearing in mind that obviously opinions about the president is playing an enormous role in this election and she has to very carefully parse her acceptance of his support because she knows that it will also turn many of her voters against her.

I've heard the Democrats have to flip the 49ers if they have a chance to take over the house. Is that also the general understanding in this district.

Very much so. There is a very very passionate campaign going on among the Democratic side of the ticket. The flip the 49ers campaign which we've been hearing about ever since the beginning of the year. People really feeling like if this district doesn't flip then there's really not much chance that the Democrats would be able to retake control of the House and the way it's playing out. It looks as though this one is definitely leaning that way. Many of the polls many of the analysts are saying that but whether the Democrats can flip the house is very much up in the air at this point.

I've been speaking with PBS North County Reporter Alison St. John. Alison thank you.

My pleasure Maureen.