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Duncan Hunter, James Kimber Play Nice In 50th District Debate

50th Congressional District Debate

Highlights from the debate between Rep. Duncan Hunter and James Kimber in the race for the 50th Congressional District.

The crowd at the 50th Congressional District debate was far more feisty than the candidates, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. and his Democratic opponent James Kimber. The two men traded a few jabs, but mostly remained cordial during the 90-minute debate.

Veterans Campaign, a nonpartisan nonprofit that encourages veterans to run for office, hosted the Friday evening debate at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. The school's 364-seat performing arts center auditorium was about half filled, mostly with supporters of the candidates. People wore "Hunter" and "Kimber" t-shirts and buttons and cheered for their man and jeered the other.

Moderator Carl Luna, a politics professor at San Diego Mesa College, repeatedly admonished the crowd to be civil and respectful. Seth Lynn, the founder of Veterans Campaign, also moderated.

Both candidates are veterans, and at the start Hunter joked that the campaign is a case of "Marines vs. Navy."

The debate covered issues ranging from climate change to campaign finance to re-instating the military draft. Both candidates usually clearly stated their positions on the issues, and remained respectful of each other despite their often deeply differing viewpoints.

On a question about whether climate change is real, Hunter stated that he believes it is, but it's not caused by humans.

"We live in a relatively cool time on earth right now, if you look back millions of years," Hunter said. "The temperatures on earth before there were humans have both been much higher and much lower than they are now. So the main question is, is there human-caused climate change? That, I do not buy."

Kimber responded, "So despite all the scientists that say to the contrary, you want to dispute what they have to say. I work in neurosurgery, I'm a physician's assistant, and I have to say if 98 doctors tell you you have a brain tumor and need surgery, you don't want to listen to the two that say don't."

The candidates also discussed alternative sources of energy.

"You should not be doing solar and wind turbines in places where people in the back country have to see it every day, where it kills birds and stops people from going motorcycle riding, hiking, mountain bike riding, hunting," Hunter said. "You have all these things as you go east of here that were done on federal land, that were contracts negotiated into by the federal government and private agencies, you get no say in that, I get no say in that."

Hunter said we should use turbines, but put them in "places where they ought to be, not where they're going to burn down for instance Julian or Ramona."

He said the government needs to approve the final phase of the Keystone XL Pipeline, but that the Democrats in the Senate and President Barack Obama "say no because by the president's own words and by Democratic admission, the higher your gas tax is, the more likely you are to buy the new energy-efficient light bulb, and that's what they want."

Kimber responded that he agrees solar farms shouldn't be built in the district, but said buildings in the 50th district should have solar panels.

"In terms of other alternative energy, if you look at the electric car, they tried it 10 years ago and it didn't work for whatever reason, but it's here to stay now," he said. "And it's only going to get bigger. Why don't we invest more in charging stations?"

Hunter responded that Kimber should run for county supervisor, because federal money should not be spent on charging stations.

"By the way, how do you get the electricity for the Tesla in the first place?" he asked. "You have emissions creating that energy to then charge your electric vehicle. You have emissions no matter where you go unless you go for nuclear energy."

"If you want to go green, you go nuclear," he added.

Kimber responded that the biggest problem with nuclear is not just the threat of an accident, but that no one has addressed the issue of nuclear waste.

"Honestly, would you want that stored in Alpine, or would you want it stored in Julian, would you feel safe with that?" he asked Hunter.

"We have nuclear power plants in San Diego bay, they're called Navy ships," Hunter responded. "Mr. Kimber should know that. We have them now. They're obviously safe enough to have them in the bay."

"I was talking about the waste," Kimber interrupted.

"The waste is in Yucca Valley, and that's where it ought to be put," Hunter said. (Hunter may have misspoken when he said Yucca Valley. The U.S government has studied putting a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. That proposal, however, has all but been abandoned.)

"I asked if you would like to have it in your back yard," Kimber said.

"No, I do not want the waste in Alpine or Julian," Hunter said. "I want it in the Nevada desert where we've been putting it."

"I would take it there are not many people from Nevada in the audience," moderator Carl Luna said, then asked the next question.

No other debates between the two candidates are scheduled before the Nov. 4 election. The incumbent Hunter is expected to have the advantage in the district, where almost 45 percent of registered voters are Republicans.

This story has been updated with information about a government proposal to put nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

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