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Democrat Josh Butner Walks Back Call For Military Service As A Requirement For Political Office

But Said ‘It’s A Good Thing To Do’

Josh Butner, a candidate to represent the 50th District in the House of Repre...

Credit: Courtesy of Josh Butner

Above: Josh Butner, a candidate to represent the 50th District in the House of Representatives, is pictured in this undated photo.

Democrat Josh Butner Walks Back Call For Military Service As A Requirement For Political Office


Josh Butner, candidate for the 50th District in the House of Representatives


KPBS Midday Edition is interviewing candidates running to represent San Diego County residents in an effort to give voters the information needed to decide how to vote in the June primary election.

Democrat Josh Butner is running to represent the 50th District in the House of Representatives.

The 50th District comprises much of San Diego’s East County from Fallbrook and Escondido to Lakeside and Jamul and it stretches into Temecula in Riverside County. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter has represented the district since 2009 and is running for reelection this year.

Butner is a member of the Jamul-Dulzura Union School Board and is a former Navy Seal. He also runs the military division of Aqua Lung, an underwater dive company.

He joined Midday Edition on Wednesday discuss why he wants to represent the 50th District.

Q. What are your qualifications for this congressional seat and why are you running?

A. Well, I'm running because I have an intense obligation to serve. My family has served our country in uniform — men and women dating all the way back to the Civil War, and I feel as though my service and my education and the work experiences I've had have given me a well-rounded perspective and experiences and opportunity to now help me serve.

Q. Congress has not yet passed a replacement for DACA. Would you support a bill that provided a path to citizenship for people brought to the United States illegally as children?

A. Absolutely, I think DACA, the delayed action speaks for itself. We should absolutely act right now. These are the most vetted immigrants that we have in the country, and we need to help them, and in turn they can help us.

Q. How would you get that through Congress?

A. I'll push for bringing that to the floor for a vote, straight up.

Q. Now, if you are elected what would your position be on funding for the border wall promoted by President Trump?

A. Personally, I think the border wall is a waste of funds especially if you're going to take those funds from other areas like TSA and from the Coast Guard, so I think putting money into that wall will actually make us less safe. We need more Border Patrol agents, we need to better train them. That all costs money. And we need to better fund the Coast Guard. That all costs money. That money could be better spent. It's kind of like the Maginot Line, as soon as you build it, it's basically, you know, unusable.

Q. Many politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that the Affordable Care Act needs some fixes. Do you see problems with Obama Care, and if so, how would you fix them?

A. Yeah, I think the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, and I think if you look at the states that fully expanded and took advantage of the Affordable Care Act, that they were better off. Their insurance markets were more stable and premiums were more stable, and if we continue to close loopholes and make more efficiencies and also allow for example Medicare to negotiate drug prices down, we can lower medical costs as well as expand coverage for all Americans.

Q. Would you support Medicare for all?

A. I want to support healthcare for everyone, affordable healthcare for everyone. And if it eventually means that we get to Medicare for all, if that's the best solution, then that's great. But I think that what's most important is that we have a system that we can pay for that supports everyone that needs healthcare and makes it affordable and accessible for everybody.

Q. Would you support creating additional regulations of gun ownership?

A. Absolutely, I think it's very obvious that we can implement common-sense gun legislation. I'm on the school board as you mentioned, and we passed a resolution at a minimum to authorize the CDC to allow study of gun violence so that we can then make good decisions based on science and based on the facts, and there are many common-sense pieces of legislation that we could put into place that would make us safer.

Q. Now, you created some controversy with remarks you made to Voice of San Diego. You mentioned that you served on the Navy for 23 years and it, "should be a requirement to have served to even run." Why do you think military or national service should be a requirement to run for office?

A. I think I chose my words poorly, but my intent was to show that we should all be thinking about how best to serve our country, and there are many ways to serve. My daughter is up at UC Santa Cruz and she wants to be a teacher. She was helped as a student by a teacher and inspired by a teacher, and now she wants to be one. That's a great way to serve your country. There's so many ways. I think we all want the advantages of being Americans, but we sometimes lack putting back into our country, a service to our country, and we can all do that. I think we should all be thinking about ways to do that. That was my intent.

Q. Are you saying now you don't think that being in the military or a national service program should be a requirement to run for office?

A. No, not a requirement. I think it's desirable. I think it's a good thing to do. We should all think about how best to serve our country.

Q. There have been attack-website wars raging in this campaign. I know that both you and fellow Democratic candidate Amara have disavowed the respective attack sites and the claims they've made. Do you think the rivalry between the two of you is getting too negative?

A. I prefer it not be negative at all. Unfortunately, there have been attacks. I'd rather talk about why I think I would make a great representative, and I want to let the people of the 50th District decide who best can represent them. And if you look at who we are running against, you have a career politician that seems to be putting personal profit ahead of the needs of the constituents, and I want to do just the opposite.

Q. What do you think are the substantive differences between your two candidacies, and I'm talking about Ammar Campa-Najjar and yourself?

A. You have to ask Mr. Campa-Najjar about what he thinks what is different about himself from me. But what I can focus on is that I've served my country for 23 years in the Navy, I'm serving on the Jamul-Dulzura School Board. I've displayed a commitment to serving my community as best I can. It's something that my family has instilled in me since growing up, and I think that speaks for itself.

Q. Well, for instance, critics point to the fact that you registered as a Democrat only two years ago. Does that influence your views on issues as far as Democrats are concerned looking to vote for someone?

A. No, I think we put too much emphasis on party labels, and the whole point of my campaign is to put the country first. And that's what that looks like. And I've always been a Democrat. I've always embedded the Democratic ideals in me that, my father raised me as a Democrat, my mother was a Democrat. Everybody was always considered Democrats. But what's most important is that we're all Americans that's something that can bind us together, and that's what I’m trying to do.

Q. But you were registered Republican earlier in your life. Isn't that right?

A. Not since I was an elected official. At one point, I registered as a Republican to vote in a Republican primary for a candidate that I really liked. Turns out that candidate didn't hold all the values that I held to myself and ended up voting for the Democrat anyway, but yeah that's true.

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