Democrat Sara Jacobs Wants To Change The Face Of Congress
Editor's note: KPBS Midday Edition is continuing to pursue interviews with 49th Congressional District candidates Republican Kristin Gaspar, Republican Diane Harkey and Democrat Paul Kerr.
Democrat Sara Jacobs is one of 16 candidates vying to replace Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, in the 49th Congressional District seat. The race is considered one of the most competitive in the nation after Issa nearly lost his seat in 2016.
The 49th Congressional District covers northern coastal areas of San Diego County, from La Jolla to Oceanside and parts of Orange County.
Jacobs' resume includes work in international affairs at UNICEF and the United Nations. She also served as a foreign policy advisor to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. She was the founding CEO of an education equality nonprofit, Project Connect. Jacobs, the granddaughter of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, has donated $1 million to her campaign and has started to run TV ads.
At 29, Jacobs could become the youngest woman elected to Congress.
She joined Midday Edition Monday to talk about her priorities and why she is running for Congress.
Q: What are your qualifications for this congressional seat and why are you running?
A: I never thought that I would run for office, like many of the women that we’re seeing running across the country. But I feel like we are at a critical moment for our country and we don't have time for the same politicians with the same ideas. I have always known that I was the beneficiary of a system that was unfair and that I needed to use those advantages and those opportunities that I had to make the system fairer and to make sure that everyone had access to opportunity and that’s what led me into a career of public service. I joined the Obama administration's State Department because I believed in his message that we didn’t have to wait for change, that we didn’t have to settle for the way things had always been done. I served as a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton. I was the CEO of an international education nonprofit and I worked at UNICEF using technology to better serve vulnerable children. You know, I believe that right now, we need a different approach to politics and we need to be sending different people to Congress or else we’re never going to get a different result.
Q: Now Congress has not yet passed a replacement for DACA. Would you support a bill that provides a path to citizenship for people brought to the United States illegally as children?
A: Absolutely. I think we need to pass a clean DREAM Act now and it’s clear from talking to voters throughout my district whether you identify as a Democrat, as a Republican, as an Independent, we all believe that there should be a pathway to citizenship for these young people who were brought here and I frankly think it’s pretty abhorrent that Republican leadership in Congress hasn’t brought a bill to the floor because we have the votes to get it passed.
Q: If you are elected, what would your position be on funding for the “border wall” promoted by President Trump?
A: I do not believe that a border wall is a good use of our resources. I don’t believe it will make us safer and I don’t believe it will make our border more secure and I think it is a waste of our taxpayer dollars. I do think that there are some new technologies and border security programs we could put in place that would actually make it easier and faster to transit across the border which would actually be very good for our environment as well so we don’t have cars sitting and idling there for four hours at a time. But I absolutely do not think that a border wall is the right way to go.
Q: Many politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that the Affordable Care Act needs some fixes. Do you see problems with Obamacare and if so how would you fix them?
A: I believe that healthcare is a human right and that we need to be doing everything we can to get to universal coverage. I’ve lived and worked in countries around the world and it’s pretty clear that the best way to get to universal coverage is with a strong public role in the healthcare sector. So, I support a Medicare for all approach. I believe also that we need to be doing things during the transition that would help fill some of the gaps in the Affordable Care Act, like making sure that drug companies aren’t charging high prices, even for drugs that have been around for a while like insulin or the EpiPen. I don’t believe we should allow drug companies to market directly to consumers. I believe there’s other things we can do to bring out of pocket costs down so that it’s easier for people to have access to the healthcare that they need.
Q: Would you support creating additional regulations on gun ownership?
A: I would. I have been so inspired by the young people across this country and in my district who are really taking a stand and I believe that it's because of them that this time it will be different and we will actually be able to pass common sense gun reform. I think we need to ban assault weapons and all military-grade weapons from our streets. We need to close loopholes so that everyone who buys a gun gets a background check. We need to be able to hold gun stores liable and we need to study gun violence as a public health emergency. One of the things I talk about a lot on the campaign, I believe we need to elevate more is the intrinsic link between gun violence and domestic violence. The majority of women in this country who are killed by a gun are killed by their domestic or intimate partner and so we need to be working also on ways to work on preventing domestic violence, making sure that if someone has a temporary restraining order they are getting their firearms taken away and I think that will also go a long way in preventing gun violence in general as well.
Q: You have said you were a policymaker at the State Department under President Obama. But the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that your job was actually as a junior employee for a State Department contractor. How do you explain that?
A: Well I’m glad you asked and I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify. There are a myriad different ways people are hired, different mechanisms people are hired to the federal government, it is a very complex system and I was working in a new bureau so we had a lot of unique challenges there but I went to the State Department every day, I reported to State Department officials, I worked on U.S. policy towards conflict zones in East and West Africa and on a presidential initiative around countering and preventing violent extremism and making sure that good governance was included in our security sector assistance packages to our partners around the world and I think it's important that we have people in Congress who understand how the federal government works and have experience working in the policy making process there.
Q: So the policy-making process but not exactly a policymaker, in fact, you were prohibited from making policy by federal regulations, right?
A: Well, first of all our bureau again was new and so there have been a number of Office of Inspector General reports and others that said that they maybe didn't do as good a job as they could have. In our bureau everyone was treated equally and as if we were all employees. The way policy is made in the foreign policy establishment basically is that the different bureaus at the State Department come together, they send a representative, they come up with an approach, send it to the Secretary of State or send it to the White House for the National Security Council process, starting with an inter-agency policy committee. So I was part of that, I sat in a number of inter-agency policy committee meetings. At the end of the day, the majority of our foreign policy decisions are made by the Secretary of State, by the President, by the National Security Advisor and the Deputy National Security Advisor, but there were a number of policies that I was intricately involved in and was a big part of the policy making process.
Q: Now the area of the 49th District has been represented by Republicans for at least 25 years. What are you telling voters in the district, many conservative, many with military backgrounds why they should vote for you?
A: Well I think that in talking to voters across our district it’s clear that everyone is looking for something different and they’re looking for something new and they’re looking for a new approach to our government and even Republicans in our area are looking at what’s going on in Washington and they don’t want more of the same. They are looking for someone that they can trust. I have met with a number of voters in our district and I had one woman who told me she was Republican, she had voted for Darrell Issa all these years but this time she was going to be supporting me because she knows that when I’m making decisions, I’m going to be thinking about her kids and that’s what matters to her. Especially the military and veterans community in our area, I think are very happy to have a potential representative who has a background in foreign policy, who they know isn't going to send them or their family into harm's way without thinking it through and I think people are also realizing are government isn’t representative. Right now, women make up less than 20 percent of Congress. And now that Conor Lamb has been elected from Pennsylvania, we have six millennials in Congress. I think anyone who watched the Facebook hearings will tell you that it’s pretty clear we need the millennial generation to have more representation so that we can be adequately addressing some of these challenges of the future.
Q: Considering the makeup of the demographics of the 49th District, do you regret calling your Democratic front runner Doug Applegate a “crusty old Marine?”
A: Well, I’m glad you brought that up. It was at a meet-and-greet and it was clear to everyone in that room that actually what I was talking about was someone who was asking a question and referred to himself that way. I was not in anyway referencing Colonel Applegate and Colonel Applegate and I have had a conversation and he knows that it wasn’t about him as well. I have spent a lot of time talking to our veterans and military families in our community and talking to them about the issues that matter to them and a lot of them are the issues that matter to our broader community as well, just more acutely. So here in San Diego County, we have 35,000 military families who visit the food bank every month and military spouses say that one of the biggest barriers to their ability to enter the workforce in not being able to have access to affordable childcare and not being able to take their credentials across state lines. We know we have a huge issue with homelessness in San Diego County. We have the fourth largest homeless population in the country and we know that particularly affects our veteran community.