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Asm. Rocky Chavez Discusses His Run For The 49th Congressional District

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.

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, is shown speaking at the Capitol in Sa...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, is shown speaking at the Capitol in Sacramento, Sept. 3, 2013.

Asm. Rocky Chavez Discusses His Run For The 49th Congressional District


Asm. Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside


A recent poll shows California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, leading in the race to replace Republican Congressman Darrell Issa.

Chavez, a retired Marine Colonel, is one of 16 candidates in the 49th Congressional District race. The district stretches from La Jolla to Dana Point in Orange County and overlaps with the state assembly district Chavez currently represents.

RELATED: Assemblyman Rocky Chavez Running To Replace Congressman Darrell Issa

If elected, Chavez said he will make national security, government accountability and the economy his top priorities.

He discussed his run for Congress Monday on Midday Edition.

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

A: As you know, in Congress, it is established by the founding fathers to be a foil to the executive branch. Having been a Marine colonel who understands service to the community, and having served as an assembly member, also considered as a councilmember for local government, and the only person running who actually ran a state agency, I was a Secretary of Veterans Affairs. I understand the district and I understand how government works.

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

A: DACA has been one of my speaking points in California and Sacramento for a number of years. I am a strong supporter of DACA. These are young people who, through no cause of their own, are here in the country. I have met many of them. They are very bright young people. They have a lot to offer our country. I am 100% supportive of their citizenship.

Q: Would you support a clean bill that provides that path to citizenship?

A: I think that's what I said. A clean bill to citizenship. Sure. What is an unclean bill? The unclean bill, as it is referred to, is one that ties border patrol and protection with the reinstatement of DACA. Too often in politics, I have seen this and Sacramento, what they will do is put a line in there to something as a way to divide people. I think our country right now, we're tired of that. I support the young people to be citizens of the United States.

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

A: I was thought that securing the border is an important issue for any country. I don't think that we need to put billions of dollars into a physical structure. Then again, I have not talked to homeland security. Once I become a congressman, I would talk to them and asked them what they need. But when you start talking about infrastructure projects, I know in California, and actually say the western United States, we need to do a lot in infrastructure and water and energy and that would be a better use of investments in infrastructure.

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 have encountered this question a number of times and Sacramento. I have been very clear on that issue, that I would not repeal the affordable care act, I would fix it. I would fix it in a way that we start looking at the pharmaceuticals because that is a big expense. I would fix it in a way that we look at how we can best provide services to our people. And then, as you know in the Latino community, which services 26% in this 49th congressional district, diabetes is a very difficult issue. Along with hypertension. We know that preventative models are best dealt with that way. Those are areas I would look at. But I would not repeal the affordable care act.

Q: Would you support a proposal that is known as Medicare for all?

A: I have heard that in debates, but I have not seen the details. The problem with the term is that it is general. I have learned in politics, especially in Sacramento, that it is best to read the bill and take the time to feather out what they are talking about. The concept sounds nice, but I would need to look at the details of Medicare for all.

Q: You said you have not taken any money from the NRA, even though the National Rifle Association has given you and a rating. Would you support additional regulations and gun ownership?

A: In California, we have the most restrictive gun ownership rules in the nation. Everything that they are saying that they would do, the gun lobby, the gun show loophole, the size of magazines, automatic weapons, mental health issues for owning or having access to weapons, those are already laws in California. I think a lot of these people are saying these things. It sounds good on a national show like KPBS, but if you actually look at the state of California, we already do a lot of these things.

Q: Would you support a national effort to tighten gun ownership regulations? Would you, for instance, vote to require universal background checks across the nation?

A: I am a big states rise guy. I am not a big government rights guy. I think that each state needs to deal with it in the character of their area because it will get into conflict with the Second Amendment. I lived around this country quite a bit. I can tell you that this is a great country, but have very different views of issues like hunting. So I do not that it is the position of congressman of the 49th district congressional district in California to tell what a district should be doing in Wyoming.

Q: The 49th Congressional district leans Republican, but you are considered a moderate because of your views on climate change. Last year, you voted to extend the landmark cap and trade program, despite opposition from the GOP base. That has made some conservatives label you a Rhino a Republican in name only. How do you respond to that charge?

A: I smile and laugh. I am a thoughtful Republican. If anyone took a time to understand the cap and trade is, it is a market-based solution. It was designed by Republicans. This particular bill that we just passed was supported previously by Governor Wilson, and was also supported by Dick Cheney. I don't think those would be seen as liberals. So, the California chamber, the business community, agriculture, manufacturing, all they wanted was economic certainty. We have already established a cap where we determined that the bill that I supported is the trade component, using a market-based solution to solve a problem.

Q: A recent survey USA poll found that the 49th district race is mostly a referendum on the president. 25% of voters said that the president's job performance is the top issue. What is your stance on President Trump?

A: When the president makes a good decision, I will support it. I'm very shocked, quite frankly, when I was told 7 days ago that North and South and Korea would get together to talk peace and get rid of the nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula, I would've said, I don't think so, but here it is today. When solutions are good, I am with him. When solutions are bad, like his position on the transpacific partnership, I disagree with him on that. When he talks about eliminating NAFTA, I disagree on that. When he talks about increasing tariffs. When he is good, I'm with him. When he is not, I am not.

Q: You are leading in the polls of the moment. How do you plan to sustain the momentum before June?

A: The same way we go the lead in the beginning. We got it in the lead in the beginning by knowing the people knowing the district. I said this district has two major drivers in the discussion. It represents Camp Pendleton and it's very much influenced by international relations. Additionally, the district represents some of the most beautiful beaches in California. We like the environment. We have done a number of these discussions from both sides. One side is way to the left and the other side his way to the right. I'm going to be the thoughtful one in the center.

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