53rd District Will Have A New Congresswoman For First Time In Nearly 20 Years
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Credit: Campaign Photos
Two Democrats are facing off for the 53rd Congressional District seat next month.
Sara Jacobs is a childhood anti-poverty advocate who is the granddaughter of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs. (Irwin Jacobs is a major supporter of KPBS.) Her opponent is current city of San Diego Council President Georgette Gómez.
Campaigning has changed for both candidates since the March primary, when the nation was not facing pandemic restrictions.
"We’re phone banking, getting creative, doing Zoom events and just trying to find ways to connect with people virtually," Jacobs said.
Gómez said her campaign has also been leveraging technology during the pandemic.
"Texting, communicating with voters through social media and utilizing the power of social media really," she said.
The winner of the November election will replace another Democrat, Rep. Susan Davis, who has represented the district for nearly 20 years. KPBS talked with both candidates via Zoom, asking each the same questions on a variety of issues.
Jacobs described herself as "a practical progressive" and said, "I know that only way we're ever able get anything done — but especially in Washington — is by building coalitions."
Jacobs worked in the State Department during the Obama Administration.
"I think that a lot of voters really value the fact that I have experience working in the federal government working on federal policy issues — that I have experience on the domestic and international issues that will be coming before Congress," Jacobs said.
Gómez said voters need someone who understands them at a personal level. She said because she grew up poor, she can relate to people going through tough times.
"I’ve lived, personally lived housing insecurity at one time in my life," Gómez said. "Growing up pretty humbling with very little resources, having parents that had multiple jobs but they still, at the end of the day, we were living paycheck by paycheck."
Gómez considers herself a progressive, but said her time on city council proves she can work with Republicans like San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
"We introduced the eviction moratorium [during the pandemic], protecting renters and our businesses," she said. "Along with the mayor we created a business relief program."
Both candidates said COVID-19 relief for businesses and individuals will likely be a major priority for the next Congress. They said the CARES Act, which brought stimulus checks and money for struggling businesses, was a good start.
"It’s clear we need a lot more [relief] and I’m disappointed that Congress hasn't passed another assistance package," Jacobs said.
"I truly am hoping that they [Congress] can move forward," Gómez said. "Put the division to the side, because this is not the time to be playing politics. This is the time where we need to lead."
There is a lack of affordable housing in San Diego, and the county has one of the highest homeless populations in the nation.
To address the housing crisis, Jacobs wants to provide emergency assistance in the form of housing vouchers and rental aid, increase federal homeless aid and add a rental tax credit, "so that any family who pays more than 30% of their income on rent gets assistance through the tax code," Jacobs said. "Then we need to build more affordable housing."
Decisions about how and where to build that affordable housing are largely in the hands of local governments, some of which have been resistant to new units.
"What we can do at the federal level is leverage public dollars to incentivize and push for more private investment," Jacobs said.
Gómez said whether it is building low-income units or housing for people who are homeless, it starts with hearing from the community.
"You need to make sure you’re out there talking to your constituents and saying, 'This is why it’s important that we make our backyard available,'" Gómez said. "People want us to resolve the issue related to people living in the streets, but the only way we're going to resolve it — it’s not through rocket science — we need to build units. We need to ensure that we have the necessary resources and that’s where Congress needs to come in."
Addressing climate change is also something on both candidates’ agendas.
Gómez said she supports Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order for all new cars in California to be zero emissions by 2035.
"That’s something that we should be as a congressional members thinking about adopting — it should be a national model," Gómez said.
Jacobs said Newsom’s mandate has to be doable and she wants to see an entirely clean energy economy by 2030.
"I think we need huge investments in new green technology," Jacobs said. "Something I'm excited about for us here in San Diego is the potential of the ocean as a source of food, as a carbon sink and also as a source of energy production."
A poll from last month shows Jacobs with a double digit lead over Gómez, but in that same poll nearly 40% of voters who responded were still undecided.
Through the end of June Jacobs has raised $3.5 million for her campaign, of which nearly three million was contributed by Jacobs' personally. During the same time Gómez raised $1.1 million, with $2,000 in personal contributions.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that while Jacobs worked for the State Department, she did it as a contractor and was not a federal government employee.
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