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Incumbent Peters Faces Challenge From Republican Tech Entrepreneur

This story has been updated.

Scott Peters (left) and Jim DeBello in undated campaign photos.

Credit: Campaign photos

Above: Scott Peters (left) and Jim DeBello in undated campaign photos.

Democratic Rep. Scott Peters and Republican challenger Jim DeBello pose a stark contrast to voters in the 52nd Congressional District.

The two differ sharply on the causes of climate change, abortion rights and President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.

Those issues are likely to influence voters in the solidly Democratic district, which covers a large swath of San Diego County from downtown San Diego up through La Jolla and east to Poway.

“I think that people are comfortable with me in this district,” Peters said. “I don’t think this district will ever elect an extreme left-winger or extreme right-winger.”

Peters added that the 52nd District is one of the 10 most educated in the country, which he believes puts opponent DeBello at a disadvantage.

“Those districts are not having Donald Trump,” Peters said. “My opponent can’t get away from that. He will not state a policy disagreement with Donald Trump. Donald Trump has caused a lot of hurt to this country. I oppose him. My opponent does not.”

Reported by Amita Sharma

DeBello, a tech entrepreneur, called Peters a career politician and said he entered the race, “when I thought things weren’t getting done.”

“My opponent, regrettably, hasn’t passed a single bill that he has personally authored in eight years (in Congress),” DeBello said.

(Update: Though Peters has not been the primary author of any legislation that became law, his campaign spokeswoman pointed out that he has authored bills that later became part of larger legislative packages.)

Peters, who is currently in his fourth term, touts his work on pushing for the $750 million San Ysidro border crossing expansion and a new training facility for Navy SEALS as well as supporting programs to reduce veteran homelessness.

Peters has drawn the ire of local climate activists in recent years for not supporting the Green New Deal, a far-reaching proposal to combat climate change and income inequality pushed by progressive Democrats in Congress.

Peters said the Green New Deal is unrealistic because it has no Republican support and is essentially a grab bag of progressive priorities.

“We have to do it in a bipartisan way,” he said. “The problem with the Green New Deal is that it's only Democrats. It's not even half the Democrats in the caucus because it does other things like guarantee a job or free college, which are issues we could talk about. But to put them on to the climate challenge burdens this problem, which is already difficult.”

DeBello generally toes the GOP line that climate change isn’t entirely human-driven.

“I think climate change is a big problem that we need to address,” DeBello said. “And obviously with 8 billion humans compared to no humans, we make an impact.”

Another difference between Peters and DeBello is their assessments of Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Peters says it has been abysmal.

“I don't see how you could give him any kind of passing grade for how America has responded,” Peters said. “I think other countries look on with a mixture of horror and pity for how this has gone for us.”

DeBello, meanwhile, has praised Trump’s management of the pandemic.

“We were the first country to ban travel from China and then ban travel from Europe,” DeBello said.

On the issue of abortion, Peters is pro-choice. When asked his position on a woman’s right to choose, DeBello said: “An abortion should be rare but not disallowed in cases of rape or incest or a danger to her health.”

DeBello also said he’s pleased with Trump’s nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month. “I think she’s a phenomenal candidate,” he said.

Barrett's ties with anti-abortion groups and her signing of a Right To Life Ad in 2006 are in the spotlight ahead of U.S. Senate confirmation hearings next week.

DeBello says homelessness is the top issue facing the region and advocates a regional, state and national approach in solving the problem.

“It’s inexcusable for us with the most advanced economy in the world to allow human waste on the sidewalk,” he said.

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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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