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Congresswoman Susan Davis To Step Down After 10 Terms

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In a statement, the 75-year-old Davis said she's ready to return to her Southern California home after serving in Congress since January 2001.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The announcement came out of the blue during summer recess. San Diego, Congresswoman Susan Davis will not seek reelection next year. The 75 year old Democrat is calling a rap on nearly 20 years in Congress. That opens the 53rd district to any number of aspirins. I spoke with Susan Davis earlier about her decision. Congresswoman Davis, welcome to midday edition.

Speaker 2: 00:23 Hi, good morning. Nice to be with you.

Speaker 1: 00:24 Well, you wrote in a letter to constituents how difficult this decision was. What finally caused you to decide to leave Congress?

Speaker 2: 00:31 What's so interesting? I think about the decisions that members make and perhaps they do this in other areas, but I'm not sure I was having to make really a a four year decision, four, five year decision. And uh, at that time I felt that there's so much that I've learned about it's going on in San Diego and I often tell people, I wish I, you know, I, some day I'd like to be doing more of that and this is the time for me to try and do that. I still have, of course, 16 months in which I will be very engaged in many of the issues that we, we've already been working on. I chair a subcommittee, I, um, on three, three committees and I'm very involved, but I really felt that looking forward that this gives me an opportunity to, to serve in a different way. And there are many wonderful people that I'll be, I hope, uh, able to engage with beyond the time that I'm in Congress.

Speaker 1: 01:29 And, uh, explain the timing of your announcement here.

Speaker 2: 01:32 Oh, well I think we, we have an earlier primary this year and next year and that makes a difference in terms of people's decisions. And so, uh, is this the, so a little early compared to what members often started looking at at the the next few years, but I felt it was important to do that.

Speaker 1: 01:51 And can you talk about your years in Washington? What are some of the main achievements you're proud of and regrets you might have?

Speaker 2: 01:58 I don't have any grads actually. I even during some very tough times, the opportunity to work with some fabulous people and to, you know, to, to be so involved in working with my constituents has really been an honor for me and I, and I've loved it. I think when it comes to major accomplishments, one of the things that people often point to is I did play a very active role in the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. I had taken on the chairmanship of the personnel committee, the subcommittee in on the Armed Services Committee and, and started really engaging with a number of military leaders early on and then saw that through to what I think is a, is a, is a good conclusion and wonderful conclusion that people could serve openly. We have so many patriotic people who want to want to serve their country and we were making it very hard for them and, and that was not right. There are other areas, education, certainly in health care, even though we all, I think we're very focused on, uh, health care. Uh, I certainly was engaging in a number of areas there and often, you know, playing a role to bring people together and to talk about these issues.

Speaker 1: 03:16 Do you think president Trump has tended to gut some of your major achievements?

Speaker 2: 03:20 Oh, absolutely. I mean, just look at the affordable care act and I think that the importance of people with preexisting conditions feeling that they are able to get health care is critically important. And while a number of people may have that through their work, it sets a different tone. I've spoken to so many people who had a minor health condition and when they went to get health insurance, they were told that they weren't eligible. I mean, that's just, you know, outlandish and we, despite everything that's said though, the effort of our republican colleagues, unfortunately, and certainly president Trump has, has been to walk that back in such a way that people will not, would no longer have that ability to do that.

Speaker 1: 04:08 Now, how would you say the Congress has changed in your nearly two decades in the house? And the same question about democracy in general in America.

Speaker 2: 04:15 The elections in during the primary season have kind of move people. Um, I think especially, especially on the right to, to not be as open and even as generous and they're thinking about legislation. We had an opportunity and a few years ago to vote on the cures act, a healthcare bill that would provide more funding for a number of diseases and really give us a far better opportunity to address the challenges in healthcare today. None of us, you know, have I, we all, I guess I would say have family that would benefit from that. And I had republican colleagues who would agree with the concept but would not vote for it because they were worried that somebody would challenge them in their primary. I think that that makes a difference for people today. And I'm not exactly sure how to address it, but I think that it's a reality and all members of Congress, I think would agree with that. It's created far more divisiveness than is necessary. I also think that that the president has definitely contributed to the tone today in Washington. There's just no doubt about that. And despite the fact that people may be uncomfortable with it, not be supportive of the kind of language and the way that the president has carried himself on a number of occasions. Nevertheless I think that they have gone along with it and it would be better if everybody together, um, that were less concerned about those things spoke up.

Speaker 1: 05:55 And what sort of reactions are you getting your announcement?

Speaker 2: 05:58 Well, people are, are actually, um, very supportive and uh, they are, you know, a little on happy I guess I could say. And I think it's because of the times, frankly, I think that people really wants to ability, they don't see it in their politics today. They don't see it for what they see in terms of not, not all elected officials of course, but just the, the issues and the way that they're being dealt with. And I think they saw me as someone who was dis well grounded and they appreciated that. So I'm getting a lot of feedback in those areas. And another people that are saying, you know, good for you. You know, you decided that you have something to contribute in a different way and you're willing to go for it.

Speaker 1: 06:46 And what do you plan to do once back in San Diego for good?

Speaker 2: 06:49 I don't know yet. That's, that's actually the nice part of it.

Speaker 1: 06:53 Any ideas about maybe getting into politics or a politically active once you're back in San Diego?

Speaker 2: 06:58 Well, I'm not certainly got to run for office again, but I, you know, I, I'm just open to a lot of different areas. I've had an interest in housing over the years. I've had an interest certainly in education in the military. I've loved the opportunity to work with the military.

Speaker 1: 07:14 Any ideas about who you'd like to see replace you? A Democrat, I presume?

Speaker 2: 07:18 Yes. Uh, I would like to see a democrat. I think that the district will certainly be ready for another democrat. I don't think it's a safe district, but in, in the, in the sense that it's not a possibility,

Speaker 1: 07:34 uh, regarding a specific folks who might run to replace you. Anybody in mind?

Speaker 2: 07:38 I'm not recommending anybody. Right. This is just day one after five after I made the decision. I'm hoping that they'll ruby a number of people who are thinking about it and come forward. Obviously I want someone who really cares about constituents, is really willing to take all of those meetings. I don't think we oddly ever turned down a meeting and I think this, this is a decision for the people to decide.

Speaker 1: 08:04 Well, I've been speaking with Congresswoman Susan Davis of California's 53rd district. Thanks very much. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.