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Brian Jones Discusses His Second Run To Represent The 50th Congressional District

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Speaker 1: 00:00 We continue our interviews with the front runners in the race to replace Duncan Hunter in the 50th congressional district. Hunter of course, resigned after pleading guilty to federal campaign finance violations. Today we squeak with Republican Brian Jones. Jones is currently a California state Senator who represents parts of North and East San Diego County. He ran for this congressional district before coming in second behind Hunter in 2008. KPBS is Alison st John spoke to Jones. Here's that interview. So now the 50th is the only congressional district out of San Diego's five congressional districts that are still predominantly Republican electorate. So in that sense, you have an advantage, right?

Speaker 2: 00:39 That is correct. Yeah. Well, once th once we're through the primary, correct. Right. But you are up against several other fairly high profile Republicans in this race. Right. So what is it that sets you apart from them? Well, a couple of things right off the bat is a, I'm the only one that lives in the district. And so, uh, my family moved, uh, into East County as Santee in 1978. And so it's a big part of the district. But in addition to that, the, the district incorporates a East County and North County and Southern Riverside. Uh, my wife grew up part of her childhood and Valley center and Escondido, uh, her sister and brother-in-law owned a home in San Marco. So our family's been in and through and out the, the district for quite a, uh, quite a bit. But also in addition to that, probably my track record of actually being able to get stuff done through the legislative process is even more important than actually living in the district.

Speaker 2: 01:34 And so, for example, I've been in the state legislature for six years in the assembly now one year in the Senate. In that period of time I've had 26 bills signed by both a governors Brown and Newsome. Even this last year, a seven bills signed by governor Newsome. So even though I'm a Republican, uh, from a very conservative district in the minority party in Sacramento, I'm able to build relationships, uh, with my democratic colleagues that are productive for my district to be able to get things done for my district. Make a positive impact and change for the voters and constituents of that district. So we should mention that perhaps the two main challenges are Darrell Eissa, who has spent many years in Congress already in the 49th in a different district and current district and Kyle de Mio, who was on the city council and who lost in a different district. So both of these gentlemen, uh, have ran in other districts besides this one and now the incumbent Congress people in both of those districts are now Democrats.

Speaker 1: 02:32 So now these are turbulent times. Um, would you say that you would have voted with your party without any doubts on the impeachment issue?

Speaker 2: 02:41 Oh, absolutely. Yeah. The, the impeachment thing. And I think, and I'm not one of those people that, uh, turns off my a reason when it comes to dealing with the president. I, I'm discerning. But I think when you look at how hard they've been trying to impeach him, even since he got elected, before he was even sworn in, uh, the democratic leadership in the Congress had just played their cards, that they just have a disdain for this president. And they were trying to find any excuse they could. And when the Russia investigation broke down and they couldn't find anything there, this was just the next thing that they could use. And I don't, I don't think it would have mattered what they found. They were going to find something to build a story on. Well, okay, that's pointing the finger at the Democrats. But do you think that, for example, the president's called to the Ukrainian prime minister was perfect?

Speaker 2: 03:31 Well, I don't, I, I'm certainly not an expert on international law at this point in time, but I've read the transcript and looked through it and I think it was fine. And what is your take on our president's performance today? I think, uh, his, uh, results have been phenomenal. You know, we've got the stock market is unbelievable. Uh, the jobs results, uh, you know, Lotus unemployment across the board, Hispanic unemployment, African-American unemployment, Asian unemployment, every, uh, unemployment number is lower than it's ever been, uh, for a long, long, long time. Some of them forever. And so you've got to give him credit for that, you know, and he's driving the, you know, it through Congress, especially when the Republicans had it on the tax reforms and the NAFTA reform, U S MCA, which happened to be signed at the same week he was getting impeached. I mean, that's phenomenal when you think of, you've got a sitting president being impeached, but at the same time, on the same day, his most consequential piece of legislation that he came to get passed is passing and signing on the same, on the same day or the next day.

Speaker 2: 04:36 It is. And I, our bar, our border security is better than it's ever been. And so I think there's a lot of good things he's done. So you support president Trump's, uh, efforts to expand the border wall and, um, the price tag for that has topped $11 billion. Is that the most effective way to increase border security? Well, we've got to do something. And what a lot of people that are against the wall, uh, and against sports security don't understand is they've got to go spend some time down there on the, on the border. And when I was in the assembly, my assembly district went all the way from the border, uh, out in hood Kumba and Boulevard all the way up to Temecula. You've talked to some of the residents down there. I've been there. I mean, and you go on it and you see the evidence of the human in disgrace.

Speaker 2: 05:20 I, you know, it's really hard to explain when you've got coyotes, uh, you know, human being, human smugglers, bringing over other human beings across the border, it to whatever they're coming in. Some of them are young girls and you know, they're not brought over in the best of circumstances and they're not coming to the best of it. You know, some of these are being sold into the sex trade here in San Diego and as compassionate Americans, I think we've got to find a way to stop that. And so yes, we have to do something on the border and a sense of alternatives to making the wall higher. No, the, I mean, the wall that they're building now, uh, is probably the best. Uh, you know, I'm not an architect either. Uh, so it seems to be working where it's being installed. I, I wish we had a situation where we didn't need a wall, but we do need a wall and at the same time we're doing the building the wall.

Speaker 2: 06:12 We do need to reform our immigration process so that people that want to come here legally can more quickly and more easily understand the process and, and do it legally. And I think if we, if we did both things at the same time, we could really have a really positive situation. So what's your sense of all the people who are hold up in Tijuana waiting to find out if they can come in or not? Well, I, that's, that's part of the problem with the legal process, right? The, the legal process isn't easily understood when you're coming from a foreign country. The media I think has not been fair to those people. Also, when the media is showing that you can come to the United States and you can get in and you know, we'll take care of you and everything's free and all of that, when you get here and that's not true, then these people are coming with a false hope, which I think is partly the media's fault and partly the, the folks that are promoting an open border situation.

Speaker 2: 07:04 And so, you know, part of the stopping that from happening is getting the message out to Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, that it's, it's not a free for all. You can't just come across the border and then they wouldn't be, they wouldn't be stuck in Tijuana. Let's talk about health care. One of your opponents called Maya has a plan called freedom care. How would you go about making healthcare more accessible and affordable? One of the things that immediately we need to do is make it more competitive in the marketplace. And what's happened over the course of the several decades is, and it's, I think it's just been a natural progression. I don't think anybody designed it to end up where it is. It's just, you know, the marketplace was constricted because health care was offered through your employer rather than purchasing it yourself. So a couple of immediate things we can do.

Speaker 2: 07:48 Number one is we can open up state borders, uh, so that insurance companies can compete across state state lines and that makes the, makes it immediately more competitive. Another thing was let's remove the middleman of healthcare health insurance. Why is in America the only way you, the best and quickest and easiest way to get healthcare is through your employer. We don't purchase any other insurance through our employer, our auto insurance, life insurance, home insurance, that's all purchased on the market between you and your, the companies that are huffing offering health insurance. So why don't we do that? And I think that those two would be the first, uh, best steps. And then of course, there's a bunch of other things that we can do to eliminate waste and fraud and abuse in the, in the healthcare's insurance system. But we have to admit that the United States has the best healthcare in the world.

Speaker 2: 08:39 Americans aren't going to Canada for healthcare. Canadians are coming to America for healthcare. Americans aren't going to the UK or to France or to all these other, other first world countries for healthcare. Those folks that can afford it are coming here. But people who can't afford it are going to Mexico. I mean your, what'd you say that's true, but of people who have resources but not for people who do not. But that's the people that live here on the border and they can get across the border and they're going to Mexico for American style healthcare that's less expensive. And most of those doctors are American doctors or Mexican doctors that went to American medical schools. So yes, that's a decent point. But it also makes my point in that we need to make the access between the patient and the doctor more direct and eliminate the middleman of the healthcare insurance companies and the government.

Speaker 2: 09:30 That's now we've got two middlemen between your doctor and yourself making your medical decisions and uh, Americans just need to come to the realization they're the, they're the customer. They should control the dollars of where they go and how they get distributed. A way to make it accessible to those who do not have resources. Well, we've, that's one of the things we've got to continue working on. So I don't think anybody has a solution to that right now. Everybody's got some great ideas, but let's make it affordable. I think if we get to the point where it's more streamlined, more efficient for the people that can't afford it, then we can start solving that problem for the people that don't have the resources. Do you think that the United States has a role in addressing the climate crisis? And if so, what is that role? Well, I think that, you know, this is a big deal in California.

Speaker 2: 10:16 We, we debate this all the time. You know, climate change, the climate is changing. It's always, it's, it's different today than it was a hundred years ago then 500 years ago. Okay. That's, I think we can all agree on that. But is it first of all, is it manmade? Second of all, if it is, can man fix it? And, and third of all, if those two are yes, can the United States do it alone? Do you believe it is manmade? I do not believe that it's manmade. I think that it's a natural fluctuation in the, uh, in the earth temperature that's been happening for eons. And here's if you dive into the science and you use a discerning mind when you're looking at all the evidence that's presented regarding whether it's manmade or not, and consider that in all of the carbon, um, cutbacks that we've accomplished as mankind in the last 10 years, especially here in California.

Speaker 2: 11:07 And then realize that one just one volcano erupting in the South Pacific puts in as a hundred times more pollutants into the air than we do in 10 years. Then how do you come to the conclusion that we're going to fix it on our own by eliminating every carbon source that we've created as mankind? Okay. So it sounds like you're saying that mankind would have a hard time fixing it, but you might acknowledge that mankind did have an influence on creating the problem. I don't think I have a problem with getting to the point where mankind's had a small a role in, in getting to where we are. But the United States can't fix this on our own. 95% of the plastic pollution that's in the ocean today is not from the United States. It's from Asian countries and other countries that willingly pollute their rivers, which goes into the ocean.

Speaker 2: 12:01 And that's we, you know where that plastic pollution. So California eliminating straws isn't making a difference in plastic pollution and carbon emissions. The Paris climate accord, back to, yeah, my point, if California eliminated every carbon producing item, every car, every manufacturing facility, we wouldn't make a dent in the global aspect of the carbon that's being produced by man globally. So does that mean it's really no point in trying? I think California at this point in time, without upsetting our economy any more than we already have, has done everything we can. That's reasonable. And now it's time for other countries, uh, and even the United States has to, now it's time for the, the gross polluting countries to step up and do their part.

Speaker 3: 12:45 Now you're opposed to abortion. How important do you think that is in this campaign with your constituents in this district?

Speaker 2: 12:50 This is a very conservative district, both socially and fiscally. And it's a very important issue. Uh, there's, there's a lot of faith based voters in this district. Some of the largest churches in the state are in this district. And I think you get a high level of agreement across the board in this district that, uh, abortion in California is way too permissive. Um, and I think most people would support some cutbacks. I'm not gonna argue that the majority of the voters are, let's stop all abortions, but I think you can get a major agreement that there's a, it's, it's too permissive at this point in time.

Speaker 3: 13:26 Um, now let's talk about guns. Three quarters of the murders in the United States, of course, buy a firearm. How should the federal government address gun violence in the United States?

Speaker 2: 13:36 Yeah, I like how you asked that question. I think you're one of the few people asked, how should the federal government, uh, address that rather than the government at all. And I think some people get confused as the different roles, uh, of the governments, the 10th amendment obviously, uh, and maneuver enumerate States' rights. I, I'm not sure if, uh, the second amendment and gun control comes under the purview of, of a state's rights issue. I was legislator of the year for California pistol rifle association. I'm a strong advocate of the second amendment, uh, exactly how it's dealing needed that the sec, the right shall not be infringed. Um,

Speaker 3: 14:13 so you're saying it's a state's rights issue and you have been a state assemblyman and a Senator so,

Speaker 2: 14:18 well, because of the way you asked your questions the first time I've thought about it this way, so I'm going to have to, you know, gives us some thought as when I leave here. But you know, I, I believe, and I th again, the science proves this outreach shows this out, that, that, uh, communities that have less restrictive a gun laws, meaning that the, uh, legal, uh, law abiding citizen can own and carry a firearm are safer. Then cities that have the most strict firearm restrictions and I've do is compare San Diego to Chicago. Chicago's got very restrictive. There's no as so restricted that there's not even a gun shop in the city of Chicago. Uh, and just compare their murder rate by firearm, even just to San Diego, which I would consider it. I'd consider San Diego a moderate, uh, firearm community. Um, so where have you stood on legislation at the state level on, on gun regulation?

Speaker 2: 15:15 I have opposed almost every, almost every bill in the state legislature, except with one exception. Last week I believe it or not, I got a firearm bill passed with unanimous consent from the Senate. So every Senator voted aye, Democrat and Republican. It's now in the assembly and I expect for it to, um, uh, pastor the assembly and the governor to sign it. It's, uh, the union Tribune. Did a great editorial on that, on that, uh, piece of legislation a couple of weeks ago. And it's really, I, I accidentally maybe, maybe on purpose found the intersection of the second amendment and a criminal justice reform and cleaned up some of the code regarding firearm law and, and warrants and, and that kind of thing. Okay. Well, congratulations on doing something bipartisan. Right. But if you were in Congress, you would probably back away from doing any kind of reforms. Is that the message I'm getting?

Speaker 2: 16:10 Well, in con, you know, it's a little bit, um, no, I think there's some reforms that can, they can have, the whole gun control issue has gotten very muddled, you know, across the country. And, um, you know, through the, through the courts. I think the United States right now, and I've said this before, is that a, uh, a defining point on the second amendment and what it means. And so as these cases work their way through the courts and eventually end up in the S in the Supreme court will have a stronger definition of what these, what these regulations have done and mean. And how they comply with the U S constitution. So where is the point that you succeeded at the state level that you might be able to take to the federal level? Well, I just on this criminal justice reform, um, you know, clearing that up and there's probably, I, I would say, you know, the, the president back to the president has done a really good job with his criminal justice reform on defining some of these penalties that people were locked up for life for on these drug offenses.

Speaker 2: 17:08 And so maybe there's some opportunity on firearm offenses to re look at those and see if there's people that are in prison that that shouldn't be. That'd be something to look at. Now just looking at fundraising, which is such a big part of campaigning these days and the last reporting period you raised significantly less than the other front runners, how are you going to go about overcoming that hurdle? Well, that's a really good question and it's probably the one I get asked the most. The, these my two main Republican opponents we're spending, I can't believe how much money they're spending. I mean, it might come up to the tune of $4 million by the time they're done. And one of the things, I was talking to my wife on the way up here and we were discussing what would $4 million mean to father Joe or some of the other, you know, East County transitional living center out in the district or the boys and girls club.

Speaker 2: 17:56 And so it is an [inaudible] and I get it. We can't regulate that. And I would never propose that. It's just an unfortunate situation that I've got two guys that don't live in the district spinning this kind of cash to represent my district that I live in. And so we're going to compete with it. We're, we're, I, I'm doing the best fundraising I can. It's actually going fairly decently. I'm not going to keep up with those guys, but I've never had to. And they're spending, you know, more than half of their money beaten down the other guy. And, um, you know, I'm not going to do that. So I'm going to put out a positive message. I'm going to say to the voters why I'm the alternative that they can vote for and trust. The voters in this district have voted for me for other times, a district wide two other times before that with the city of Santee at a state level, local level, state and local level. So, um, my ballot's been on in front of these voters four times. My name, uh, these two, it has not. So, uh, when people go into the ballot box, they're gonna remember having voted for me. And so that's gonna carry some weight. We're doing a very, uh, positive marketing campaign to get a positive message out why we think we're giving the best story of why I should be the next representative

Speaker 1: 19:06 state. Senator Jones, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you. I appreciate the time. I've been speaking with Brian Jones, state Senator and candidate for the 50th congressional district. We reached out to the front runners in the 50th district race. We previously interviewed Democrat and Mark Hampton ajar and Republican Carl DeMaio, Darryl Eissa, also a Republican, declined our interview request for all of our election coverage and extended interviews with the 50th district candidates. Visit kpbs.org back slash election and check out our voter guide where you can type in your address and find your sample ballot with all the candidates and propositions.

One of the Republicans running for the seat is Brian Jones, who represents parts of north and east San Diego County in the state senate. He also ran for the 50th Congressional District in 2008.

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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.