I attended the congressional candidates’ night at city council chambers Wednesday night. The turnout from Dixon was sparse (perhaps a dozen people), and I’ll bet half the total number of people there were candidates’ family and staff members. I have no idea how many locals were watching on TV.
Up for grabs is the House of Representatives position representing the newly formed third district, a huge area of the Valley with Dixon at the southern end and the northern end going up as far as Williams and Orland.
Four candidates showed. There was venerable Democrat John Garamendi, who has been representing Dixon in Congress from the former district, and three Republicans – Kim Vann of Arbuckle, and Rick Tubbs and Eugene Ray of Vacaville. It would seem that Garamendi is a tough old elk, with the predator younger Republicans circling for a kill and nipping at his heels. For example, Kim Vann says in a handout, “This district is too conservative for Garamendi.”
But if anything, Garamendi loves a battle.
I was especially interested in coming to the meeting because one of these folks will play a part in the funny stuff going on in Washington, referring to the continual budget deficits and the ever-growing national debt. That, to me, is priority number one – they’ve got to stop spending more than they take in. It’s that simple. But agreeing about the basics and taking action to solve them seems to elude our esteemed Republicans and Democrats.
I’ve already mentioned my personal take on Garamendi. To add to it, I detect that he’s a very intelligent, well-spoken, passionate individual. Looking at his facial expressions during the Q&A, I detect that he feels superior to these Republican challengers, none of whom have held an elected political office outside their counties. After all, 66-year-old Garamendi’s been around state and national politics since 1974 and graduated from UC Berkeley and Harvard.
Next, I’ll look at Republican Rick Tubbs, who has a light, sunny disposition, and smiled the most. His wife seemed a bundle of joy and energy as well. Tubbs lost points in my book because of his frequent use of the word “solutions,” which always indicates to me a lack of command of the English language. When one can’t think of the right word, there are always “solutions.” The experience he would lean on is mainly military and civilian plane piloting and Air Force management. I don’t see how one could be effective in Congress without any civilian government or political experience.
Not surprisingly, as an Air Force reserve officer, Tubbs says “national defense is our number one priority.” He warned against defense cuts, saying that “… then we (couldn’t) protect you.” He feels that anti-missile defense systems are needed against intercontinental missiles from places like Iran or North Korea, even when none of the super-expensive systems has ever proved to be truly effective.
Kim Vann is a savvy communicator who has the most government experience of the three Republicans. From a farm background, she lives in Arbuckle, around 50 miles north of Dixon, and has been serving on the Colusa County Board of Supervisors. Her resume also lists posts on associations of counties, and having served as an advisor to former Congressman Doug Ose. Among the Republicans, she appears to have the best credentials and chances to challenge Garamendi. She also comes across as a hawk, mentioning “our overseas enemies.” She warned against putting our local military bases at Travis and Beale air force bases “in shackles.”
In a handout, Vann says “… the quicker we get Washington out of the way, the quicker we’ll get on the right track.” Yeah, right.
The absolute dark horse on the Republican side of the race is Eugene Ray, who didn’t bring along any promotional materials but does have a Web site. Anyone running for Congress who wants to be taken seriously wears a suit to these events, but Ray didn’t. He has a background as a realtor and karate competitor and instructor, and he started a program teaching martial arts to at-risk youth, with good results. He’s intense and speaks at a rapid clip. He says this isn’t the time to cut back on the military and hinted he was in favor of American military action against Iran and North Korea. In his favor, he only used the word “solutions” once.
I may be assuming too much, but I would lump all three republican contenders at this meeting as conservatives who want to repeal the recent encompassing healthcare legislation, don’t want taxes raised on the rich, want deep cuts in government budgets (except military budgets), want to reduce government regulation of business, want jobs and business to trump environmental concerns, and are against gay and lesbian marriage. Of course, some nonetheless say they have very good friends who are gay or lesbian.
I asked the four what techniques the four candidates would use to “bring home the bacon” (that is, bring tax dollars back home to fund private-sector jobs and public projects) now that earmarks have gotten such a bad reputation. Of course, bacon refers to pork, and few running for office want to be associated with pork barrel legislation. Vann avoided responding directly, but said that road projects and the like don’t depend upon earmarks. Tubbs sounded like he was in favor of earmarks as long as they made sense. Ray accurately observed that in the past, earmarks were used to reward campaign contributors. Garamendi said a better appropriation process is needed than earmarks, but some are still squeezing through, and the administrative branch still uses them.
All seem to be in favor of private job creation and closing tax loopholes as ways of increasing government revenue. I wonder if each would vote to close the tax loophole benefitting a major contributor to their campaigns.
Going back to my original premise that ending deficit spending and lowering the national debt is job number one in this country, I seriously doubt that any of these four (including Garamendi) can contribute in any substantial way. To solve the problem, there need to be cutbacks across the board, including non-essential grants and most foreign aid. But each of the candidates have favorites they didn’t want touched, including variously the military, Social Security, Medicare, homeowner mortgage payment tax exemptions, support for Israel, and so on. If there is no agreement, we will continue to spend more and more and borrow more and more, weakening the country more than any military attack from a foreign country.
The U.S. is spending more on its military this year than the next 20 highest-military-spending countries combined, including China, Russia, France, England, the Middle East countries, and so on. It’s time to make the biggest cuts of all in this area of our government. We can’t afford to be the world’s policeman.
The study of politics is interesting. In the American democracy, we elect congresspeople who represent us, the voters, but who also represent the interests of their parties and their major campaign contributors. This creates a mish-mash of conflicting objectives and an unorganized budgeting and spending process which consistently spends more than it takes in.
Maybe a better model to use would be to retain Congress but have the budgeting and spending process handled not by wheeling and dealing but by trained professionals, much as we do here in Dixon with a city council leaving the budgeting and day-to-day management of the city to an unelected city manager and his or her staff.
My father was a New Deal FDR Democrat after World War II. However, he was quite taken with General Eisenhower when he ran for president, and switched to the Republican Party after that, becoming a Nixon supporter until the Watergate fiasco. As for me, I was a Young Republican in high school, but switched to the Democrats during the Kennedy and Viet Nam era. There I remained for many years, but currently, I’ve lost confidence in both major parties.
As you may know, the Constitution never mentioned the formation of powerful political parties, and yet they have come to prevail, and bicker and vie for power. It may be time to re-do government and the Constitution to get Washington off the dime and working again.