by Zainub Tayeb
Tuesday October 18th KVIE, The Sacramento Bee, Capital Public Radio Station, the Los Rios Community College District and our very own Folsom Lake College came together to hold the only debate between the congressional candidates of the 7th district, incumbent Dr. Ami Bera and Sheriff of Sacramento, Scott Jones.
On October 18th along with a journalist from the Sacramento Bee and a reporter from Capital Public Radio, I was lucky enough to be a panelist for the only live 7th congressional district debate. Folsom Lake college is located in the 7th congressional district and I was asked to represent the voice of college students. The debate was held at KVIE public studios in Sacramento in front of a live studio audience of 100. It is set to air on C-SPAN in the upcoming weeks. The questions were created by the other two panelists, the moderator and myself, but were not given to either campaign or the audience in advance. The nature of the debate went something like this: the questions were alternated between either candidate who had 60 seconds to respond, then the other candidate had 60 seconds to respond, then each had a 30 second rebuttal. The questions also rotated between the three panelists aided by a follow up question by the moderator Jason Shoultz (McClatchy Video Lab) if he deemed it necessary. The debate also included questions sent in by viewers of the Bee, listeners of CPR and students of the college. Halfway through the debate the candidates had the opportunity to ask their opponent a direct question.
To start off the debate we decided to put each candidate on the hot seat. Dan Smith of the Sacramento Bee, asked Sheriff Jones about the allegations of sexual harassment from his female deputy but the sheriff denied them, stating the female deputy had “lied.” Bob Moffitt of Capital Public Radio, asked Dr. Bera how he could not know of the campaign fraud his father had been arrested for over the summer (Bera claims he had no idea his father had secretly been reimbursing family and friends who contributed to his campaign). In the spirit of being a true college student, I asked Sheriff Jones about his opinion on Proposition 64–the legalization of Marijuana use for adults 21 and over– and if it passed, how he would protect Californians against federal prosecution since federal law states it is still illegal to use marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes. Sheriff Jones was blatant in his refusal to support the proposition while Bera stated as a doctor he knew the medicinal benefits medical marijuana has, but was non-committal in either support or opposition of the proposition.
We went on to ask the candidates of their opinion on Obamacare. Bera said it needed to be reformed while Jones calls it a “failure.” We also inquired about the citizens right to privacy in lieu of cyber-attacks on the US. With the U.S seemingly more at risk with ongoing cyber attacks, Bera claimed that we need to take it more “seriously” and does believe that Russia was behind the recent attacks, but thinks that we “need a robust debate” on this topic because he does not want to trample on citizens’ right to privacy. Sheriff Jones agreed with Congressman Bera, “there needs to be a robust discussion” but said that the “threat is ever-increasing” and “law enforcement’s ability to be able to respond to those threats” must find a “balance against people’s privacy.”
Although the debate was civil, (especially in comparison to the circus the recent presidential debates have been) Bera and Jones were split down party lines. In response to a question taken from the four sponsors’ audience about climate change, Bera insisted that “climate change is real” while Jones called climate change a “political buzzword.” Jones said that it doesn’t matter to him whether humans were the cause of climate change, only that he was interested in “reducing dependency on petroleum and reducing the human carbon footprint.”
I also asked him about dash-cam footage from police officer involved shootings, he said he wanted the “legislature need to stay out of this” that “body-cameras will happen as a natural evolution in the profession of law enforcement” and said he was “against Dianne Feinstein’s [no fly-no buy proposal] that would be vetted by a political appointee” and that “he had very little confidence in [the] administration's ability to vet anyone.”
For candidate to candidate questions Jones went first, asking if come November 9th would [Bera] be proud of the campaign he had run. Bera responded saying, “these campaigns are hard to run, but they are important because these offices that we are running for are one of the highest offices in the country.” He impressed the importance of our leaders having good character and said it was ultimately up to the voters to decide who they want representing them but he would “stand behind his track record” of helping people locally and has actively tried to work “across the aisle to break the gridlock in congress.” Bera’s question to Jones called the sheriff out and his support of Trump. Only a few days prior to the debate had Jones pulled his support for Trump. Bera accuses him of pulling support because the sheriff had seen his own poll numbers tank in response to the release of the so called ‘Trump Tapes’ that recorded the Republican Presidential candidate saying despicable things about women. Bera asks what took him so long, “When he was making fun of disabled people, that wasn’t enough? When he was making comment after comment disparaging women, that wasn’t enough?” Nonetheless Jones claims he would have voted for Trump until recently when he had to depart from supporting Trump because “he was talking about things we had arrested people for.”
Another issue I raised was the rising college debt in the United States. I asked the candidates what they would do to help ease the burden on college students. Dr. Bera floored me when he said he had paid “$393 dollars a quarter to go to medical school” he said he had done “four years of undergrad, four years of medical school and graduated with less than $10,000 in debt.” Then he said something that probably excited other Folsom Lake college students, he “is all in favor of free community college.” He says community college “is not just for the recent high school graduates but that’s also a place where folks can go to get new skills.” He also promoted more online courses that come from established universities that can serve a larger class size and allow you to get the classes you need to graduate in a timely manner. Jones who paid $428 for college believes that once students have graduated the payments they make should be tax deductible, but free community college is not a good idea.
To use Jones’ words, this presidential election may require a “certain amount of nose-holding when we go to the polls.” Whether that is the smell of marijuana or the stuff coming out of Trump’s mouth he is referring to, I don’t know, but for those of you living in the 7th congressional district be sure to look out for the section for local house representatives on the ballot this November.
Watch the debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp2vxQRVAOE
Here you can find all of our articles up to 2018.