by Nathan Villasenor
On Wednesday, October 8, 2014, two candidates for the 7th Congressional District of California met up for their only scheduled debate before the election, in one of the most closely watched political races in America. Incumbent Democratic Representative Ami Bera battled republican challenger Doug Ose in a contest that covered many of California’s most pressing current issues, including the job market and the price of tuition at the university level.
The event, held at Sacramento’s KVIE News Station, was moderated by Jason Shoultz and featured three journalistic panelists: Marianne Russ, the managing editor of Capital Public Radio, Dan Smith, Bee Capitol Bureau Chief, and Michaela Kwoka-Coleman, editor of Folsom Lake College’s newspaper, The Talon. In addition to local media coverage, the debate was broadcast live from KVIE and recorded for a later showing by C-SPAN, a public affairs network that has been carrying more than 100 debates across the country for this election cycle.
Ami Bera offered his opening statement first. He referenced three promises that he made – and reportedly kept – during his initial term in Congress. Those three promises included his contribution in the passing of the No Budget, No Pay Act in Congress, which states, in his words: “If members of Congress don’t do their job and pass a responsible budget, they shouldn’t get paid”. A second promise of his was that he would not take any pay raises, instead working “across the aisle to get Sacramento County working again”. Lastly, he agreed not to take a pension, extending to a mention of his plans to keep Social Security from being privatized. Berra’s opening statement ended with a clever reference to a non-political credential of his, being a doctor for the last 19 years in the Elk Grove Community.
Republican Doug Ose, who served in California’s 3rd Congressional District from 1999 – 2005, then gave his opening address, taking a more metaphorical approach. He offered his view on the current status of America, asserting that “[his] confidence in our country is shaken because Washington is broken. The economy is not creating jobs, and it’s very uncertain whether it ever will.” However, Ose did insinuate that a step in the right direction lied in his election and not Bera’s, which he likened to “trusting a burglar to stay in your house when you’re out of town and expecting your things are there when you get back.”
From there, the debate took off in organized combat. The first question, asked by Marianne Russ, had to do with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, set the tone for Ose’s first attack, which claimed that Obamacare is responsible for a sharp loss in jobs. This “killing” of jobs, as Ose put it, also strips $716 billion from Medicare, which Ose calls “simply bad policy”.
Representative Bera seemed minimally phased by this claim, and rebutted it outright as a lie. He then offered his expert opinion as a doctor, claiming that as the Affordable Care Act is now law, it would be appropriate to fix and enhance the Act so that it more accurately serves the country, including addressing the cost of care. He argued that Mr. Ose’s idea of fixing it was to go “back to a time when health insurance companies were in charge, when women would be charged more than men, where if you had a preexisting illness you could denied coverage”. He closed the argument by stating that he wants to ensure that doctors can take care of patients and that people can get their needed health care- in his own words, “I want to move forward.”
Further along in the debate, Congressman Bera was asked about his plans to create jobs for Californians and small business owners, something he pledged to do two years ago. However, as panelist Dan Smith pointed out, the unemployment rate in California still remains at 7.4%, the fourth largest in the nation, which obviously might deter voters from sending Bera back to Washington. Bera answered this by demonstrating his work in getting full funding for Folsom Dam, which has employed hundreds of construction workers. According to Bera, this project is a three-bladed sword, as it helps with creating jobs, contributes to California’s current drought, and will protect the community from flooding of the lake. As well, Bera once again referenced his promise to not take any pay raises until Sacramento County is once again in a working status. Bera then spoke about his contribution to small businesses, who he credits as “the backbone of creating jobs”, by organizing workshops to inform and secure those businesses and their owners.
Bera seemed to have been called out on his last offer, however, as Ose rebutted with a claim that Bera did not bother showing up to one of his own workshops. “You spent federal resources, brought all these small business owners in, and then you didn’t show up to take their testimony or their input and I don’t understand that”, Ose accused. He then mentioned that he’s been a small business owner and that he knows what it takes to start a business. On this subject, Ose seemed to have the upper hand; just as Bera brought experience as a doctor in relation to the Affordable Healthcare Act, Ose brought experience as a businessman.
Folsom Lake Talon’s Michaela Kwoka-Coleman had the floor next, and asked: “What steps do you think Congress should take to help those who can’t afford college”? This seemed to be a question that both candidates could relate to, as both Ose and Bera have children who are either in college, or will be within the next few years.
Ose had the chance to answer first, stating that the primary order of business would be to stimulate the job market and, by that virtue, the economy. “We’ve got to get the economy rolling so the kids in school can be able to come out and get good jobs so they can afford to pay the debt that they otherwise incur”.
Bera agreed that “we’ve got to make college affordable again, and that was a promise that I grew up with here in California, this promise of higher education, that if you had the desire and the abilities, you were guaranteed the ability to go to college”. Bera’s solution entailed the actual lowering of the cost of tuition rather than creating a wider job market. These two solutions, along with the solutions of the job market issue, characterize the different styles of leadership the candidates offer; Bera focuses more on community-based contribution and Ose focuses more on the business potential for the nation, which could stimulate jobs and the economy on a much larger scale.
Election Day is November 4, 2014, and each of these representatives clearly brings something to the table. While this was the only scheduled debate between the two politicians, it is advisable to do more research on either’s political views and efforts before the election. The 7thCongressional District consists of the Folsom and Rancho Cordova, and therefore affects the campus community of Folsom Lake College. A full transcript of the debate can be found here.
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