Democrat Scott Peters is forced to begin defense of his Congressional seat against Tea Party challenger, 17 months away from the next election.
It’s July 2013, eight months removed from our last federal election, 17 months away from the next one, and already the cycle is starting all over again. It’s madness. Democrat Scott Peters was sworn in as the Congressional representative for the 52nd District just six months ago, and already he’s being forced to begin campaigning to defend his seat.
On May 30, failed Republican mayoral candidate and former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio announced his bid to challenge Peters. County Republicans have begun to fall all over themselves to endorse him, perhaps symbolizing their desperation to regain credibility after losing the mayor’s race for the first time in over 20 years and losing their county Congressional majority with Peters’ defeat of incumbent Brian Bilbray.
This is sure to be one of the most expensive Congressional races in California history, following a 2012 race that was one of the most expensive in the country. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there was more than $15.6 million spent on the 2012 race between Peters and Bilbray ($8.5 million by outside groups). It’s only been a month since DeMaio declared his candidacy, and already he has reportedly raised nearly $500,000 for his campaign.
Peters, meanwhile, is busy actually being a Congressman. He’ll now likely have to turn his attention away from doing the job he was elected to do in order to begin campaigning again—even if on a limited basis—just to stay ahead of the attacks that are headed his way. It’s completely ludicrous, and it’s what voters hate about today’s politicians. But unfortunately that’s the way our political system is now set up. For Peters to not defend himself would be irresponsible.
San Diego Republicans—and DeMaio himself—are touting their candidate as “a new generation Republican.” The fact that DeMaio is openly gay has something to do with it, hinting that he would be much more moderate on the social issues that have severely tarnished the GOP brand nationally. But that’s hardly the case.
A recent poll commissioned by the National Republican Congressional Committee identified DeMaio as a candidate “who would prefer the GOP focus on fixing the federal government’s finances rather than on social issues.” That’s fine in a local city council or mayoral race, but for a Congressional race that won’t fly, particularly given that the House GOP has introduced 20 anti-abortion bills in 2013 alone, and rather odd given the national GOP’s staunch anti-gay platform, particularly for a gay candidate.
DeMaio claims he is pro-choice, but likely won’t do anything to stand in the way of the GOP’s anti-abortion crusade.
DeMaio has proudly accepted the support of some of San Diego’s most notoriously anti-gay zealots, and some of Prop 8’s biggest financial backers, including Doug Manchester. Again, this is perhaps a reasonable position for a candidate running for local office, where social issues generally don’t rank high on the priority list since there’s not a whole lot pols at the local level can do to change social policy, but as a member of Congress they become vital. DeMaio has tepidly voiced support for full equality in the past, leaving the impression that civil rights are far from a priority for him. Which also begs the question of where he stands on voting rights.
By contrast, Scott Peters has been unabashedly against Prop 8 and pro full equality for gays and lesbians, penning a recent op-ed in the UT-San Diego touting his advocacy of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (EDNA) that would give the same legal protections to LGBT individuals in the workplace that are currently granted to women and racial minorities.
Peters is also staunchly pro-choice, preferring to work to keep abortions safe, legal, and rare.
The truth is that we don’t really know much at all about where DeMaio stands at all on social issues, such as abortion and immigration reform. He’s been largely evasive, providing nothing more than platitudes glossing over the issues but providing no real answers. And on healthcare, he merely repeats the same, tired falsehoods propagated by the national Republican Party, citing the “$700 billion raid on Medicare funding enacted in 2009” on his website. He offers nothing new. No solutions to the problems he cites. Just an “Obamacare bad” screed, same as the rest of the national GOP that has voted 38 times to repeal the healthcare reform law that was deemed legal by the Supreme Court.
The Voice of San Diego’s Sara Libby wrote a very good piece detailing how the declared Republican candidate—the same guy who lost to the county GOP’s bogeyman, Bob Filner, in the mayoral race—won’t talk about his positions on important social issues. He’s essentially keeping them a secret from the voters.
Here’s what we do know about Carl DeMaio: He’s staunchly “pro-business” and anti-government. He believes in the privatization of government services, having amassed a fortune teaching government entities how to outsource to the private sector. He is anti-public employee, and is directly responsible for the pension “reform” plan—Prop B—that is responsible for putting the San Diego city budget once again into a $40 million deficit instead of the surplus that was previously projected. His touted “reforms” that switched most public employees from a defined benefit plan to a 401(k) style defined contribution plan did little to nothing to save the city money as he claimed, instead relying on pensionable pay freezes to achieve any savings at all. In the end, his plan wound up costing the city money.
This is the kind of “responsible” government that DeMaio advocates.
Peters, on the other hand, supports Obamacare, while acknowledging that it’s a work in progress. “We have to make healthcare affordable and accessible for everyone. That’s the goal,” Peters said in an interview last May.
Peters has also been at the forefront in the (failed) efforts to prevent student loan rates from more than doubling, while DeMaio has in the past advocated the elimination of valuable government student aid programs. DeMaio called for the elimination the Perkins Loans program that helps more than 700,000 students per year stay in college, citing a faulty Bush administration OMB report that called the program “ineffective.”
While DeMaio views government as the problem, Peters views government as a vital part of the solution to economic growth and prosperity, railing against sequestration that has been championed by Congressional Republicans that has done further damage to our already fragile economy, especially locally here in San Diego.
DeMaio is also heavily supported by the Koch brothers and their PAC, Americans for Prosperity, the faux grassroots Tea Party organization founded by the billionaire oil tycoons. And let’s not forget DeMaio’s stated desire to turn San Diego into the “Wisconsin of the West.”
The-already-begun 2014 52nd District Congressional race promises to be a drawn out, knockdown, drag out event pitting a candidate who wants to dismantle government against a candidate who wants to make government work better for his constituents. In a district that is roughly evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats, and “Decline-to-State” voters, albeit with a slight Republican registration advantage over Democrats, it will be interesting to see how the Tea Party darling’s policy positions play with a decidedly moderate electorate. It would be nice, though, if we didn’t have to endure a 17 month campaign.
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