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The Truckee Blues

Tahoe Democrats regroup, mobilize to “fire” conservative Rep. Tom McClintock
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"The idea of beating McClintock is not a small task. That doesn’t mean we can’t do it."

On Feb. 4, constituents of California’s 4th congressional district spilled into the streets of Roseville, to attend a much-anticipated town hall with Representative Tom McClintock. Growing discontent over the Republican’s ultra-conservative policy positions surged after he began vocalizing his support of the Trump administration.

McClintock drew ire from town hall attendees for fielding only 12 questions and then receiving a police escort out of the building instead of engaging with attendees, who he later called “anarchists” to regional news sources.

The next congressional election for District 4 is in November 2018, but the turbulent political atmosphere is inspiring local Democrats to mobilize earlier than ever, and prospective candidates are already building momentum.

Growing Dissatisfaction

District 4 encompasses 10 counties from the Sierra to Fresno, including portions of Placer and Nevada counties and the town of Truckee. Historically in this region of eastern California, Republican representatives have enjoyed a solid hold over the constituency — 44 percent of the district’s voters are registered as Republican. In contrast, the Town of Truckee has the largest percentage of Democratic voters in the district: 43 percent of voters are registered as Democrats, while 22 percent are registered Republican. Area Democrats are looking to wield a greater influence on the 4th District.

“In the last election Truckee was a blue city,” said Jim Hermann, founder of the recently revitalized Tahoe-Truckee Democrats group. “Our view on a lot of the major issues regarding policy like healthcare and climate change are not represented for a lot of us in our area. There are some very important policy disagreements with McClintock.”

On May 18, McClintock’s office hosted a remote town hall in Truckee. Local Democrats, including representatives from Indivisible Tahoe and the Tahoe-Truckee Democrats Group, arrived with signs and pointed questions for McClintock’s Senior Field Representative, Kimberly Pruett.
“People are upset, people are concerned and scared, so we’re getting a lot of calls,” said Pruett at the meeting. Pruett fielded questions about McClintock’s stance on healthcare, immigration and climate change — issues that area Democrats feel McClintock is not properly addressing.
“There were a lot of people who just said this cannot stand and we need to do whatever we can to change it, and so the first thing we need to do is get organized and start doing things,” Hermann said. “And that’s going on all over the country. It’s pretty incredible.”

Stepping Up to the Plate

Six potential Democratic candidates are campaigning across the district: Regina Bateson, Roza Calderon, Rochelle Wilcox, Jessica Morse, Chris Drew, and Charles Brown, who mounted a campaign against McClintock in 2008 in an uncommonly close race.

Morse, a former advisor for the U.S. Defense Department and State Department as well as a field agent for USAID, returned to her native Northern California home to run for office.

“These atrocities that I’d been fighting all over the globe, I felt like I was starting to see them at home,” Morse said.

Morse is critical of many of McClintock’s policies, including his support of the American Healthcare Act, the attempted immigration ban levied by the Trump administration, and his hands-off style of public engagement.

“It sort of defines our image of politics: The image of this sort of absentee politician who just gets fat on his laurels in Washington, and we can vote that out,” Morse said. “I want to live in a world where ‘politician’ is identified with being a public servant.”

Massachusetts Institute Technology Professor Regina Bateson has also thrown her hat in the ring, and as a Roseville native, wants to see her district represented by someone who speaks for regional values.

“I’m running because I think Tom McClintock doesn’t speak for our region. He doesn’t share our interests. He doesn’t share our values. We need new representation,” Bateson said.

In a statement published June 1 in support of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the country from the Paris climate accord, McClintock asserts that he votes based on his belief that “the Earth will continue to warm and cool as it has for billions of years.” Throughout his eight-year term, McClintock has voted to shrink the Endangered Species Act, eliminate $1.6 billion in renewable energy funding, deregulate offshore drilling, and in favor of the Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015 which allows governors to delay or avoid compliance with the Clean Air Act.

All acts that Bateson said are counter to reason. A social scientist with published quantitative work, she says the science behind climate change is “crystal clear.”

“It is caused at least in part by human activity and it is absolutely the most urgent problem our generation has to confront, or else future generations will be harmed, especially in an area where our economy is so dependent on our environment,” Bateson said.

Bateson is holding out hope for attracting outside funding from large political organizations, largely because of the extensive organizing taking place in the district.

“The idea of beating [McClintock] is not a small task. It’s a large and significant and very challenging task,” Bateson said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t do it.”

The Tahoe-Truckee Democrats Group will be hosting candidates throughout the summer and into the fall.

“Frankly, the most important thing is that a candidate is strong enough to win. Our view is that we’re more than willing to debate on policies, but at the same time our view is that the candidate must win,” said Hermann. “There are a number of wonderful people who have stepped up to the plate.”

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July 12, 2018