The race in California’s 4th Congressional District has generated national attention as the Democratic Party mobilizes in hopes of pulling off an upset in a mostly rural region long controlled by Republicans — McClintock has held the seat since 2009 and Democrats have not held the seat since Vic Fazio served from 1978 to 1991.
Three female Democrats, all age 35 and under, are vying for the opportunity to challenge the Republican incumbent. Regina Bateson, Roza Calderon, and Jessica Morse are set to meet for a head-to-head debate in Kings Beach this Tuesday, Jan. 23, where they will discuss community needs, the environment, and the economy, with audience questions also being solicited during the event.
The debate will be held at the North Tahoe Event Center from 6 to 8:30 p.m., but you can also watch it live streamed by Truckee Tahoe Community Television and it will be available for viewing after the event on Vimeo (see it also below). It is a free event, though donations are welcome, and Moonshine Ink publisher Mayumi Elegado will serve as moderator for the forum.
Democrats have struggled to compete with McClintock both in the voter booth and in fundraising with 2016 candidate Robert W. Derlet hauling in just over $105,000.
But, so far this election cycle, the three remaining candidates have raised over $1.1 million combined with Morse and Bateson leading the charge with close to half a million or more in each of their respective war chests. The democratic primary vote is scheduled to be held June 5. Election day will follow on Nov. 6.
“There is a tremendous amount of state and national interest in this election,” says debate organizer Kathleen Eagan. “There is probably a lot more enthusiasm than I’ve ever seen in the 30 years I’ve been here. We wanted to see a debate-type situation here to see how the candidates do on their feet.”
In preparation for the debate, Moonshine Ink spoke with each candidate, asking them two questions: What solutions do you have for housing? And why do you have the best chance at unseating McClintock?
As we are sure you know, we are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in Truckee/Tahoe that is only predicted to get worse. If you win the Democratic nomination in the 4th District, what solutions would you put forward for this issue?
Bateson: I’m really glad to have already been engaged with the Mountain Housing Council last year so I’m sensitive to this issue. I recently spoke to a chief of the Fire Department, a business owner in downtown Truckee, and staff member of Tahoe Safe Alliance. The top issue all these people have been mentioning regarding people’s safety is housing.
The first thing that’s important here is for the federal government to be a good partner with local agencies. I’d be very engaged to support the initiatives of local leaders to try to tackle the problem. We’ve got two things that need to happen at the federal level. The tax bill that just passed actually reduces incentives for developers to build affordable housing. The bill has reduced the value of tax credits that already exist. I’d fight to make sure we maintain the value of the tax credits or get it back up to where it’s supposed to be. That’s the thing about the tax bill — so much bad stuff hidden in there.
The second thing that’s really important is the pledge I’ll make to be a strong advocate when the next Farm Bill is being negotiated. We know Congress moves very slowly these days. I think there’s a good chance it could still be up for negotiation in 2019. A lot of things that could support affordable housing in rural areas get their support from this bill. Drumpf’s budget would have slashed [United States Department of Agriculture] by 20 percent. There are some great grants out there that need to be maintained and I’d work hard to connect community institutions with those grants.
Calderon: This is a big issue not just in the Truckee area but nationally and throughout the state of California. It comes down from a real wage stagnation during the past 30 years. We are seeing the price of everything skyrocket — food, rent, medical, daycare — but not our wages. Wages are set to increase in 2020 to $15 per hour. People are preparing ahead of time. Many of the properties in the area are owned by outside sources and they’re not paying attention to wages or the renters in the area. The average person has to work more than 40 hours a week just to pay rent.
The route I’m going to be taking in Congress is making it so people are able to negotiate a fair wage. In taxes, I want to see a return for investment. In the recent tax bill, those tax cuts are on the back of the working class to pay for the very rich. If we bring up people’s wages, maybe this housing crisis wouldn’t be happening.
Another thing that I advocate for is rent control. This way they can’t exploit the people anymore. I am a regular person running for Congress. In California the quality of education seems to be determined by zip code. Granite Bay isn’t an inexpensive place. The only way I’m able to live in there and provide that type of education for my daughter is because I bought a mobile home for $40,000.
Morse: I think affordable housing is one of the biggest issues in our district. From Roseville to Yosemite our communities are struggling with finding housing for their workers. It’s not acceptable to drive an hour to work at a coffee shop in Truckee.
The Truckee railyard is a model I’ve been looking at. They are using reclaimed land to lower the cost. We can also use cap and trade because it’s a walkable community. We need to be using more innovative construction techniques to lower the cost. Public activity bonds that allow this to be financed were on the chopping block in the tax bill. Workforce housing has to be public private partnership. We need to be asking ourselves what we can do to help developers lower their cost to provide workforce housing. It’s a smart investment for the government to make it appealing. Can we use old strip malls to be turned into workforce housing that is appealing to millennials? We should look at the potential for reclaimed land. As a representative is the community, I’d make this a priority.
Republican Tom McClintock has defeated your party handily since 2008. Compared to the other candidates in the democratic race, why do you believe you have the best chance of unseating him?
Morse: I have the most experience. I’ve dedicated my entire career to public service in the some of toughest situations in the planet. I was in Iraq as a civilian working for an organization for international development, standing side by side with our troops. I’ve seen the impact of bad policy decision on people’s lives. I’ve worked first hand with the federal budget to be better stewards of our tax dollars. I’ve also worked in all three branches of U.S. national security: development, diplomacy, and defense. I’m not going to have the learning curve of the others going into D.C.
My family has five generations in the foothills and a lot of them are Republicans. I’ve seen how [McClintock’s] bad decisions have affected our community. Because I have the capacity to listen and understand and I know how things work in D.C., I can propose tangible solutions. Because of this experience and connections, I’m in a good position to take him out. I’m very much a daughter of the foothills. I grew up hunting with my dad. This is the community that raised me. I’ve hiked the entire district on the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s over 500 miles. McClintock will try to paint us Democrats as liberal elite outsiders. But he’s not going to able to paint me that way. I’m connecting across a broad spectrum in our community.
We are raising more resources than anyone else. I’ve raised $557,000 in two quarters and I’m keeping pace with McClintock. McClintock even mentioned me in his fundraiser later. He said “I was outraised by this Democratic challenger by six figures. I need your help.” McClintock is scared of me. I haven’t had to spend that money. I’m saving my war chest to take on McClintock for the main battle. And that’s the main reason McClintock has won so handily. Democrats here have typically raised between $50,000 and $100,000 in recent elections. [McClintock’s] a carpetbagger from Southern California who doesn’t have any real world experience. That’s the difference between him and me. I’ve been on the ground and I’m from this community I know and love. I’ll fight for our political needs and he just fights for his own agenda.
Calderon: Nothing to take away from Regina or Jessica’s resumes. They have incredible resumes. The reason I am running is I don’t see people who look like me in Congress. McClintock’s been in politics for 30 years. He is disconnected from the general public. I grew up here my whole life. I raised my daughter here. I opened up my own business here. I went through the recession in 2008. I reinvented myself. I went back to school. I understand the complexities of environmental issues and why it’s important to have these types of protections and regulations.
I know we don’t have the same amount of money as the other two candidates, but we are cutting costs in-house. Someone recently wanted $125,000 to create a postcard for me for a mailer. At that point, I’d only fundraised $25,000, so I made the postcards myself. Everything has been created by me.
I kind of feel that I have an in on how things work. And that’s exactly why I’m running a campaign that’s all about the people and getting money out of politics. People stay home because they think their vote doesn’t matter. We just signed a contract with a national media outlet that makes Oscar-worthy films. The value of that is priceless.
I’m hustling throughout the day. Regular people were not meant to run and that’s what I’m trying to change. The initial idea of the founding fathers was a congressperson is supposed to be a member of the community and talk about the issues affecting the community so they can help us at the federal level. We don’t have that now and haven’t had it for a long time. Our government is supposed to provide liberty and security with our taxes and we don’t have either one.
Bateson: I’ll talk about two things: myself and the campaign. First of all, I’m from the district here. I grew up Roseville, went to school there and worked my first jobs there. I proudly cast my first votes here. I’ve made more trips to Tahoe Forest Hospital than I’d like to admit thanks to some accidents my family has had up here. I have a really strong network here. All of these folks have come out in support of my campaign. In the most populous and purple part of the district people are coming out in droves to support our campaign. I’ve known community leaders for 20 years and that matters for collecting votes at the end of the day. Having a really strong network here that’s able to vouch for me is a really important strength that I bring to race.
In terms of our campaign specifically, I think we need three things to successfully beat McClintock. We need massive grassroots mobilization, we need the resources to get our message out there, and we need a message that resonates through party lines. At this point, we’ve got more than 575 volunteers. Hundreds of volunteers actively engaged for months. We’re really building a movement here, not just a campaign. Something that distinguishes my campaign from Jessica Morse’s campaign for example is we are raising the money in a grassroots way throughout the district. In this past quarter we raised $260,000 with our average contribution being $58. The majority of money came from right here in the district. No P.A.C. money. That shows that people here are excited and engaged and people are willing to step up and get involved.