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San Mateo County candidates address congressional issues | Local News


Four candidates are running for the newly-redrawn 15th congressional district, which spans the eastern Peninsula from South San Francisco to Redwood City plus Daly City following the decennial redistricting process.

South San Francisco Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, Burlingame Councilmember Emily Beach and Republican businessman Gus Mattammal are vying for the seat, left open by Longtime U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier who announced her retirement last year.

The Daily Journal spoke with the candidates to find out how they would address some of the nation’s top policy questions.

Health care, Green New Deal and student debt

All four candidates shared a preference for some form of universal health coverage, and said environmental protections were a top priority.

Mullin said he supported the Green New Deal — the congressional resolution introduced in 2019 that lays out a sweeping plan to transition the country away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. The one caveat, he said, would be the addition of greater efforts made to aid in transitioning workers away from non-renewable industries.

For health care, he said he believed in offering universal coverage at the federal level. He said he would be open to having a system of nonprofit providers “underline a Medicare for All umbrella.”

Student loans, he said, should be forgiven, but likely not for well-off individuals or those who had landed high paying jobs. “I think you’re going to have to structure it in that regard so it is affordable,” he said. To pay for the programs, he said he would repeal Trump-era corporate tax cuts, increase taxes on wealthy Americans and close loopholes that allow tax avoidance.

Beach said she was “110% for the vision of universal health care.” She said she would support building on the Affordable Care Act over moving directly to a single payer system.

For addressing student debt, she said she would support reducing community college costs and similarly advocated for need-based ways to reduce student loan burdens. She said wraparound services for students, like housing, food and counseling services, should be the bigger priority.

She said the vision of the Green New Deal “is great,” but “we have to figure out how to pay for things.” She advocated for a carbon tax “to use economics to change behavior” and called for increased investments in subsidies to support building and transportation electrification.

Canepa said he would go “all in” by supporting Medicare for All, universal community college for all and the Green New Deal. He said he would pay for the programs by increasing taxes for corporations.

“Climate is extremely, extremely important and we need to make sure that we have the appropriate funding,” he said. He added, however, that he was concerned about inflation, which is why he has not taken a position on the county’s sea level rise resiliency work that will likely require a new tax.

Mattammal said he is a proponent of a universal health care coverage system modeled after Singapore’s mandated personal health insurance savings accounts. He said the system would cost less than the United States currently spends on health care and put an emphasis on personal choice.

He said he supported a carbon tax “because it is an externality and you need to internalize it.”

“I’ve been running since day one on investing in climate change strategy that involves innovation to help solve the carbon issue,” he said.

To offset potential costs passed on to consumers, he said he would work on antitrust policy to break up corporations, a move he said could reduce inflation.

Abortion

Beach has made protecting access to abortion a central component of her campaign. As the only woman in the race, the mother of a teenage daughter and a Catholic, she said she is uniquely positioned to champion the cause. She said the issue is not just about choice, but safety for low income and minority communities at disproportionate risk in the absence of a safe and legal option.

“This is a matter of life, death, and equity,” she said. “I have a lot of fire and passion behind a lot of issues that directly affect women.”

Canepa, meanwhile, said he would also be an advocate for protecting a woman’s right to choose, and mentioned his work to help establish buffer zones around the county’s Planned Parenthood facility to block protesters from engaging with people entering the building. He said that it was up to Democrats to lead on the issue.

Mattammal said a cultural shift was needed for people to “voluntarily choose to have zero abortions.” But he said he would work to protect the preferences of his constituents “even if that means I’m in a different place personally on the issue.”

Mullin called the leaked Supreme Court decision part of a “coordinated right wing attack on women’s rights.” He said he trusted woman to make the decision, and overturning Roe v. Wade would defy an “overwhelming super majority of people in this country who want to preserve that right.”

Ukraine

Mullin said the United States should continue to supply Ukraine with weaponry, and called Russia’s invasion “bordering on genocide.”

“I don’t believe you’ll see American soldiers on the ground in Ukraine but we need to do whatever we can to equip the Ukrainian people who are fighting for their freedom against this dictator and war criminal,” he said.

Canepa said a no-fly zone should be looked at and called for “aggressive sanctions.” He also advocated for continuing to supply Ukraine with weapons.

Beach, a prior captain in the U.S. Army, said she agreed with the president’s strategy of increasing funding for Ukraine. “We’ve got to absolutely clamp down on economic sanctions and we have to make them feel this pain,” she said. “They will not win this war and we need to talk about the vision for the future that is going to involve a free Ukraine.”

She said a no-fly zone would only serve to escalate the war. She added that if American troops became involved, there would be a “very real nuclear threat.”

Mattammal said the first priority should be to avoid a direct conflict with Russia, and the second should be helping Ukraine win. He said it was important to not conflate the Russian people with Putin.

“My hope is that this egregious mistake on his part geopolitically will lead to his downfall, and anything we can do to help bring that about without getting into a direct war is good,” he said.

Succeeding in a polarized political environment

Mattammal said changing the nature and tone of current politics is a key reason he’s running. He said he has specifically worked hard to create a platform that addresses the major policy issues that could gain support from both parties.

“I have a proven ability to build Republican support for those things, and that’s going to be key for actually taking down the temperature of our politics,” he said, pointing to his endorsements from the Republican Party at the local and state level.

Beach said civility was also a core tenet of her campaign, and that she recognized the “action is going to happen in the middle.”

“I will always be civil, but I will stand rock solid for our values, Bay Area values,” she said. “I think with just having broad life experience, I can relate to people from different walks of life.”

She pointed to her work on the Burlingame City Council building constituent support for divisive issues like residential growth and minimum wage increases.

Canepa said he would seek out areas of common interest, points he said could be on infrastructure or taxes.

“I’d like to have fairy dust and a crystal ball and say that we’re all going to get together and sing Kumbaya. That’s not how it is,” he said. “We have to find issues where there is common ground but sometimes you’re not going to be able to get along with everyone.”

He said he has had to work with people he did not agree with politically both in his advocacy for vaccines on the county Board of Supervisors, and prior to that on the Daly City Council when he worked to block a gun store from opening near a high school.

Mullin highlighted his long tenure as speaker pro tem in the Assembly, a role he said regularly requires collaboration across the aisle.

He said while a balance between the two parties was necessary to “forge policy solutions that are mostly in the middle of the spectrum,” the current political narratives are often driven by extremes on either end, amplified by social media and misinformation.

“I can sense the frustration, I want to be constructive, I’m not going to Washington just to generate headlines or clicks on social media,” he said. “I’m bringing the experience and qualifications to that role.”

Voter participation

All four candidates shared a preference for bolstering democratic participation at the ballot box.

Mullin has made the issue a cornerstone of his campaign, and cited the failure to pass the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, two bills which contain a broad range of elections reform measures, as among his biggest disappointments with the current Congress.

“We have a situation where democracy’s under attack right now in red states across the country, free and fair elections are being undermined,” he said. “I’m going to keep pushing hard on those issues because we need America to be a model democracy again, we need federal engagement and federal oversight.”

Canepa said the county’s universal vote-by-mail ballot system was an example of a system that worked. “I believe in democracy and I believe in driving participation. When you only have 35% to 40% of the people who vote … that’s not democracy,” he said.

Beach also said the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and For the People Act should both be passed. She said widespread voter fraud is a myth and a photo ID should not be required.

Mattammal said there were some components of the two bills he would support, like creating non-partisan redistricting commissions in all states and other measures to “remove politicians from the process.” But he said other measures within the bills like an election holiday were not needed.

“There are a lot of things in those bills that I’d be willing to support, but those bills are a wish list of everything the Democratic Party ever wanted crammed into a couple bills, so of course it’s not going to be possible to work across the aisle,” he said.

Immigration reform

All four candidates agreed a path to citizenship for undocumented people living in the country should be better established.

Beach called for comprehensive reform, especially to do with the backlogged asylum system.

“It’s got to be fair and not discriminatory. We have to treat all oppressive homelands the same, not just people from Ukraine and Northern European descent,” she said. “We have to have faster asylum procedures … it’s horrific how long it takes.”

She added that immigration decisions should not be based on education level, citing the economic need for workers at all levels.

Canepa said a path to citizenship could be through the ongoing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects some individuals from deportation, or through the Dream Act, which similarly protects certain people who arrived as children. He emphasized that there were some Democrats, not just Republicans, who had stood in the way of immigration reform.

As part of a path to citizenship, Mattammal said community service or a fine could be part of a restitution process.

“I don’t want 11 million people here living in the shadows in constant fear that one day they might get discovered. I want to bring them into the process,” he said. “As long as there is some kind of process for showing respect for the law.”

He said he would be open to spending more money on immigration courts to reduce the backlog.

Mullin echoed the need for better immigration court funding. He said the subject was “calling out for bipartisan compromise,” and the lack of reform in recent years spoke to dysfunction in Congress.

“We need to have a humane approach to this entire issue,” he said. “My hope is that the Biden administration, in its first term, which might be my first term as a member of the House in 2023, takes up this issue and forges a compromise that is not a one-party solution.”

California’s primary will be held June 7, narrowing the field to two candidates. The general election will be held Nov. 8.

corey@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200, ext. 105



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