After California’s redistricting process last year led to a split in the Coachella Valley’s congressional districts, Republican incumbent Rep. Ken Calvert will appear on the ballot alongside Democrats Shrina Kurani and Will Rollins, Republican John Michael Lucio and no party preference candidate Anna Nevenic in the race to represent California’s 41st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The 41st district includes several Coachella Valley cities — Palm Springs, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indian Wells — along with Menifee, Norco and Corona in western Riverside County.
Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Democrat who has represented the western Coachella Valley since 2013, is seeking re-election in the valley’s other district, the 25th Congressional District, which encompasses Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Coachella and Indio, along with Imperial County and a sliver of San Bernardino County.
In congressional and legislative races, the top two finishers in the primary election — regardless of party — will advance to the state’s general election Nov. 8.
With voting underway in California’s primary election that concludes on Election Day June 7, here are the written responses to questions posed by The Desert Sun from Calvert, Kurani, Rollins, Nevenic and Lucio.
Editor’s note: Responses have not been edited for spelling or grammar.
What drove you to run for election in California’s 41st Congressional District?
Ken Calvert: The main reason I’m running is because we need to get our country back on track. Under President Biden and one-party Democrat rule in Washington we have seen one crisis after another. Recent polls show only 2 in 10 Americans think our country is on the right track. The Democrats in this race will be a rubber stamp for the Biden/Pelosi agenda that Americans are suffering under.
I’m also running because I want to continue delivering results for Riverside County. I have experience and seniority, especially on the House Appropriations Committee, that puts me in a unique position to ensure our region’s priorities are met. I am the only major party candidate who has lived in this district all their life. As a former small business owner, I also understand how difficult times are for people trying to stay afloat right now and will work to relieve the inflationary pressures on businesses that translate into higher costs for consumers.
Shrina Kurani: My parents immigrated here in the ’80s, and they came to the United States seeking opportunity. I was born and raised in Riverside, and I grew up in my parents’ small business. They worked seven days a week, and I spent my summers and days after school playing amongst the pool filters and pumps, until I started helping myself, sweeping floors and testing water for chlorine and alkalinity.
I graduated from UC Riverside as a mechanical engineer and I’ve focused my career on how to make things work better. I’ve facilitated $2 million to small businesses in the area and over half a billion dollars across the nation, including to women-owned, LGBTQ-owned, and veteran-owned businesses, which has been critical throughout the pandemic.
If you look at Ken Calvert’s track record for the past three decades, he’s consistently voted against the interests of our community. Even during the pandemic, he voted against the American Rescue Plan which would bring $479 million to Riverside County, and is now voting against women’s rights and addressing the baby formula shortage.
I am running for Congress to bring my approach to making things work better to Washington to put people first, create a sustainable future, and build an America where people feel safe, healthy, and have opportunities to succeed.
Will Rollins: I became a national security and terrorism prosecutor because of 9/11. But over my career, I’ve seen the threats to our country change. Today, some of our biggest threats are right here at home, as people become radicalized by far-right conspiracy theories and disinformation. I have been on the front lines in the fight against extremism, helping to prosecute those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6th and QAnon conspiracy theorists.
This is a systemic problem. Extremists, Big Tech and media outlets are profiting from spreading division based on lies, even as they erode our democracy and make it easier for adversaries like China and Russia to exploit us. We might not agree on who’s to blame for partisan disinformation, but we should agree that this level of divisiveness is unhealthy for our democracy and our communities. We need to end this cycle of division-for-profit by updating our laws to break down information bubbles and propaganda networks, to require transparency in advertising, and to create a modern Fairness Doctrine that protects the public’s right to be informed. And we need to get rid of politicians like Ken Calvert who believe service to one party — and one president — matters more than service to America itself.
If Americans can start agreeing on basic facts again, we can stop fighting each other and start working together on issues like our economy, infrastructure, and climate change. That’s why I’m running for Congress.
Anna Nevenic: We need a change of direction in Washington. Most elected officials are too tied up to special interest and Super PAC’s to make progress on the issues that affect average Americans. I care deeply about the future of our country. As a nurse, volunteer and community activist, I worked and conversed with thousands of people from all walks of life. Those roles have prepared me, to be an effective advocate for schools, students, seniors, veterans, homeless people, and all residents in the district. I will support a plan that works for seniors instead of drug companies. There are economic, social, and conservation solutions based on successful programs. We must focus on our common goals, a better future for our children and grandchildren.
John Michael Lucio: Compared to other candidates who have been planning on running against the incumbent for a while, it was the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol and then how Calvert participated in trying to overturn the election that got me interested in running. Looking at Calvert’s 30-year history, Democrats were never able to competitively challenge Calvert. My seriousness in running originally was to try and pull Republican votes away from Calvert. After seeing multiple Democratic candidates running in an open primary, there was no way my original plan would work. At that point, I decided I had to be in it to win it. What the 41st needs is an option besides right-leaning and left-leaning candidates. Candidates who only see the district as red or blue. Besides the events of January 6th, the period after has been full of rhetoric, name calling, misinformation, and lies. I, like many other people, am just tired of the bullshit in politics. We need politicians who are about working together, doing what is right, and being transparent. Not anymore who are primarily swayed by party politics. That’s why I’m running to win.
Inflation in the United States recently hit a 40-year high, with gas, rental and grocery prices well above last year’s levels. How do you think Congress should respond to these inflationary pressures?
Ken Calvert: I’ve met with and listened to our manufacturers and key industry leaders, including Coachella Valley farmers. The cost of energy is a huge driver of the rising costs we are seeing. Higher gas and diesel prices as well as fertilizer have down market impacts across our economy. Americans are hurting because President Biden and Democrats in Congress have done everything in their power to shut down traditional American-made energy. Biden shut down the Keystone XL pipeline, imposed new restrictions on American energy exploration, canceled planned production lease sales, then acts surprised when lower supplies cause higher prices. I am the only candidate in this race who believes in reversing these policies. I support an all-of-the-above energy strategy that invests in renewables, harnesses domestic energy supplies, and reduces our dependence on foreign oil from dangerous dictatorships.
Shrina Kurani: Right now, the cost of living is rising with inflation and soaring gas prices eating at our paychecks while corporations like ExxonMobil, our largest oil company, reported its net profit more than doubled from last year, Chevron reported its highest quarterly profit in almost a decade, and Shell reported its highest earnings ever. The rising cost of goods is a result of corporate profiteering and our complex supply chain which evolved in times of relative peace and stability — from our lean manufacturing models we’ve been deploying for 5 decades which are efficient but not resilient, poor working conditions resulting in high turnover in the trucking industry which has manifested in a driver shortage, to the chip shortages we’ve seen after massive consolidation in chip manufacturing leading to now just five companies controlling over 50% of global capacity. We must address supply chain issues to lower inflation and reduce prices of everyday goods for everyday Americans.
Will Rollins: Too many small businesses and working families are getting crushed by corporations with monopoly power. Costs of labor and goods are increasing for everyone, but when a handful of companies control the entire U.S. market for oil, agriculture, baby formula, and diapers, for example, they can keep their profits as high as they want without any competition. Shell just posted a record $9 billion in profit last quarter, and yet they’re charging us $7 per gallon at the pump and keeping their margins at 20% — even as taxpayers give these companies more than $20 billion in subsidies annually.
This won’t change if we keep sending representatives like Ken Calvert – who gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from corporations – back to DC. We need to strengthen antitrust laws, create competitive markets in industries dominated by monopolies, and end subsidies for corporations that are price-gouging consumers.
And to help with rising costs, let’s lower taxes on working families and small businesses by ensuring that billionaires actually pay their fair share. The wealthiest 400 families in the US pay an average of just 8 percent per year in federal income taxes and control more wealth than 60 percent of us — about 150,000,000 Americans — combined. I always ask people, “Did you pay more than zero dollars in federal income taxes last year?” Because two of the richest human beings to have ever lived — Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk — recently paid literally zero dollars in federal income taxes. Republicans and Democrats alike should be outraged that we’re stuck paying 30% or more while our laws allow the ultra-rich to pay nothing.
Anna Nevenic: Some say that the economy is great, but for whom. Most Americans are forced to deal with rising costs for gas, health care, housing and college tuition. Inflation is caused primary by our over consummations of goods. Stimulus packages were given to everyone, regardless of the economic status. The inflation can be tackled, but we all must play the part. Consume less, drive less, carpool, take occasionally public transportation. Gas price is manipulated by oil companies, who are greedy and unscrupulous by all measurable means.
Gas cost is a major factor for increase in price for everything we buy and use. Trucking companies cost for fuel has doubled. As you know everything is delivered by trucks. When delivery cost is up, in retrospect we pay more for all goods and services.
The best solutions is to remove sanctions on Venezuela immediately. Sanctions only hurt people, not the political establishment. Stop delivery of oil from Saudi Arabia, located so far away. Let us help Venezuelan people who are unable to feed themselves.
John Michael Lucio: Let’s be honest. Inflation is econ 101. It strictly has to do with supply and demand curves. Key indicators such as employment indicate the economy is working in some respects. Some aspects of inflation, such as grocery prices, are affected by other aspects, such as the costs of fuels and transportation. For some things, such as rental costs, are likely driven by the demand for available rentals. What I think is most prevalent in relation to what people are noticing is the rise in fuel prices. There are many factors that are affecting this including the war in Ukraine, OPEC’s refusal to increase their output, and what I would consider price-gouging by the major oil companies as shown by their increases in revenues. Congress does not have a whole lot of power to affect these changes. One side believes we should go after corporate profits, the other side thinks we should open up more drilling for those same corporations. As with all supply/demand curves, there is a point of equilibrium. We as consumers drive the market. What congress can do is work with federal agencies in making consumer buying power more efficient. Congress can start doing their part by managing debt and deficit spending better because if they don’t, it’s only a matter of time before tax increases are included in costs to us.
The Supreme Court’s draft opinion that would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision has drawn strong reactions nationwide, and also prompted an effort by congressional Democrats to codify the right to an abortion within federal law. Do you support codifying the right to an abortion at the federal level? And what was your reaction to the court’s leaked draft opinion?
Ken Calvert: First off, I believe the leak is an outrageous attempt to pressure and intimidate the Supreme Court as it deliberates an issue that has long divided our nation. Despite this leak, we do not know what actions the Court will ultimately take.
I think it’s important for everyone to understand that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that does not mean there’s suddenly a federal prohibition on abortion. It becomes a matter for each state to decide, which is what I support. Even the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed that the opinion in Roe should have been a narrower decision, not usurping the rights of states to make their own laws about abortion.
Earlier this year, the Democratic majority in Congress tried but was unable to pass federal abortion legislation that would have taken away those states’ rights. They would have forced every state to legalize abortion on demand, including up to, and even during, the delivery of a baby. Even our European counterparts have reasonable restrictions on abortion, yet Democrats in Congress are insisting on abortion on demand up to 40 weeks. This is a difficult issue Americans have differing and passionate feelings about. In those instances, I believe government closest to the people can best represent how people feel.
Shrina Kurani: With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v Wade, Congress needs to pass legislation to codify Roe v Wade into law and protect the rights of women and LGBTQ Americans. Americans across the country are seeing what is at stake — with women’s rights under attack in this country, we need more women in elected office to help stand up for our rights. Ken Calvert voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act, and refuses to give women the respect and dignity we deserve. I will fight for a woman’s right to choose and control her own body.
Without Roe v. Wade, full abortion bans even in the case of rape or where the mother’s life is in danger are on the table and we cannot stand for this, we cannot afford to move backwards on women’s rights in this way.
Will Rollins: Access to abortion is a fundamental part of equality, privacy, and freedom under the law. The right to choice must be protected by Congress before tens of millions of American women lose the ability to control their own lives, health, and safety. The far right has already begun talking about a national abortion ban if they take power. We cannot let that happen.
Voters should ask Rep. Calvert not only why he believes women don’t deserve the same reproductive freedom as men, but how he plans to enforce and pay for millions of government-mandated pregnancies. Does he think police officers should arrest any woman who asks her doctor about an abortion? Who does he plan to raise taxes on to pay for trillions of dollars in mandatory prenatal care? Should doctors and pharmacists be prosecuted for mailing the Morning After pill to patients?
This draft opinion is not the end of what the far-right has in store for women (and men): the ability to buy contraception, premarital sex, LGBTQ rights, and basic privacy in our bedrooms are now all on the line. America is supposed to be heading toward 2050, not 1850.
Anna Nevenic: Women’s right to choose, and to have control of her own body and reproductions, should not be dictated by church, or any government institutions. Both parties in Congress have used abortion as a political tool for too long. Women are tired of protesting and fighting for their personal freedom. Congress has the power to codify the abortion; but refused to do so in the past when one party has more supporters for this act. We can stop this travesty of justice now. If men were giving birth this issue would not play a role in the election process. If we provide comprehensive sex education and free birth control for women and girls, there would not be need for abortions. When Viagra came to market, Insurance companies covered the cost. What a double standard. Personal ideology has no place in political arena.
John Michael Lucio: I would support codifying a right to choose in federal law. The reason is that the 9th amendment provides guarantees that rights provided to us that are not enumerated in the Constitution shall not be denied or disparage other rights given to us. Roe was a right given to us as a law of the land over 50 years ago. The judicial theory of Stare Decisis would have leaned in the direction of Roe remaining a right. One party has usurped the courts in their efforts for this one cause. Not only with codifying this law, but I would also like to see term limits for Supreme Court justices, only because the court has now become politicized. The remainder of the federal bench should remain life-long appointments. In regards to the leak, I spent most of my adult life working on highly-classified military programs for the government. What I found with classified materials, it was hard to keep those secrets. Anonymous sources use leaks to push their own agendas. I don’t know what the agenda of the leaker was, but I believe it was done because they see the politicization of the court and this was a sense of rebellion. The normal order in politics we use to know is gone. Norms are gone. It’s no surprise that SCOTUS, as the final untouched branch, is slipping below the surface of accepted standards and will be considered just as corrupt as the other branches are.
Last year, the Biden administration set a target for the United States to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030, and zero them out by 2050. Do you support the administration setting these targets? And what steps, if any, do you think Congress should take to reduce the country’s carbon footprint in the coming years?
Ken Calvert: I support pursuing green energy alternatives, efforts to lower carbon emissions, and have championed programs to clean the air we breathe. In my opinion the best way to achieve those goals is by relying on American innovation and market forces to produce the technology we need. In fact, the U.S. has steadily reduced CO2 emissions since 2005. We can’t set and pursue arbitrary targets and ignore what economic impacts that may have in America. Especially if countries like China, Russia and India aren’t playing by the same rules and account for more carbon emissions than the U.S. and EU combined. Families are seeing the consequences of high energy costs today, and it is clear that Democrats do not care about the costs and in fact are ready to pursue even more punitive policies in service to their green agenda. Unlike my opponents, I strongly oppose a carbon tax which would disproportionately impact middle class and lower-income Americans. We can improve our environment and reduce emissions without hurting American families and job creators.
Shrina Kurani: Wildfire season is already upon us in California, and we cannot be left uninsured when it comes to climate action. In order to protect our environment for future generations, for our children and grandchildren, it requires us to vote out the biggest enemies to climate legislation in Congress. As an engineer and sustainability scientist, I’ve spent my career working to reduce waste and create quality jobs, and I’ve been an official delegate to the United Nations Climate Change negotiations since the Paris Agreement was signed, and that taught me that it is up to each of us to decide whether or not we will act to fight climate change, and as a country we have the opportunity to be a leader in developing a sustainable future.
Ken Calvert has a 7% scorecard from the League of Conservations Voters. He consistently votes against the environment and is effectively leaving us uninsured for the future. We need experts who know how to act on climate and who are focused on solving problems. I’ve worked to transition large industry in Southern California from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and we have the technology to cut emissions, gain energy independence, and boost our economy.
Will Rollins: Climate change is an existential threat and one of the greatest challenges of our generation. I am committed to advancing an ambitious evidence- and science-based agenda to achieve net-zero emissions, leveraging every tool available for a swift transition to a more sustainable and cleaner planet and economy.
Riverside County has the opportunity to develop thousands of small, clean-tech businesses that will have a foothold in expanding the green energy economy and the United States’ standing in clean energy. With the right tax incentives to encourage small, clean-tech businesses to start in the Inland Empire — and the assistance of the federal government in major infrastructure projects across the County — we will be able to grow our economy, improve public transit, and protect the planet all at the same time.
Two looming environmental issues impacting our region involve zoning and transportation laws and the cleanup and excavation of the Salton Sea. The region is growing rapidly, and I will fight for policies that promote smart growth and don’t leave at-risk communities behind, and ensure that we direct federal resources to the most vulnerable communities affected by climate change in our district.
And finally, without access to clean drinking water, families and communities will suffer. We know that due to climate change, we’ll be facing increased numbers of droughts. We should be taking bold action now to reduce the impacts and mitigate the effects of climate change. We also need to secure billions of dollars in federal funding to ensure that our aging water infrastructure across the County is updated, capturing more runoff during storms and minimizing waste.
Anna Nevenic: Cuts in carbon emissions is a major priority. We must work to expand further development of alternative energy sources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Some argue that we have enough oil in our country. We bring oil from the Middle East because it is cheaper to produce it there. Increased production of fossil energy, here at home will not lower gas price. Our companies export to Europe, because they are getting a higher return on their investment. As fires rage, water is scarce, and power is unreliable, we must work hard to reduce damage.
We have draughts in some area and coastal floods, because worldwide we have cut 60% of all trees. Trees are essential for absorbing carbon dioxide while at the same time inducing conditions for rainfalls. We must act now, the future can’t wait. It is selfish and unconscionable not to take all measures to prevent world catastrophe for future generation. We are resilient people, together we can do it.
John Michael Lucio: I am by far no expert on the climate and carbon emissions. We are talking about something that we, the United States, alone can solve. As far as the US goes, according to the EPA, burning fossil fuels is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases. I believe in nuclear energy. I spent my youth serving in the Navy and living onboard a nuclear submarine. I was constantly within 150 foot of a 160MW reactor. With proper oversight, I am 100% confident in nuclear operations. With this technology, it is too important to just let industry police themselves. We’ve seen failures when we pass off control to industry, such as the FAA certification of aircraft. Nuclear waste is a constant issue but I believe in the future technology will help us to solve this problem. I think the Biden administrations goals are stretch goals. Meaning, they are good targets but I do not believe we will ever achieve them, especially to zero by 2050. Congress is a big part of the problem. We have a market-based economy. Industry creates jobs and pays lobbyist to convince members of Congress to go against the interest of the general public and pursue those interests of the corporations. The only way Congress can have an effect would be by increased legislation. Such costs are always passed on to the consumer. We would be right back in the same supply/demand territory we are now because we all can’t afford to shift with these changes.
Tom Coulter covers politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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