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Who’s Really Best for the 3rd District

Too bad there’s not an instant replay for political endorsements since the Sacramento Bee recently made a highly questionable call by choosing Dan Lungren over Dr. Ami Bera in the 3rd District Congressional race. “By a slim margin,” the Bee argued, stating that Bera’s grasp of the nation’s and district’s “vast challenges” isn’t “as wide as it should be.”

What are these “vast challenges” and what are the two candidates' positions about them?

Lungren’s record on the economy and jobs is dismal: voting against the 2009 Recovery Act stimulus and unemployment extensions – job creators/savers – and recently voting against a $30 billion small business lending and tax breaks bill (more jobs help), but voting earlier for the much larger $700 billion TARP bailout of Wall Street. Lungren touts his pro-jobs position and Chamber of Commerce support, but doesn’t walk the talk when voting on jobs and small business (creater of most new jobs). By contrast, challenger Bera is far more supportive of small business, unveiling his economic plan in June to create jobs – a plan highlighted by many measures to help small business similar to those recently signed into law by President Obama with bipartisan support (except, of course, that of Lungren who's known for never "crossing the aisle").  

Bera’s views on national security, clear objectives for the Afghanistan war and greater use of intelligence to combat al Qaeda, make far more sense than Lungren’s position to simply rely on General Petraeus’ views about the ground war. Similarly on immigration, where Bera advocates positive steps of fines, back taxes and learning English for those here illegally to become citizens while Lungren simply opposes what he calls “amnesty,” a position commonly acknowledged as nonsense given the millions of such people in the U.S. who both work and contribute.

While Lungren voted against financial reform legislation that would help financial consumers and regulate Wall Street, Bera supports cleaning up Wall Street and the lender and corporate excesses that brought the economy down.

Major differences in each candidate’s approach to energy and the environment: Bera argues for reducing reliance on fossil fuels – recognizing the connection between environmental reform, jobs and national security – and for promoting District 3 as a leader in clean energy like wind and solar. By contrast, Lungren’s narrow approach would perpetuate the consumption of oil. Last year he voted against “cash for clunkers” vouchers for fuel efficient cars and against the House climate change bill.

Bera’s medical practice and management backgrounds make him ideal for work on further health care reform of its delivery, access, and cost containment. Like his Republican colleagues, Lungren favors repealing existing health care reform and presumably letting health costs eat up the country’s resources.

Lungren’s ethical lapses are famous, including a trip to Hawaii during which he subverted a 2007 law to prevent travel gifts by lobbyists, and his cavalier 2008 campaign quip when asked about taking money from big oil interests, he smirked, “…if I could get more (oil money), I’d take more.”

Bera’s integrity in his Sacramento area activities is confirmed by those many individuals with whom he's worked during a nearly two-decade local career. Moreover, Bera’s campaign financing consists of virtually all individual contributions and is far more “grass roots” than Lungren’s financing, about half PAC (corporate and special interest) and half individual contributions.

The Bee’s headline suggestion that Lungren is “taking care of the home turf” is hardly supported by his meager record of securing appropriations, grants and contracts for regional interests. Indeed, he is a career politician who represented Long Beach in Congress for 10 years, served two terms as California Attorney General, ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1998, then chose to continue his political career by running for representative of the safely-gerrymandered-conservative (at the time) 3rd District – a move reminiscent of the grand political tradition of the “carpetbaggers.” (Lungren’s “crowning achievement” as AG, the “Three Strikes Law,” has jailed thousands of nonviolent offenders, overcrowded State prisons and bloated the State’s impossible budget imbalance.)

Dr. Bera, by contrast, has worked nearly two decades on the home turf of the Sacramento region for local public and private health agencies, engaged in duties ranging from volunteer to health professional to teacher to board member – a substantial commitment and contribution to the communities of District 3.

Bera proves to be the superior candidate on every important current challenge, bringing a breath of fresh air and new political strategy to District 3. Lungren represents doing the same tired things over and over again and expecting or hoping for a different result, which (as the old saying goes) is a bit daft.


The author is an economist, writer and small business owner in Sacramento whose firm consults with colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.





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