When Rep. Christopher Cox was appointed to head the Securities and Exchange Commission in August, he vacated a seat in the House of Representatives that he had held since 1989.
Now, 17 candidates from the 48th Congressional District in Orange County are vying to fill the vacancy. Fourteen candidates assembled in the Irvine City Council Chambers on Sept. 20 to discuss key issues in an event cosponsored by UC Irvine and the City of Irvine.
The candidates in attendance were Republicans John Kelly, Edward Suppe, Marilyn Brewer, Marsha Morris, Guy Mailly, Scott MacCabe, Don Udall and David Crouch; Democrats John Graham, Tom Pallow and Bea Foster; Independent Jim Gilchrist; Green Bea Tiritilli; and Libertarian Bruce Cohen.
Democrat Steve Young and Republican John Campbell were not in attendance. Republican Marshall Sanders is rumored to have dropped out of the race.
Candidates were asked questions in three areas: budget and health care, leadership and foreign affairs, and local projects. At the end of the forum, audience members were able to submit questions of their own.
One of the issues that was addressed by several candidates was what to do about undocumented immigrants.
Gilchrist, who has gained recognition for founding the controversial Minuteman Project, said that although the issue is important to him, he is not a ‘one-issue candidate.’
‘Illegal immigration is a multiissue crisis, threatening our national security and social and economic well-being at the federal, state and local levels,’ Gilchrist said.
Mailly agreed that undocumented immigration is a ‘fundamental issue that is affecting California.’
‘We must do everything in our power to secure our borders,’ Mailly said. ‘I favor that we do not provide medical benefits to undocumented workers. I favor that we do not provide education to undocumented workers.’
MacCabe said that the lack of border control is an issue of sovereignty.
‘I do believe that we need to secure our borders,’ MacCabe said. ‘We are a sovereign nation that can no longer control its borders and therefore we lose some of our sovereignty. It is not a situation where we’re dealing with cultural concerns. It is not a situation where there’s any bigoted response.’
Tiritilli thought that it was important to address the reasons that people are crossing the border illegally. ‘Why are people risking their lives to cross the border?’ Tiritilli said. ‘I think U.S. policies are part of the reason they are doing it. We keep pushing free trade on our southern neighbors when I believe we should be pushing fair trade.’
Cohen said that the problem stemmed from governmental inefficiency.
‘Clearly, we need to do a better job with our border enforcement and we need to streamline our Department of Immigration,’ Cohen said. ‘The smallest part of your taxes that go to Washington are actually spent on what they’re intended to be spent on.’
Crouch, a Republican, said that he felt his party was not doing enough.
‘I’m the guy that writes the nasty letters to the Republican party because we’re being invaded by illegals,’ Crouch said. ‘We need to secure our borders [and] secure our identification.’
Another issue that weighed heavily upon the minds of candidates was the continuing war in Iraq.
‘I’d demand that we get out now and get the United Nations in there and we’d tell other countries who would like to join the coalition that they too could have some of the spoils,’ Foster said. ‘Unfortunately, that’s a colonialist attitude and that’s why we’re in there. We’re allowing companies that have set up business there to take 100 percent out. … People should just be aware of how evil this whole war is.’
Graham said that involving the international community was the best way to expedite the withdrawal of American troops.
‘We need to have a due date for leaving Iraq and a plan for leaving Iraq, and it has to involve international cooperation,’ Graham said. ‘The problem is George Bush hasn’t been able to get anyone to cooperate on much of anything. His ‘bring ’em on’ foreign policy just doesn’t work.’
Kelly agreed that troops should be withdrawn, but he did not want to ‘do a half-assed job in our departure.’
‘I would wholeheartedly support a thorough cleanup job there and have a finite date to depart from there and help the fine people in Iraq and assure them that they will be successful in their sovereignty,’ Kelly said.
Stem-cell research was a third topic that was discussed.
‘I think stem-cell research is very important,’ Morris said. ‘Other countries right now are actually leading in stem-cell research. People think that you only get stem cells from aborted fetuses. That’s not the only place you get stem cells. … We are one of the strongest and wealthiest nations and we should be the leaders in research.’
Same-sex marriage had both proponents and opponents among the candidates.
‘To all those folks out there who feel that if gays were suddenly able to get married, that somehow that would have an adverse effect on marriage in general and their marriages, I say to them that they should probably go to marriage counseling … if their marriages are that weak,’ Pallow said.
Even among those candidates that opposed same-sex marriage, most did not feel that Congress should get involved in the issue.
I’m old fashioned, and I believe in marriage between a man and a woman,’ Brewer said. ‘I don’t think Congress should get involved. … I do not believe in changing the Constitution of the United States to address social issues.’
Udall agreed that Congress should not become involved.
‘I think it’s entirely wrong for Congress to get involved in that,’ Udall said. ‘On the other hand, I strongly believe that the initiative was correct when California handily passed the initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It’s harmful for children, it seems to me, to be raised in homes where they don’t have a mom and a dad. …. On the other hand, you have to be very careful to sustain and support [the rights of homosexuals].’
Suppe spoke about how to deal with rising costs of fuel.
‘President Bush is afraid to ask the American people to make sacrifices,’ Suppe said. ‘I think that the president … should ask us to maybe put aside some of our arguments and allow us to drill for oil in some areas that we’re not drilling right now and also to spend some time building some new refineries. … You’re not going to have hydrogen or other power come on line quick.’
The special election will be held on Oct. 4.