3 congressional candidates vie for 4th District seat | TheUnion.com

3 congressional candidates vie for 4th District seat

At a time when Congress has an 18 percent approval rating, three candidates for the 4th Congressional District seat hope to turn the ship around.

Tom McClintock, Clint Curtis and Nevada County resident Ben Emery visited The Union’s office separately this week for interviews on their policies and plans.

Incumbent Republican candidate McClintock, polished and poised after 24 years in public office, rattles off historical facts and dates with intensity and precision. He lost a bid for California governor in the 2003 recall election, but was elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 and serves on subcommittees for education, labor and pensions, water and power, and national parks.

The Elk Grove resident has been present for 99.6 percent of votes in Congress, and he votes with the majority of Republicans about 90 percent of the time.

Jovial Democrat candidate Curtis, wearing a purple-striped tie, worked as a Florida computer programmer before achieving a measure of fame in a fight against electronic voting machines. His efforts to show how easily the machines can be rigged prompted an independent documentary and some YouTube renown. Following an unsuccessful 2006 bid for representative of Florida’s 24th Congressional District, he entered law school and moved to Roseville about a year ago. He’ll find out in mid-November whether he passed the bar.

He’s most excited about attracting third-party voters to his campaign.

“It’s worth our time to compromise,” said Curtis, 52.

Independent candidate Ben Emery, dressed in a flannel shirt, baseball hat and work boots after morning chores at the Penn Valley ranch he manages, entered the race when he found nobody was opposing McClintock. The Nevada City resident is earnest and fluent on the issues, though it’s his first venture into politics after years in construction and agriculture. While he’s registered with the Green Party, 40-year-old Emery turned down contributions from the group and is running as an independent.

A major influence was January’s Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court ruled that corporations and unions have the same free speech rights as individuals and can spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns (although contributions to individuals are still limited).

“That’s the end of democracy,” Emery said.

Here’s what the three candidates had to say about the issues:

• McClintock: Elected to Congress in 2008, the Republican is critical of Bush administration forays in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But he holds a hard-line wartime position: “There is no substitute for victory.” Victory happens, McClintock said, “when the enemy completely loses its will to resist.”

McClintock opposes the rules of engagement in the Mideast wars, including efforts to “win over the hearts and minds of the people.”

“We can’t continue to fight a ‘sort of’ war,'” he said. “If they shoot at us, we can’t shoot back. We can’t fight a war like that.”

Unhappy with Gen. David Petraeus’ strategy, McClintock said he is seriously considering withdrawing his support of the wars altogether.

• Curtis: The Democrat supports a complete withdrawal of troops.

“Until we leave, they won’t step up,” Curtis said.

Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan is Curtis’ solution for the national debt.

• Emery: “We’ve met our mission. We’ve removed the Taliban, we’ve removed Saddam,” he said. “The military proved it was the best. But where we’ve failed is in winning the hearts and minds of the people. We’ve turned it into a military occupation.”

While he supports a withdrawal, Emery said pulling Americans out will create a vacuum in Iraq and Afghanistan. For a stable transition, the U.S. needs to line up an international peacekeeping force to take the reins of security.

Money now supporting the war needs to supply foreign aid to the two countries to improve destroyed infrastructure.

• McClintock’s economic strategy is reducing government spending – something he said Bush started and Obama multiplied with stimulus measures such as homebuyer’s tax credits.

“They’ve gone on to create additional bubbles,” he said. “Every time they do that, they squander billions of dollars and simply borrow from future demand … and leave a catastrophic crater when the bubble bursts.”

Increased spending is producing taxes that hamper business growth, and rack up the national debt – a problem he fears will threaten national security.

“We can’t provide for the national defense,” he said. “When the government raises this debt, where does it come from?”

He worries about a deflated dollar, which will discourage even faithful lenders such as China to stop lending.

• Curtis supports more federal earmarks to bring money to the 4th District. He criticized McClintock for not fighting aggressively on behalf of the district; one example was a recent, failed broadband grant proposal.

“You’ve got to fight for every dollar,” he said.

He also wants to raise tariffs on imports to help protect American jobs.

“We need a system that’s not free trade, but fair trade,” Curtis said.

Beyond outsourcing, most of the country’s economic problems stem from an unfair distribution of wealth, Curtis said. District 4 is getting the short end of the stick with McClintock, who wants to decrease federal allocations all around – even in his own district.

“There’s enough to go around,” Curtis said of federal money. “It’s a matter of a lot of places getting a lot more than they need.”

He’ll “fight for a big piece of the pie,” he said.

• Emery supports a program similar to Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. The forested 4th District should seek funding for a biomass plant, where brush and undergrowth in forests would be gleaned to fuel energy plants, create wood pellets, etc.

Emery sees it as a way to reduce fire danger, and promotes it as a quicker economic boost than broadband.

“We’re outdoorsy, forest people,” he said of his district. For people with manual labor backgrounds, broadband “is not going to generate instant jobs.”

• “Illegal immigration undermines the process,” McClintock said, noting 600,000 people are currently in line for legal citizenship. “You can’t support both legal and illegal immigration.”

He supports laws like the one proposed in Arizona, calling it simple enforcement, and chafes that “the federal government has no intention of enforcing” the laws on the book.

Finishing the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border is another McClintock priority.

• “We need to secure the border, but not with a fence,” Curtis said, noting that many illegal immigrants fly in rather than sneak in through the desert.

He said scooping up illegal immigrants for deportation was logistically impossible. Instead, he wants legal immigrants to sponsor illegal friends or relatives seeking citizenship.

“There needs to be a path to legalization,” Curtis said.

• Emery agrees with the premise of the Arizona law, but said the priority should be clamping down on businesses that hire illegally.

Washington doesn’t have the political will to enforce immigration laws, Emery said, because the agribusiness industry that benefits from immigrant labor has powerful lobbyists on its side.

He wants to make it easier to get a temporary work visa, so workers can enter for the harvest season, then leave. H1 visas – which allow foreign workers with specialized skills to stay in the U.S. temporarily – should be more tightly controlled so Americans get priority jobs, he said.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail mrindels@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4247.

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