Pat Butler: Rea brings another dimension to race |

Pat Butler: Rea brings another dimension to race

She is the longest of the longshots who hope to unseat the incumbent in the 4th Congressional District, an area where election landslides have been as predictable as blue skies in the summer.

But like Charles Brown, the retired Air Force pilot and Roseville Police Department employee, and Mike Holmes, the retired Navy officer and mayor of Auburn, Lisa Rea believes that the voters of this vast district want a different type of representation, a more intimate style of leadership.

“My candidacy is about how we can improve people’s quality of life and meet their day-to-day needs,” she said on a recent Thursday morning.

As does the Republican Holmes and the Democrat Brown, Rea charges that Rep. John Doolittle has lost touch with his constituents and further believes “there is a hunger for change” in this district.

When asked what distinguishes herself from the other challengers, she responds with what I imagine is typical gusto: “You can’t peg me. I truly am a maverick Democrat.”

I can sense this sort of pronouncement causing heart palpitations among the more conservative voters in this Republican stronghold.

“Just what we need, another extreme lefty liberal like Nancy Pelosi up there. I don’t think that’s going to fly for the good folks of Nevada County.”

But, perhaps, we can get beyond the stereotyping for just a moment. Let’s get to know her before we jump into the labeling mode, which ranks right behind gerrymandering and the incumbents astounding fund-raising advantage as major reasons for our typically lopsided House races.

Lisa Rea, whose mother lives on Banner Mountain Road in Nevada City, is the youngest of the four candidates and the only woman in the race. But the 48-year-old Lincoln resident has considerable experience in legislative affairs and a desire to close the distance between lawmaker and average citizen.

“I think you can lead by being a public servant,” she said. “I believe that’s possible.”

While Rea has not ran for office before, she does have experience in public affairs. According to her resume, she has worked for three members of the Legislature and was the state legislative director for the American Heart Association. The Illinois native also worked as the California director of Justice Fellowship, an affiliate of Prison Fellowship Ministries that is based in Washington, D.C.

Rea is now the president of The Justice & Reconciliation Project, a national nonprofit she founded in 2001. This organization emerged as a result of her passion for restorative justice, a concept that brings offenders and victims together in a bid to increase accountablity and aid in healing.

It is a topic that she can speak passionately about for as long as you’re willing to listen. It’s that passion and her connection to the area that makes her a candidate worth considering.

Ask her a question about an issue, and she’s blazing away with an answer before most of our brains are beginning to engage.

On the new perscription drug law: “I can’t think of a worse law. It asks seniors to pick from 47 plans. You need a Ph.D., a lawyer and a consultant to figure it out.”

Senior care: “We need nursing home reform. Our homes are abysmal. What are the standards? We also need more options for (senior) housing if their health fails.”

Government surveillance: “We seem to be giving up our personal freedoms. The government is spying on people who have done nothing wrong, who are not suspects. This is something that I would stand up against.”

Iraq war: “We are spending $6 billion a month … yet there are no timelines, no benchmarks for success and we’re ignoring our own needs at the same time. We need a timeline (for withdrawal) that’s real and benchmarks.”

Illegal immigration: “I think building a fence (on the border) is unwise. We need to work them into society legally.”

Rea also favors a more ambitious alternative-fuel program while opposing drilling in Alaska, supports a guest-worker program for illegal aliens, wants more government involvment in health care and supports developing an incentive program to at least slow the outsourcing of American jobs.

She also supported Prop. 77, which would have taken redistricting out of the hands of our state politicians. “All the districts have been gerrymandered. They need to go back to the drawing board. It’s a mess now.”

This is the third of my columns that introduces the House candidates. All of the challengers have taken the time to come to The Union newsroom and give me an hour or so of their time, which is precious when you’re running grassroots campaigns.

Since these candidates are unable to get the contributions that just fall into the lap of an incumbent, they are forced to build their support one meeting at a time, often speaking to small groups of people. If we, as voters, choose to be passive and get our information through television commercials or from right- or left-wing bloggers or special interest groups or only want to hear if someone is a Democrat or a Republican, then we are surrendering to a process that is already disenfranchising yourself.

It’s in all of our interests to hear what these candidates have to say and to take the time to look at what they’ve done and understand where they want to go.

And stay tuned to what I hope will be a good race.

Pat Butler is the editor of The Union. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 477-4235.

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