NORTH COUNTY — On Nov. 4, registered voters from the 49th Congressional District will have to decide which candidate will best represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 110th Congress. The choices are the Republican incumbent, Congressman Darrell Issa, or his challenger, Democrat Robert Hamilton. Polls show that the majority of voters have already made up their mind but as the past few elections have shown us, it’s often the undecided voters that can sway an election.
Darrell Issa was first elected to Congress in 2000 and serves on a number of committees including the House Government Reform Committee where he is ranking member of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee; the House Permanent Select Committee
on Intelligence where he serves
as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management; and the House Judiciary Committee. Issa is perhaps best known as the leader of the successful attempt to recall former Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. Though Issa had his eye on the governor’s seat for himself,
fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger ultimately won the election. It was not the first time Issa had been unsuccessful campaigning for a nomination. His first foray into politics, in 1998, was an attempt to secure the Republication nomination for U.S. Senate, to run against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. Despite pumping $12 million of his personal fortune into his campaign, he lost the nomination to California State Treasurer Matt Fong, who, in the end, lost the election to Boxer.
The Democratic challenger is Robert Hamilton, a retired businessman living in Fallbrook. Hamilton became president of the Fallbrook Democratic Club and was then elected to the State Central Committee and the State Party Executive Board. In a phone interview, Hamilton said why he is running for office: “We have a mess on our hands with this economy. We need to get in there and fix it. It’ll be tough, but we can do it. I also want to represent everyone in the district, not just a select few. We have people of all colors, all walks of life. This job calls for representing all of them.”
Hamilton’s career was spent in finances. He started as a loan officer for Bank of America, and spent much of his time working and living abroad, in Caracas, Venezuela, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He claims his most rewarding experience was with American Express as a director of marketing and sales in Spain. “I lived there for three and a half years,” he said. “But living abroad is nothing new to me. I grew up in Havana, Cuba.” Although born in Illinois, Hamilton’s parents moved to Cuba, but the family fled the country with only $5 in their pockets when Castro came into power. “It was an opportunity to see how current events affects peoples lives,” he said. “During that time John Kennedy was a real inspiration to me. That’s when my interest (in politics) developed.”
So where do the candidates stand on the two major issues?
Darrell Issa: Voted against the recent bailout package in Congress. When the bill passed, he issued this statement: “The vote today to pass a Wall Street bailout package is a tragic defeat for taxpayers. We are being saddled with a $700 billion bill for risky decisions made by Wall Street financiers and a plan that has little chance of resolving the underlying problems in the financial markets. Taxpayers are outraged, and they should be.”
Robert Hamilton: “I am beholden to no special interests and am strongly committed to putting our fiscal house in order. I will reach across the aisle in an honest effort to cut unnecessary spending and will pursue a ‘pay-go’ policy that requires new programs to be paid for by other cuts in spending.”
The war in Iraq
Darrell Issa: “I have been vocally critical of the current administration for the many mistakes made in Iraq following the 2003 invasion and continue to believe that more needs to be done to push a process of political reconciliation. In my current assessment, however, the ‘surge’ strategy that began in early 2007 has yielded dramatic strategic gains against Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgents, created an extended window for reconciliation to take place, and, as General Petraeus noted, has allowed the Iraqi government to continue building its security forces. … As a member of Congress serving on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, I will continue my efforts to actively evaluate the situation in the Middle East and to meet with military leaders, diplomats and foreign leaders about our best course of action.”
Robert Hamilton: “We need to gradually, responsibly withdraw our troops from Iraq as soon as possible so that we will be able to effectively fight the terrorist networks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other parts of the world. … We should have our troops out by the end of 2009. We need to bring other countries into the effort to preserve the progress that has been made and pressure the Iraqis to resolve their political issues. For the most part, our allies and friends have abandoned us because of their dislike for the current administration’s foreign policies. We need to re-establish a good working relationship with our allies and include Iraq’s neighbors, who want to avoid the spill over chaos of all-out civil war.”
In the end, it will be up to the voters to decide which candidate is best qualified. “Whatever happens, it’s been quite an adventure,” Hamilton said. “I’m running against a formidable candidate. He thinks he can’t lose. We’ll see what happens.”
For more information on either candidate, go to their Web sites at issa.house.gov. or roberthamiltonforcongress.com.