Candidate takes grassroots approach for congressional campaign

Candidate takes grassroots approach for congressional campaign
Jerry Tetalman is running for the 49th District Congressional seat. Photo by Tony Cagala

ENCINITAS — 49th District Democratic candidate Jerry Tetalman described the challenges of starting a campaign, saying it was like flying an airplane and building the airplane while you’re flying it.

What makes this campaign much more challenging is that this is Tetalman’s first entry into politics, and his opponent in the election is incumbent Darrell Issa, R-Vista, who has been the congressional representative of the 49th District for the last 10 years.

“I’ve been a political activist for a long time and I think I’m in a position to run,” Tetalman said, adding that he had helped on the campaigns of Francine Busby and others as a volunteer. “I have the time to do it; I have the inclination, and I think the country needs a change in direction.”

The author of “One World Democracy,” Tetalman said his expertise is in international politics, and is where his passion is, when asked why he was running at such a high level without any previous political experience.

“People have recommended I run for the school board or running for state assembly; I know it’s kind of a big leap, but that’s where I want to run,” he said.

Despite a massive gap in campaign funds (finance records show Issa reaching a total of $894,794 to Tetalman’s $4,995), Tetalman said the campaign is going well.

“Darrell Issa is the richest man in Congress,” Tetalman said. “You’re competing against somebody that has basically, an unlimited amount of money, or the ability to raise a large amount of money.”

Tetalman decided to run because he thought it was time for a change.

He also thinks that Issa hasn’t been challenged hard enough in the past and now that the district has been redrawn, it is a little less conservative and will give a democrat a chance of winning.

“I don’t think (Issa) represents the will of the people, where people are at in terms of their political views. So, I think it’s time for a change and I think the people feel that as well; that they’re very frustrated. Congress is at its lowest level in terms of approval, and I think he’s part of that problem.”

He described his campaign as “grassroots,” working from the bottom up. His campaign, he said, is built on volunteer support and going door-to-door and making phone calls — something that Tetalman believes Issa will be doing the exact opposite of.

“I think he will be running a more top-down campaign where he spends a lot of money on advertising,” he said.
Tetalman believes his approach can be more successful, he said, but that it really depends on the people. “I can’t do it by myself. So, it depends on the response that I get. So far, the response has been good.”

Fundraising efforts have been fueled by house parties and phone calls.Tetalman has been endorsed by the national office of Citizens for Solutions, a political activism organization, which Tetalman is a member and current vice president of the California chapter. Tetalman said he has received $1,000 from the Citizens for Global Solutions Political Action Committee. He is also seeking endorsements from some of the labor unions and the state of California democratic endorsement.

Tetalman moved to San Diego in 1978 where he worked for 10 years as a registered nurse. He’s lived in the 49th District since 1988. He’s spent 20 years working in real estate before entering politics.

“I believe that a person can reinvent themselves at any time. I’ve been successful in the past — reinventing myself — and it’s something that is worthwhile,” he said.

Working as a nurse, Tetalman said he’s gained understanding of the health care system. “I believe that health care is a human right and that the system we currently have is quite broken and we need to move to a more universal health care system.”

His real estate experience, Tetalman said, gives him the know-how to market and sell, how to interact with people and how to raise money. Tetalman also said it was the real estate industry that led the economy into the recession, but is hopeful that it can lead the economy out of it, if the right things are done.

The newly redrawn 49th district stretches from portions of Del Mar to Camp Pendleton and up to Orange County. The district also includes inland areas as Vista, where Issa’s Congressional District office is located.

“It is a coastal district,” he said. “It’s people that are environmentally conscious because they live near the ocean, is one part of it. The other thing is…it’s a fairly well-off community compared to some other parts of the county or city. It is people that want some results from their Congressman, they don’t want gridlock, they want some answers, they want some solutions.

“(Issa’s) voted pretty much consistently with the Republican Party and he doesn’t vary much on his votes and I think that part of the gridlock that we’ve had, he’s part of that. He’s signed the Grover Nordquist pledge, of no new taxes, and he’s in favor of keeping the Bush-era tax cuts, which are a gift to the wealthy. He’s looking out basically for the very wealthy.”

Tetalman said that of the complaints that he’s heard from people is that Issa is not very accessible to the average voter.

If elected, Tetalman said he would be much more accessible.

“Being a public figure, I think you really do have to meet with the people so that you can hear — it’s a two-way street — you want to have input going both ways.”

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