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Election 2020: North County’s U.S. Congressional Candidates

Over the past two months, The Coast News sent electronic questionnaires in four batches to North County candidates in different levels of government, including federal (six candidates), state (four candidates), municipal/county (62 candidates for eight city councils and county board) and school boards (62 candidates in 12 districts).

The information contained herein is directly from all six congressional candidates in the 49th, 50th and 52nd Congressional District races (* = incumbent). We wanted to share this information with voters so they can decide for themselves who is best suited to represent their interests in public office.

In the short answer section, we limited the candidates’ responses to 350 characters (PDF version). For the relative priorities matrixes, we instructed candidates to please assign relative priorities to several issues. While these issues all have merit and aren’t always mutually exclusive, in a world of constraints, every issue can’t have high priority relative to the rest.

Graphic by Dan Brendel

Rep. Mike Levin
Mike Levin (D-49)*

Total campaign receipts (as of Sept. 30)

$2,953,603

Top 5 Donors

ActBlue PAC; California Candidates Victory Fund; Democracy Engine, Inc. PAC; Bold Democrats III PAC; Schiff Hold the House 2020

Briefly tell us about yourself and why you’re running

My top priority in Congress has been working across the aisle to deliver on our local priorities. I’m proud to have introduced more than a dozen bipartisan bills, including four that were signed into law, and that will continue to be my focus.

What are your top priorities?

It is past time that we make a comprehensive investment to repair our country and create millions of jobs. We passed a bill in the House that includes many of my priorities, including investment for VA infrastructure upgrades, renewable energy development, and new environmentally responsible water supply projects such as desalination.

What’s your basic philosophy of deficit spending and national debt?

I have two young children, and I worry about the debt that we’re leaving behind for future generations to pay off. First, we need to reverse Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-wealthy. We also need a new bipartisan Simpson-Bowles style commission to come up with additional solutions to get our fiscal house in order.

COVID-19 illustrates health disparities, on the whole, between certain racial/ethnic demographics. What do you make of these differences and what can or should be done to address them?

We need to expand access to affordable health care, particularly for underserved communities that are most susceptible to COVID-19. We should do that by strengthening the Affordable Care Act and maintaining protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Trump’s efforts to undermine the ACA during a pandemic are unconscionable.

Where do you see an opportunity for fruitful compromise or collaboration across the partisan aisle?

As the representative for thousands of veterans in North County San Diego and South Orange County, passing bipartisan legislation for veterans and their families has been one of my top priorities. I’ve had the honor of introducing nine bipartisan bills that have passed the House to help veterans and four more bills that were signed into law.

For your highest priority issue above, why is it your highest and how would you address it?

Our top priority must be to beat the COVID-19 pandemic — until then, we won’t be able to get our economy back on track and address all of the other issues our nation faces. We must listen to the public health experts, follow the health precautions, and provide more relief for working families, frontline workers, and others.

For your lowest priority issue above, why is it your lowest and how would you address it?

I don’t consider any of these issues to be a low priority.


Brian Maryott (R-49)

Total campaign receipts (as of Sept. 30)

$1,751,229

Top 5 Donors

Brian Maryott; WinRed PAC; Take Back the House 2020 PAC; Take Back the House California 2020 PAC; Print Mail Communications, Inc.

Briefly tell us about yourself and why you’re running

As a certified financial planner, I spent my career helping families save and plan for the future. As your congressman, I’ll work to protect choice in healthcare, foster economic growth, keep our communities safe, and get our children back in school.

What are your top priorities?

It’s important that going forward, we work to leverage any federal dollars we spend on infrastructure. A focus on public-private partnerships will create services that are in demand and cost-effective.  We need projects that will provide us with reliable water supply, and efficient transit. I will partner with either administration to deliver that.

What’s your basic philosophy of deficit spending and national debt?

With a crisis like COVID-19, deficit spending is necessary. However, when looking at the staggering level of current debt in our country, we have to put our collective nose to the grindstone and do the work necessary to get a handle on the annual deficit, and eventually begin to pay down debt. We owe you that to our children and future generations.

COVID-19 illustrates health disparities, on the whole, between certain racial/ethnic demographics. What do you make of these differences and what can or should be done to address them?

It’s possible that genetics are a factor — but it’s more likely that health disparities are correlated with socioeconomic status. We have to increase opportunities in areas that are challenged economically. Employers in these areas need additional tax and regulatory relief, as do our low socioeconomic families, in addition to access to healthcare.

Where do you see an opportunity for fruitful compromise or collaboration across the partisan aisle?

The critical issues of the day — economic policy, healthcare, environment, and immigration — all present opportunities to improve results for Americans. Our politicians in Congress, including my opponent, appear more interested in being partisan political celebrities than effective legislators. Sadly, little has changed during the COVID crisis.

For your highest priority issue above, why is it your highest and how would you address it?

Healthcare is a critical opportunity. The entire structure is jeopardized by Mike Levin and other “progressives” and their determination to nationalize it. Once we sideline that irresponsible initiative we can turn our attention to making needed improvements. More choices, more innovation, lower costs, and a stronger safety net for our vulnerable.

For your lowest priority issue above, why is it your lowest and how would you address it?

It’s only low in a relative sense. Our homeland security (more broadly) is of paramount importance. We have a tremendous structure in place, and tens of thousands of dedicated professionals working to keep our homeland safe. I will work with either administration in January and I will be a vote for a safe, secure, and always sovereign border.


Ammar Campa-Najjar (D-50)

Total campaign receipts (as of Sept. 30)

$3,043,705

Top 5 Donors

ActBlue PAC; JStreet PAC; Democracy Engine, Inc. PAC; G. Dwyer; M. Enriquez

Briefly tell us about yourself and why you’re running

I was born in East County, raised by a working-class mom. Worked as a church janitor, executive for a National Chamber of Commerce, former federal official, and now small business owner. I’m running to help people live, work, and retire with dignity.

What are your top priorities?

California pays more federal taxes than any state, we receive less federal resources than we invest every year. Similar to President Eisenhower’s national program (interstate highway), I’ll work to broker a 2 trillion dollar infrastructure reform plan that Trump and Democratic leadership nearly passed in 2019 and prioritize rural broadband.

What’s your basic philosophy of deficit spending and national debt?

Federal investments should be revenue-neutral. We’d save over a trillion dollars and reinvest in our economy while protecting social security/medicare by modernizing outdated government bureaucracy, helping people transition from welfare to workforce programs, and cut small business taxes by ending giveaways to corporations that ship jobs abroad.

COVID-19 illustrates health disparities, on the whole, between certain racial/ethnic demographics. What do you make of these differences and what can or should be done to address them?

Income inequality has made access to affordable healthcare and nutrition disproportionally out of reach for Hispanic, black, and rural communities. While living in rural areas partially insulates us, people of color are often the essential workers exposed. In Congress, I’ll invest in the economic and public health needs of those most impacted.

Where do you see an opportunity for fruitful compromise or collaboration across the partisan aisle?

At the Department of Labor, I help lead the nationwide effort to double and diversify the number of apprenticeships in America, an earn-while-you-learn job that pays workers an average of $70,000 a year. I’ll work across the aisle to allocate over $90 million toward apprenticeships, similar to the bipartisan plans passed annually since 2016.

For your highest priority issue above, why is it your highest and how would you address it?

We’re borrowing this planet from our children, that’s why we must lead rather than cede America’s energy future to other countries. I want to make bold American investments in renewable energy that will create jobs, spur small business innovation, reduce our carbon footprint, and save our planet from the worst calamities of climate change.

For your lowest priority issue above, why is it your lowest and how would you address it?

The issues ranked lowest above are all important to me and part of my overarching strategy to grow our economy from the middle class out and once again ensure that everyone can live, work, and retire with dignity.


Darrell Issa (R-50)

Total campaign receipts (as of Sept. 30)

$8,221,308

Top 5 Donors

Darrell Issa; Issa Victory Fund PAC; House Freedom Fund PAC; WinRed PAC; General Atomics PAC

Briefly tell us about yourself and why you’re running

I raised my family and built my business in our district. I was blessed to have that business grow to become successful. I’m running for the same reason I enlisted in the army — out of a sense of duty to my country and to give back to our community.

What are your top priorities?

Much of the Highway Trust Fund, which our Federal Fuel Tax pays into, is wasted funding and subsidizing costly, inefficient, and wasteful mass-transit programs in major metropolitan areas. These funds should be prioritized for road construction and surface transportation projects.

What’s your basic philosophy of deficit spending and national debt?

When you find yourself in a hole — stop digging. America doesn’t have a revenue problem. Congress has a spending problem. The most important way we can reduce deficit spending is to adopt across the board caps on spending increases. 6% year over year increases are unsustainable. If we don’t act, the Debt is will exceed 100% of GDP in 2021.

COVID-19 illustrates health disparities, on the whole, between certain racial/ethnic demographics. What do you make of these differences and what can or should be done to address them?

Our failure to stockpile adequate resources was a preparedness failure that we have learned a lesson from. Our overconfidence in our public health system is why I do not support a single-payer government takeover of healthcare. Our district’s families in greatest need rely on elements of our public health system, and they have been let down.

Where do you see an opportunity for fruitful compromise or collaboration across the partisan aisle?

In the last Congress, I worked on H-1B reform across the aisle with fellow San Diego Congressman Scott Peters. Our Bill would have closed loopholes in the program that have allowed a small handful of employers to game the system to displace American workers and crowd out others who legitimately need the limited slots available.

For your highest priority issue above, why is it your highest and how would you address it?

[Declined to respond, see below.]

For your lowest priority issue above, why is it your lowest and how would you address it?

I declined to fill out your issue priority matrix because you asked me to label some of these issues as “low priority.” All of these issues are a high priority for me. As an experienced member of Congress, I know how to simultaneously work on legislation that covers a wide variety of issue areas. My track record speaks for itself. The legislation that I’ve passed, either as the primary sponsor or a co-sponsor, covers a diverse range of issues.


Scott Peters (D-52)*

Total campaign receipts (as of Sept. 30)

$1,515,380

Top 5 Donors

ActBlue PAC; Amalgamated Bank; Scott Peters; New Democrat Coalition PAC; D. Weiner

Briefly tell us about yourself and why you’re running

I’m a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee where I focus on climate change, renewable energy innovation, and ensuring access to affordable health care. I’m running for re-election to continue to fight for these and other priorities.

What are your top priorities?

I’ve passed bipartisan legislation to ensure infrastructure is more resilient to climate-related events like extreme weather. I introduced the GRID Act to address threats to the electric grid from nature, terrorism, or cyberattacks, as well as a bill to incentivize affordable housing near federally funded transit projects which protect taxpayers.

What’s your basic philosophy of deficit spending and national debt?

The national debt is at its highest level as a % of GDP since the ’40s; this badly hurts our ability to respond to emergencies and threats. I’ve worked toward a sustainable budget path, where debt grows slower than the economy. I voted against the irresponsible Republican tax cuts of 2017. I was named a “Fiscal Hero” by the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

COVID-19 illustrates health disparities, on the whole, between certain racial/ethnic demographics. What do you make of these differences and what can or should be done to address them?

These disparities are due to inequity in Americans’ access to affordable health care. Also, people of color make up a disproportionate share of our essential workers. The answer is access to health care. The COVID relief bills I helped pass boosted access to testing, health care, paid leave and Personal Protective Equipment for essential workers.

Where do you see an opportunity for fruitful compromise or collaboration across the partisan aisle?

The bipartisan USE IT Act I introduced promotes investment in carbon capture technology to reduce emissions. It has 23 Republican co-sponsors and recently passed in the Senate. My Employer Participation Repayment Act, which creates a matching program for employers to help workers pay off student debt, has 103 GOP cosponsors. It recently became law.

For your highest priority issue above, why is it your highest and how would you address it?

All of these are critical; it would be impossible to rank order them. I prioritize my time and my staff’s time based on issues to which I can lend the most expertise and those most important to San Diego’s economy: national defense, scientific research, trade, the border, immigration reform, climate, the environment, and access to healthcare.

For your lowest priority issue above, why is it your lowest and how would you address it?

There are many areas I care about a great deal that I don’t dedicate as much of my time or my staff’s time to because that legislation is better crafted by my colleagues who have greater direct experience or expertise. We learn from them and then do our own research. Congress is supposed to work together to get things done; that’s my approach.


Jim DeBello (R-52)

Total campaign receipts (as of Sept. 30)

$308,945

Top 5 Donors

Jim DeBello; P. Ralph; G. Lucier; D. Scheper; C. DeBello

Briefly tell us about yourself and why you’re running

I am a technology entrepreneur that co-invented mobile check deposit and have experience working in 6 different countries, including China. I am disappointed in the lack of leadership we are getting from Congress and believe change is needed.

What are your top priorities?

Our nation’s infrastructure has not kept pace with technology and is one of the most disappointing failures for those in a leadership position to change it. Government is both much needed, as well as the biggest hindrance to progress.  There is far too much red tape between local, state, and federal jurisdictions. Cutting that is #1 top priority.

What’s your basic philosophy of deficit spending and national debt?

The question is when is a dollar of debt worth more to our future? The crisis we find ourselves in today is a clear example. But when we start leveraging our children’s future to pay for the mistakes we made today, without any sacrifice, then it becomes undesirable. This is a rampant problem in Washington and needs a much more thoughtful approach.

COVID-19 illustrates health disparities, on the whole, between certain racial/ethnic demographics. What do you make of these differences and what can or should be done to address them?

It is sad and unfortunate that these disparities exist. We must look at the data and work to resolve the root of the issue. Too often politicians want to take a picture for a camera rather than roll up their sleeves and fix the problem. These problems have been plaguing our urban communities for decades but their leadership remains the same.

Where do you see an opportunity for fruitful compromise or collaboration across the partisan aisle?

The beauty of America is our diversity. To me, every issue has room for collaboration. Whenever possible, we should push decision making to the local level so that communities can be making the best decisions for themselves. Specifically, at the federal level, the environment and immigration require us to come together with our best ideas.

For your highest priority issue above, why is it your highest and how would you address it?

Fiscal policy is the highest because that is what is most needed at this moment and for the foreseeable future. We must get the economy opened back up by using data, not emotions, to do it safely. This will require all tools at our disposal to ensure our economy recovers and gets back to thriving. Everything else on this list is 100% dependent on it.

For your lowest priority issue above, why is it your lowest and how would you address it?

To say that any of these issues are the lowest priority is a misuse of the word, but an issue that is very important but does not require our full and immediate attention is perhaps Trade. But even trade will factor into the success of our economy and is a tool we must implement.

For more information about your legislative district, please check out The Coast News interactive North County elections map. Enter your address and find your federal, state, local and school board representatives.