REGION — The former mayor of San Juan Capistrano is challenging the 49th Congressional District’s freshman congressman for his two-year seat in office.
In November 2018, Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) was elected to serve the 49th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes parts of South Orange County and North San Diego County, stretching from Dana Point all the way to just north of La Jolla.
Brian Maryott, Levin’s challenger, is a certified financial planner and the former mayor of San Juan Capistrano.
According to Levin, his top priority while serving in Congress has been to deliver on the district’s local needs by working across the aisle.
During his two years in office, Levin co-sponsored over 356 bills, resolutions and amendments. The majority of those bills were bipartisan.
Levin added that one of his top priorities has been passing bipartisan legislation for veterans and their families.
“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,” Levin said.
Republican Brian Maryott, who is the former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, said Levin is “ill-suited to serve the veterans of this district and the families of those in service,” particularly due to his association with the “progressive caucus.”
“Mike’s inclusion in the progressive caucus, a caucus where one of the universally dominant themes is reduced military spending,” Maryott said.
Maryott explained that Levin’s association with the progressive caucus, particularly with Reps. Ilhan Omar and Jerry Nadler as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders, suggests Levin will support reduced military spending. According to a spokesperson for Levin, that is absolutely not the case.
“It doesn’t sound like Councilmember Brian Maryott has taken the time to study Congressman Levin’s record,” said Eric Mee, a spokesperson for Levin, in an email. “Rep. Levin voted multiple times to increase defense spending — even when the Progressive Caucus opposed those bills — and he successfully secured $128 million in military construction funding for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).”
Maryott also said Levin “fights harder for federal employee unions than he does for veterans.”
“His healthcare proposal that he is an original co-sponsor of, which is H.R. 1384, would move our retired veterans from a TRICARE system, a system that they love, in a two-year period to a 100% government-run system under which their eligibility status for care would be exactly the same as any other resident of the country, including an illegal immigrant,” Maryott said.
Mee responded to Maryott’s claim by pointing out that Levin wants to strengthen VA healthcare but doesn’t want to privatize it.
“He supported an appropriations bill that provided $90 billion for Veterans Medical Care, $10 billion for mental health care, and nearly $2 billion to help veterans get off the streets,” Mee said. “
Mee also added that TRICARE is already run by the government, and military retirees would keep their existing benefits under H.R. 1384.
“On the other hand, Brian wants to dismantle the VA and let our veterans fend for themselves within the private insurance marketplace,” Mee said.
According to his campaign website, Maryott opposes “nationalizing” the country’s healthcare system and wants to increase competition in the healthcare field, which he believes will lower healthcare costs and improve the quality of care. He also wants to increase healthcare choices for veterans.
Maryott believes progressives, noting Levin, are jeopardizing healthcare by trying to nationalize it.
“Once we sideline that irresponsible initiative we can turn our attention to making needed improvements,” Maryott said. “More choices, more innovation, lower costs and a stronger safety net for our vulnerable.”
According to his campaign website, Levin wants to work toward a Medicare for All Type healthcare system, but feels that Congress needs to repair and strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Specifically, Levin is interested in exploring the implementation of a “public option,” an early buy-in to Medicare coverage within health insurance marketplaces and the hiring of full-time federal enrollment assisters to help with the enrollment process.
“We need to expand access to affordable health care, particularly for underserved communities that are most susceptible to COVID-19,” Levin said. “We should do that by strengthening the Affordable Care Act and maintaining protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”
As part of his priorities, Levin said he is also focusing on creating jobs and investing in infrastructure.
“It’s past time that we make a comprehensive investment to repair our country and create millions of jobs,” Levin said. “I passed a bill in the House that includes many of my priorities, including investment for VA (Veteran Affairs) infrastructure upgrades, renewable energy development, and new environmentally responsible water supply projects such as desalination.”
Maryott wants to leverage federal dollars that are spent on infrastructure with a focus on public-private partnerships to “create services that are in demand and cost-effective.”
“We need projects that will provide us with reliable water supply, and efficient transit,” Maryott said. “I will partner with either administration to deliver that.”
Levin is particularly concerned about the nation’s debt and how it will affect future generations like his own two young children.
“First, we need to reverse Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-wealthy,” Levin said. “We also need a new bipartisan Simpson-Bowles style commission to come up with additional solutions to get our fiscal house in order.”
Maryott believes deficit spending is necessary when it comes to a crisis like COVID-19, but emphasized the nation really needs work on paying down its debts.
“We owe that to our children and future generations,” Maryott said.
For more information on these candidates, check out The Coast News’ U.S. Congressional races overview here.