REGION — Sensing voter unease about a too-far-leftward drift in Washington and Sacramento, three North County Republican candidates expressed optimism at a July 30 virtual forum about unseating Democrat incumbent rivals come November.
“There’s a silent majority out there who are deeply concerned and don’t like what they see on their TVs, don’t like the [left’s] rhetoric,” said Republican Jim DeBello, who’s running against Democrat incumbent Scott Peters for the 52nd congressional district. The 52nd includes Rancho Santa Fe, part of eastern North County, much of the City of San Diego and Coronado.
As a bellwether, DeBello pointed to Republican Mike Garcia’s May victory in a special election for Los Angeles County’s 25th congressional district. Republicans long held that seat until it flipped to Democrats in 2018, only to flip back.
Similarly, though Peters has held the 52nd since 2013, Democrats only recently won the two other participating candidates’ districts.
Republican Brian Maryott is challenging Democrat incumbent Mike Levin for the 49th congressional district, which includes most of North County, Camp Pendleton and part of Orange County. Republican Darrell Issa held the seat for 16 years until Levin won it in 2018.
Republican Melanie Burkholder is challenging Democrat incumbent Tasha Boerner Horvath for the 76th state assembly district, which includes Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, Encinitas and Camp Pendleton. Republican Rocky Chavez held the seat since 2012 redistricting until Boerner Horvath won it in 2018.
The forum was hosted by San Diego Young Republicans’ Morgan Kimbarow.
Candidates expressed particular concern about animus against law enforcement institutions.
The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police “was a cold-blooded murder. … We’ve got work to do. But it can’t be a hysterical reaction,” Maryott said. A years-long erosion of law and order has “snowballed” into a “complete anarchy movement,” communicating that “it’s okay to run wild and there’ll be minimal consequences.”
“We are not going to turn a blind eye to … violent police officers or any with racial bias …. But we are not going to strip them of any benefit of the doubt,” he said. Defunding police “is not something that I believe matches the tastes of our district.”
Maryott is married with three children. Following a career as a certified financial planner, he now serves as San Juan Capistrano’s mayor.
“I have no patience for” calls to defund police, Burkholder said. “If you’ve never put on a bulletproof vest and said, ‘I’m going to go out and take a bullet,’ you don’t know what it’s like.”
Burkholder, a Secret Service agent turned counselor, lives with her husband and two children in Carlsbad.
“We have emasculated our police officers,” DeBello said. “I am absolutely pro-fund the police. … There are bad cops occasionally, let’s get rid of them. …. Let’s encourage [unions] to get out of the way so we can actually make our forces lean with excellence.”
DeBello is known for his tech and business savvy, having led Mitek Systems, a firm, and holding five patents.
The Republican hopefuls disclaimed various moves by Democrats as overreach or overspending.
“We all have to be concerned about what the hard left wants to do to our health care, taking all options out of our hands,” Maryott said, citing the Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384), which Levin co-sponsored. “We have to work so hard to keep our country on a middle track.”
Medicare for All would, according to the bill’s text, make it “unlawful for a private health insurer to sell health insurance” or for “an employer to provide benefits … that duplicate the benefits provided [by the federal government] under this Act.”
Maryott called the Democrats’ HEROES Act, a $3 trillion COVID-19 induced economic stimulus for which Levin voted, “overspending at an absurd level,” compared to the Republicans’ $1 trillion HEALS Act.
“It is on the back of [young people’s] effort that we’re borrowing,” Maryott said. “Future generations will be paying this money back for decades.”
Burkholder spoke against Assembly Bill 5 — a 2019 state law Boerner Horvath voted to support — which curtails employers’ ability to hire certain freelancers and independent contractors.
“We should be able to work wherever we want for whom we want and when we want,” she said. “The number one role of government is to keep people safe. That’s not keeping them safe. … They’re losing their livelihoods. They can’t work at a time when, if I were a freelance writer, I could sit at my computer during a pandemic and make money and provide for my family.”
Regarding school closures, Maryott called blanket state-mandated primary and secondary school closures “terrible for our children,” since “these are the years where they’re having their hardwiring come together.”
“This is why school choice is so important,” Burkholder said. “I took my kid out of public school and I put him in a charter school about two weeks into it because I didn’t think he was going to thrive in … distance learning.”
“There’re all sorts of different options, but we get no money for that,” she said. “Taxpayers are still paying for it [but] the money is going to the school, not the students. When the President talks about a voucher system, that’s what he’s alluding to. Vouchers follow the child.”
Though the forum took a dim view of the Green New Deal, DeBello and Burkholder expressed concern about the environment.
“We all want clean air, clean water, bright blue skies, and we want to reduce the footprint of pollution in our communities, in our country and globally,” DeBello said. According to his campaign web site, “climate change is our ultimate environmental challenge.”
But “as good as wind and solar are, [they] will not solve our problems without a vast array of batteries that require lithium that require mining in … places that are not desirable,” he said.
Wary of over-optimism about renewables, he favors developing next-generation nuclear power.