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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

CA26 debate liveblog between Julia Brownley & Tony Strickland

by David Atkins

One of the top contested districts in the country is CA26 spanning most of Ventura county, California. The race is between Republican tea party State Senator Tony Strickland, and Democratic Assemblymember Julia Brownley. The district leans slightly Democratic. Tonight Cal Lutheran University is hosting the first debate between the candidates, and I'll be liveblogging it here in a few moments...

7:03 A bunch of Republicans, one of them reeking of cologne, have occupied the front row reserved for the Press. Hilarious.

7:07 The debate is getting started a little late. Brownley and Strickland both waiting at the podia.

7:13 Moderators are Timm Herdt, Henry Duboff of Pacific Coast Business Times. So a centrist and a conservative. Balance!

7:16 Brownley: "Ventura County has a choice it hasn't had in decades...We want to protect Medicare and Social Security, and a woman's right to choose...President Obama needs a Congress that will help him expand the middle class and move the country forward." Good opening statement.

7:17 Strickland: "Are we going to leave the next generation in a better spot than what we found?" "I don't care if it's a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, if it's a good idea I'm all in." Strickland continues his fraudulent "moderate" credentials. Strickland is one of the most extreme Republicans in the California State Senate, and leader of the so-called "Taxpayers Caucus." But Strickland knows that he has to pretend to be a moderate to win.

7:20 Herdt: Both of you say your opponents are too extreme for Ventura County. What is it that makes your opponent too extreme? BROWNLEY: "Two candidates with different visions and values. Mine is to grow the economy by strengthening the middle class." Wants to protect Medicare and Social Security the way we know it. Have the wealthy pay their fair share so we can protect Medicare and Social Security. Protecting a woman's right to choose. My opponent wants to privatize and voucherize Medicare and Social Security, turn the clock back on women's rights, and cut taxes on the wealthy.

STRICKLAND: Stresses how he lived in Ventura County. Lies about her never having lived in Ventura County. Capitol Weekly rates the legislators based on their voting record. Talks up Nancy Pelosi talking Brownley into coming to the district, uses his "didn't need to use Mapquest to get here." Basically, it's an anti-SanFran, anti-Los Angeles campaign of division while claiming to be a moderate.

Brownley responds as well.

7:25Duboff asks about the fiscal cliff and Simpson Bowles. Would you endorse or support something along the lines of Simpson Bowles? Duboff uses a bunch of glowing words about Simpson Bowles, in a horribly biased question.

STRICKLAND: The best way to get out of the fiscal crisis is to make sure we create jobs. Right now the economy is stagnant. The best way to get out of this fiscal mess is to grow the economy. What is being proposed in Washington is these deep defense cuts. That would have a devastating impact in Ventura County. Republicans and Democrats need to come together to fight for the military bases. Essentially, Strickland is totally dodging the question on Simpson-Bowles.

BROWNLEY: The fiscal cliff is not an option for our country. The Simpson-Bowles proposal is just a proposal. The Congress has other options at this time. I agree with Tony that it needs to be a bi-partisan effort. And at the end of the day there have to be solutions that Republicans aren't happy with and Democrats aren't happy with. But we can't balance the budget on the backs of the middle-class and seniors. We need a balanced approach. She takes an Elizabeth Warren approach to the answer, which is good. Even generals have recommended where we can make cuts to the defense budget, and Democrats and republicans can come together, but not balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, and not by hurting our seniors.

STRICKLAND: I grew up lower-middle class, and Brownley has voted for tax increases that fell broadly on the middle class.

7:31 QUESTION: How far have we come to protect ourselves from another Wall Street collapse like 2008?

BROWNLEY: I believe that the steps taken by the Administration to create and save jobs were the right thing to do. Not fast enough, but we're on the right path. The wealthy need to pay their fair share. We can't balance the budget on the backs of the middle class. The stock market has improved. Our employment numbers have improved slightly. It's going in the right direction and we're looking toward a greater economic recovery.

STRICKLAND: I would have opposed the stimulus program. Now our grandkids will pay for our overspending. Promotes the overseas jobs tax repatriation idea. If you want unemployment to go below 8%, that's how you do it, with private sector solutions.

BROWNLEY: The choice is whether we're going to grow the middle class. The failed economics of the Bush era of trickle-down economics haven't worked, and we need to expand the middle class.

7:35 HERDT: Please explain why you believe your opponent's position would cut Medicare:

STRICKLAND: I signed a Medicare protection pledge, and oppose the Ryan plan. Brownley supports the Nancy Pelosi healthcare act. Strickland has the Republican talking points down. As if cuts to MEdicare Advantage providers amounts to Medicare cuts. It doesn't, of course.

BrOWNLEY: You support privatizing Medicare for those under 50. Democrats and Republicans in Washington both scored a $716 million savings. But Democrats closed the doughnut hole and increased funding for seniors presecription, and extends Medicare through 2024. We also have the Affordable Care Act, so that we have all the advantages it affords us, no caps, no pre-existing conditions. The Republicans did it to give tax relief to the wealthy and that's where it goes. We do preventive care and extend the life of Medicare for 8 years.

STRICKLAND: I have a history of voting different from my party. I oppose the Ryan plan. We need to preserve and protect Medicare. I don't support vouchers. I said for 40 or 30, we need to contribute a little more. My Mom would kill me if I touched Medicare.

BROWNLEY: You praised Paul Ryan for thinking up ways to change Medicare. You founded the California Club for Growth. I don't know what your plan is to save MEdicare. But I'm going to protect Medicare for today's seniors and tomorrow's as we know it.

7:41Question about alternative energy.
BROWNLEY: I would be supportive of anything that helps to leverage those kinds of alternative energy. I would look honestly at oil subsides. We should move to alternatives.

STRICKLAND: I‘ve always been fighting in Sacramento for renewable energy. We should pass the Keystone Pipeline. Now we’re buying oil from Hugo Chavez. Fails to mention oil is sold on a global market.

7:46 Dream Act and immigration question.

STRICKLAND: We wouldn't need the Dream Act if we had a sensible immigration policy. Attacks the system of bringing immigrants in for education then go back to their home countries. I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

BROWNLEY: I authored California Dream Act legislation. I support Obama's approach to this. It's very important for young people who have come here by no fault of their own.

7:50 Both candidates talk about the need to keep the naval base in Ventura County. Strickland jumps on Brownley for saying that the closure isn't an imminent threat. She's right. It isn't. But Strickland will demagogue it anyway.

7:55 Duboff: What will you do to encourage individuals to take the jump into entrepreneurship and how will you reward those risk-takers? What a load of crock question. The problem isn't rewarding risk-takers. The problem is reducing the risk so that people will actually dare take the leap.

STRICKLAND: I passed a bill with Senator Padilla to offer a manufacturing jobs tax credit. People are having a tough time getting access to credit. We have too many regulations. We need to cut red tape, look at the tax structure. Manufacturing and small business, I'll be a champion in Washington.

BROWNLEY: Small business is the backbone of the economy. One thing we need to do is get healthcare costs under control. We need tax credits for startups, small business needs access to capital. Big banks were bailed out, but aren't giving loans to small business. We have to continue to create incentives for small business.

STRICKLAND: Small business owners don't like the "Pelosi healthcare act."

BROWNLEY: I just had a talk with a small business owner who said we need more money in the hands of the middle class. If we expand the middle class, they'll have customers to buy those goods and services.

8:00 QUESTION: If elected to Congress, you would represent the nation. Your advice on foreign policy would be relevant. With regard to the Israeli contention that Iran is on a path to making a nuclear weapon, what is your response?

BROWNLEY: We must be vigilant to prevent proliferation. A nuclear Iran would present a serious threat to Israel, and we cannot let that happen. We are 30 days from a presidential election, and we shouldn't be politicizing an issue as serious as this. I take my job seriously, I do my reserach, I learn the issues before I cast a vote. This is something we have to approach very carefully, but nuclear proliferation is not an issue. I support Israel unequivocally. I have a long track record to demonstrate that kind of support. But by drawing a red line, we should be careful about politicizing that. All options need to be on the table. But at the end of the day, we have to be ever so vigilant in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

STRICKLAND: Sadly both the past two Administrations waited too long in implementing sanctions. We must do everything we can to prevent Iran from using nuclear weapons. I have a long track record of supporting Israel. We need to do whatever we have to, to prevent this from happening. If Iran gets nukes, it will threaten not only Israel, but us at home.

BROWNLEY: I think it's very very important on these foreign policy issues, that Democrats andRepublicans need to stick together on these issues. We have to continue that bipartisanship.

STRIckLAND: On a bipartisan level, we missed the boat. They're closer every day that goes by.

8:05 Would you vote for the Defense of Marriage Act?

STRICKLAND: I support marriage between a man and a woman. Dodges the question like a coward.

BROWNLEY: I support the repeal of DOMA. And I strongly support the LGBT community and the right for same sex couples to marry. It's a civil rights issue. I'm pleased the Obama Administration has taken necessary steps. I support gay marriage 100% (ugh, "marriage equality!"). Benefits differences is all the reason we must repeal DOMA.

Favorite Supreme Court Justice?

STRICKLAND: I would have said Roberts before the healthcare decision. Now I would say Clarence Thomas, or still Roberts.

BROWNLEY: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

STRICKLAND: Upon reflection, I would say Alito. (!!!! Keep digging, Tony.)

Both candidates wax on about earmarks. Local funding is good, says Brownley. Same, but legislators have to put their names on it, says Strickland.

What about student debt?

BROWNLEY: Higher education is extremely important. California has superior higher education. Investment in science and research couldn't be more important. The research on renewable energies and other new technologies are the backbone of California's economy. Education creates opportunity and prosperity. It also creates wealth with a state, county and country. Students should have access to federal grants, Pell grants.

STRICKLAND: Wants to cut Administrator salaries. We need to put a feeder into good-paying jobs that work with your hands, community colleges, invest in those jobs as well. And we're behind in math and science. We've done a good job with our public universities as well.

BROWNLEY: You can't give tax breaks to the millionaires and billionaires and halve the investment that we put into our higher education systems. You can't have it both ways. I believe again that the wealthy have to pay their fair share and expand the middle class, providing opportunities for college students and middle class families so that our next generation can have the same opportunities that the next generation was afforded.

STRICKLAND: We can't build a high-speed rail initiative, and then reach for more money from families.

What are you reading these days?

BROWNLEY: Last book I read was "Thoughts before dying."

STRICKLAND: "Strong fathers, Strong daughters." Strickland is good at the personal schmooze and storytelling.

Question: Let's talk about taxes. What does fair share mean? What should the highest level of income tax rate should be?

BROWNLEY: I think everyone has to pay their fair share of taxes. I'm not sure exactly where the right balance is. But I know that in today's economy we need to grow our economy and I believe that extending the tax cuts for the wealthy isn't going to help us and assist us in getting out of the stranglehold we are in. We need tax relief. No question we need to study our tax system and go over line item by line item where the loopholes are. But what I hear from the Ryan plan and Romney plan is that we're going to give tax cuts to the rich while eliminating deductions for the middle class. I'm not a tax expert, but if I go to Congress, you will seriously believe that I will study and be prepared.

Herdt: 35%? What number should it be?

BROWNLEY: I don't know what the number should be. But when the wealthy can use tax deductions to pay 10% or 12%, that's not right. (Brownley needs to study up on this. The easy answer is that we should go back to the tax rates on the wealthy that drove so much of our economic growth under Clinton or Ronald Reagan. Easy, easy answer and should have come prepared with it.)

STRIcKLAND: 35% is much too high. We need to simplify the tax code. The death tax isn't right. Strickland voted for a broad-based tax increase on the sales tax. People should keep more of what they earned.

BROWNLEY: I think a lot of what Tony stays isn't true. It's been very difficult to balance California's budget. We need a more balanced approach. When we're cutting child care and healthcare and higher education, we need to take a more balanced appraoch. We too need to get an economic stimulus going, we have not been able to take a more balanced approach to this because Tony and others have signed the Grover Norquist pledge, and when you signed a pledge and you're not able to come to the table, that's the wrong way to approach it. We have to be responsible and reasonable about the budget, but we need to simultaneously balance budgets and grow our economy. You have to do that very carefully, and in a bipartisan way. And Democrats and Republicans would walk away with things they didn't like.

STRICKLAND: California already has the 3rd highest tax rate in the nation. California government should live within its means.


STRICKLAND: I grew up in Ventura County, want to solve problems, but if I go to Washington will never forget where I grew up and why I'm there.

BROWNLEY: Strickland wants to go back to the failed policies of the past. Wants to take away a woman's right to choose, cut programs for the middle class and education to provide tax breaks for the wealthy. We need to protect Medicare and Social Security. And for the many people who have succeeded and done well, they too should pay their fair share so the middle class can thrive.