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Election 2020: Q&A with 52nd Congressional District candidates Jim DeBello and Scott Peters

Jim DeBello (left) and Scott Peters are running for Peters’ seat representing the 52nd Congressional District.
(Courtesy photos)

Point Loma and Ocean Beach residents voting in the Nov. 3 general election can help choose who will represent the 52nd Congressional District for the next two years — Republican Jim DeBello or Democratic incumbent Scott Peters.

The 52nd District includes Point Loma, Ocean Beach and much of central and coastal San Diego, encompassing areas such as downtown San Diego, Mira Mesa and Rancho Bernardo, along with Coronado, Poway and the San Pasqual Valley.

If you’re planning to cast a ballot by mail or in person for the Nov. 3 general election, here are some things to know: ▶ All active registered voters in California will be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot beginning Monday, Oct. 5. ▶ Completed ballots can be submitted by mail or at drop-off locations staffed by election workers.

The Point Loma-OB Monthly asked the candidates a series of questions to get a better idea of who they are, why they’re running and what issues they feel are most pressing. Below are their responses; some have been edited for formatting, brevity or clarity. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Jim DeBello

Age: 61

Professional occupation: Technology entrepreneur

Education: Harvard University, BA 1980, MBA 1986; Rotary Scholar; University of Singapore graduate studies in economics

Time lived in the 52nd District: 30 years

City or neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Point Loma, 30 years

Current and past public service, activism and volunteerism:

Zoological Society of San Diego, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, San Diego Food Bank, Father Joe’s Villages

Immediate family: Married 33 years, adult daughter, two dogs

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the country and how do you intend to address each one if elected?

• Economic recovery: “We need businesses and schools to be both open and safe for our families. These goals are not mutually exclusive. As a technology entrepreneur, I have a track record of creating high-paying jobs. My goal is to secure the well-being of the American people through practical solutions that stimulate job growth.

“COVID-19 taught many hard lessons. In particular, it showed that a bigger government does not provide greater financial security. The pandemic will pass, but bad economic policies and overregulation will make recovery harder.

“Likewise, strong international policy is born from a clear understanding of local needs. As a gateway to Asia — and sharing a border with Tijuana — San Diego has always been a player in the global economy. Today, the opportunities and challenges of global engagement are more pressing than ever. I’m not only a lifelong San Diegan, but I also spent many years in China as the CEO of a tech company. I understand the global challenges that our community faces. In Congress, I plan on getting things done to foster cooperation and ease tensions while maintaining firmness on key issues such as IP [intellectual property] theft, cybersecurity and trade.”

• Public safety:
“We all have rights, regardless of color, creed or religion, that are assured by our Constitution. These inalienable rights are what make us unique. Make us exceptional. We’re also a land governed by the rule of law. That’s why I’m gravely concerned about lawlessness on our streets. It is one thing to organize and protest. It is called free speech, and there is no fiercer proponent of defending this right than me. But when it comes to mob rule and acts of violence against our fellow citizens or the destruction of public and private property, it is unambiguous. We must condemn, confront and stop. To do otherwise is simply not a choice that anyone should find acceptable. We must actively support our police officers who protect our communities.

“While there is still much work to be done, I do not accept the view that we are fundamentally a racist country. Be assured though, wherever racism might raise its ugly head, whether it be with a rogue cop in the inner city or in an all-White boardroom, I have no tolerance. I also have no tolerance for so-called cancel culture. It is the antithesis of what this country stands for.”

• Health care: “This is my second pandemic. While living in China, I successfully ran a multinational company during SARS. I safely took care of employees by observing public health guidelines. Economic sacrifices do not need to be the norm in a pandemic; we can balance people’s financial and physical well-being.

“My pandemic experience has focused me on four areas: speeding development of treatments, fostering insurance competition, creating transparency in pricing and rebuilding our strategic supply chain so that we are not so dramatically exposed to shortages as we have recently seen. Our supply chain is a mess. We are dependent on China, and there is nothing sensible about that. It has exposed the U.S. to shortages for PPE [personal protective equipment] supplies and generic drugs. We must bring strategic manufacturing back home and do a better job being prepared for the next pandemic.

“We need to foster competitive insurance coverage across state lines that includes preexisting conditions and lowers costs. Single-payer health care run by the government would explode costs and damage the standard of care. Centralized control restricting freedom of choice is not the answer.

“Finally, regarding congressional perks, I believe all members of Congress should use the VA [Veterans Affairs] health care system. Don’t be surprised how quickly care for our veterans would improve!”

What do you believe are the three primary issues facing the 52nd District specifically, and how do you intend to address them if elected?

• Homelessness: “It’s inexcusable that we tolerate human waste, needles and encampments on our streets. California has 25 percent of the nation’s homeless; it’s a public health and safety crisis. It’s not fair to ask our community to live with the daily health risks and filth that results. We must fix it.

“Our community is handcuffed by laws that fail to mandate needed treatment. San Diego is losing its battle as the homeless population has skyrocketed over the past eight years. This is a national problem as well as a local one, and requires federal support. Yet Congress has failed to act and San Diego’s congressional delegation is invisible on this issue.

“It’s important that we give people in need a hand up, not just a handout. Our district leads the world in medical innovation. Congress should leverage this and rebuild our mental health infrastructure and drug treatment programs rather than passing the buck to a patchwork of local efforts.

“Homelessness and food insecurity are especially troubling for veterans. Our region has the second-highest veteran homeless population in the nation. My solutions for homelessness would include housing and food allowances for our active military and veterans that help offset the high cost of living here.”

• Sustainable environment: “Environmental alarmism delivers headlines, not solutions. Many proposals like the Green New Deal and other ideas are unrealistic and economically disastrous. Rather than playing the politics of climate, I’m focused on practical, common-sense solutions that reverse human impact. Congress and the private sector need to invest in research and development to drive innovation at an uncommonly high pace. These include advanced forms of energy production, carbon capture technologies, bluetech biofuels, plastics replacement and other market-driven solutions. I’ve seen firsthand the power of brilliant ideas.

“I strongly support measures that ensure clean air and clean water and support the goal to meet 100 percent of our power demand through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy resources. We have an abundance of energy that we can harvest responsibly.

“It is not necessary to sacrifice our standard of living. I have found a way to achieve carbon reduction through marketplace solutions. I’m the co-inventor of mobile check deposit used by 80 million Americans. It has saved an estimated 11 million tons of carbon emissions and counting. We must commit to public-private partnerships that accelerate transition to sustainable forms of alternative energy that are proven, scalable and affordable. I will champion our district’s technology innovation for the benefit of all.”

• Immigration: “I strongly support policies that foster legal immigration and welcome our new citizens. We are a nation of immigrants. We refresh our talent and gain new ideas by attracting the best and the brightest, the strongest and the most determined. I’m the grandson of immigrants and son of World War II veterans who began with little more than a dream. I believe in immigration.

“However, our immigration system is broken. The panga boats washing ashore at Windansea are evidence of that. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it is one that takes focused action that I will bring.

“Waves of illegal immigration increase horrific human trafficking while suppressing wages for working Americans. Every democratic nation has borders to protect its citizens. They must be enforced to be effective. Let’s speed the legal immigration process, removing bureaucratic barriers and restoring our proud immigration heritage. As your congressman, I will work to enact sensible immigration and asylum policies that end the gaming of our laws, increase H-1b visas to attract Ph.D. technical talent to grow our industries and prosperity for all Americans and normalize border security by using technology to streamline border security and flow.”

Scott Peters

Age: 62

Professional occupation: Member of Congress; former environmental attorney

Education: New York University School of Law, juris doctor 1984; Duke University, BA 1980

Time lived in the 52nd District: Nearly 32 years

City or neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: La Jolla, since 1989

Current and past public service, activism and volunteerism:

U.S. representative, California’s 52nd Congressional District, 2013–current; commissioner, San Diego Unified Port District, 2009–12; San Diego City Council member, 2000–08, and council president, 2006–08; California Coastal Commission member, 2002–05; member, California Commission on Tax Policy in the New Economy, 2002–03; served as a member of the boards of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., CleanTech San Diego, UC San Diego Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board, La Jolla Community Foundation, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and chairman of the Climate Initiative at The San Diego Foundation.

Immediate family members: Wife Lynn Gorguze, grown daughter and son

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the country and how do you intend to address each one if elected?

• COVID-19 response and health care: “Scientists and public health experts tell us that COVID-19 may be here for a while, so we need long-term plans to increase and improve COVID-19 testing, speed up the development of vaccines and ensure that the vaccines and treatments we develop are available to everyone. I’m also working to support the local biotech companies who are conducting this important research. My colleagues and I have passed COVID-19 response packages to provide relief to Americans, small businesses and nonprofits through direct stimulus payments, extended unemployment benefits and the Payroll Protection Program. As the pandemic continues, Americans are still struggling, and we must provide further support to ensure an equitable economic recovery. Because of this, I’ve advocated for automatic stabilizers to ensure that critical relief is no longer held up by partisan politics.

“Finally, we must ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. I co-introduced the bipartisan Stop Health Premium Spikes Act to prevent drastic spikes in premiums due to COVID-19. The bipartisan State Health Care Premium Reduction Act, which I co-introduced last year, became the framework for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act that the House recently passed to improve access to quality, affordable health care.”

• Climate change:Climate change is a global emergency and imminent threat that requires us to work across party lines to take bold, immediate action. This work has been a priority of mine in Congress. I sit on the Subcommittee on the Environment within the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, am a member of the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and serve as the Climate Task Force chair of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Caucus. I created the Climate Playbook, containing dozens of bipartisan bills with the potential to pass now to take immediate steps to combat climate change by reducing emissions and promoting clean, renewable energy. One of these bills is the SUPER Act, which I introduced to combat emissions from short-lived climate pollutants like methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons, which are significantly more potent than CO2. This bill was passed by the House in September. I also introduced the USE It Act to promote carbon capture, utilization and sequestration technologies, and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act to impose a carbon tax on fuels and return the funds as dividends to the American people.”

• Racial justice and police reform: “Comprehensive policing reform is necessary to address some of the systemic inequalities faced by Black Americans. My colleagues and I introduced the Justice in Policing Act earlier this year, which would take several steps to provide more accountability and transparency, such as requiring the use of body cameras and the creation of independent investigative structures on police misconduct. It would also make many necessary changes to police training and practices, such as banning chokeholds and carotid holds nationwide, banning no-knock warrants in drug cases, mandating the duty to intervene and changing the justification of use of force from reasonable to necessary. I’ve spoken with former and current law enforcement officers and am confident that many of the changes in the House bill would improve their ability to protect and serve our communities. We need to support our police, and our police have to work with us to change the culture.”

What do you believe are the three primary issues facing the 52nd District specifically, and how do you intend to address them if elected?

• Immigration reform and cross-border commerce: “San Diegans know that our border with Mexico is an opportunity, not a threat. We need to improve border security through technology, not by wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a wall that won’t work. We also need a comprehensive immigration policy that is both fair and compassionate. I’ve worked with my colleagues to secure $741 million in funding for the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, which was a top priority for job creation by regional business leaders. We also secured funding for the PedEast facility at the San Ysidro Port of Entry to increase inspection capacity and improve the flow of trade and commerce. I co-sponsored the Providing Justice for Asylum Seekers Act to allow immigration judges greater discretion and ability to reschedule cases rather than being forced to issue deportation orders due to absences.”

• Housing affordability and homelessness: “San Diego is in a housing crisis, and we need pragmatic and innovative solutions to solve it. I’ve supported legislation that would allow us to build more housing units and make housing more affordable. I introduced the Build More Housing Near Transit Act to incentivize the development of both affordable and market-rate housing by prioritizing federal investment in transit projects where local governments have allowed dense housing nearby. I also introduced the Fair Housing Improvement Act to prohibit discrimination based on income source or veteran status, including the use of vouchers. I co-sponsored the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2019 to expand and strengthen the low-income housing tax credit to incentivize development of rental homes for extremely low-income households and underserved communities. I also offered and passed an amendment to the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, which became law, to update the HUD [Housing and Urban Development] formula used to distribute homelessness resources and ensure San Diego gets its fair share.”

• Natural disasters and environmental issues: “San Diego and California are seeing increased severity and frequency of wildfires as a result of drying caused by climate change. While I’ve been working on legislation to take action on climate change in the long term, I’ve also worked on legislation to address these disasters now. I introduced the bipartisan STRONG Act to prepare communities for the effects of extreme weather and to recover from natural disasters, and the DISASTER Act to improve transparency on disaster response spending. I also helped introduce the Wildfire Prevention Act to authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to award financial assistance for mitigation and fire prevention in certain areas affected by wildfire, and supported the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to provide adequate funding for wildfire suppression so that funds no longer need to be borrowed from those intended for prevention. I have also led efforts to secure funding to address our cross-border pollution problem. After bipartisan cooperation between our federal agencies and our state and local governments, the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced two new, near-term projects to address the flow of sewage, wastewater, sediment and trash along our border with Mexico. Last year we also secured $300 million to fund a longer-term, major infrastructure project to fix this environmental and health crisis through the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”


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