While at the Monday Republican candidates forum in Manteca, I jotted down a few notes. By a few, I mean I wrote down (in paraphrase form) each answer to each question asked of each candidate.
The following is a paraphrased, highly condensed and admittedly abridged version of the forum, with the intent of revealing more about a relatively unknown group of candidates. I have followed my notes and have sincerely tried to remain as true to the original phrasing of the candidates as possible, and all actual direct quotes appear in quotation marks.
Question: What do you say to those who say there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats?
David Harmer: Those who say that are "considerably accurate." I am a conservative first and a Republican second. Big government conservatism is a mistake.
Tony Amador: There is a difference. Democratic policies have the country headed toward a "socialistic state," and encourage a "dependent mindset."
Elizabeth Emken: I as a Republican am nothing like Rep. Jerry McNerney. It's difficult to understand how Democrats are "so far off where the country began."
Brad Goehring: I'd like to "put parties aside." "I'd like to have a fashionable thing where everyone focuses on the Constitution" instead of political party.
Robert Beadles: Republicans somehow lost their way. We need to ask, before enacting a policy, if the Constitution allows it. We need to ask, "What would (Thomas) Jefferson do?"
Jeff Takada: One is a left party, and one is a right party. There's also an up and down spectrum when it comes to judging politics, and both parties have sunk down toward authoritarianism. What we need is small government
Q: What is one issue you would make as part of a new "Contract with America"?
Emken: "No new taxes." I've signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Goehring: Bring us back to constitutional principles. All our problems, or a majority of our problems, come from not following the Constitution. "I will not stray from the Constitution." I will even stand up to those in my own party.
Beadles: Stick to the Constitution. There's "no need to reinterpret" the document written in "1776."
Takada: The framers "in 1776" had the right idea. We have a Constitution, and we must abide by it, because it is there to properly "bind the hands of government."
Harmer: ILock Congress in a room and have them only fund what programs they can remember. Short of that, members of Congress should read bills before they vote.
Amador: Make America fiscally responsible, with no "funny money" practices.
Q: Do you believe that America is still a "Shining city on a hill"? And what do you think threatens that?
Beadles: "Liberals in Congress," are a threat. America is still the best country on the planet.
Takada: America is "definitely still that shining city." Our monetary and fiscal policies are our biggest threat, including piling up debt.
Harmer: Yes it is. But President Obama's "serial apologizing" is a threat to that. American exceptionalism needs to be earned, and it is not earned by apologizing.
Amador: Yes it is. But we have this "perfect storm" of a president and Congress, and we must make sure we "don't go over the edge."
Emken: Yes. The biggest threat is the "moral decline and lack of personal responsibility" in this country. A moral foundation is critical — all else flows from it.
Goehring: Yes it is. The green movement is "like a cancer that's been stripping us of property rights." I'm an envrionmental steward, as a farmer with 100-plus-year-old grape vines, as good as you'll find. But personal property is equal to freedom and liberty.
Q, from Harmer: What do you attribute the federal government's spending explosion?
Amador: Partly the dependent mentality fostered by big government. There's a myth that government can do it all for everyone.
Emken: It's the Democrats' unsound economic policy. They think that they can spend to prosperity.
Goehring: It's been out of control for several administrations. It's because there's irresponsibility and no accountability. We have to conserve our way out of the problem.
Beadles: The people in Congress have no idea how to run a business. If I ran a business like Congress, "I'd probably be in jail."
Takada: The spending explosion goes back to Woodrow Wilson. Recently it's been evident in things like the Bush bailouts, some of our recent wars and our entitlement programs.
Harmer: Asked the question because we've been robbing Peter to pay Paul and, we're becoming a "nation of Pauls." We need a three-part test before passing a bill: Do we need it? Can we afford it? Does the Constitution authorize it?
Q from Emken: If elected, what committee in the House of Representatives would you like to sit on?
Goehring: The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (as there's been a vast misuse of the Constitution's Commerce Clause) and the Agricultural Committee, as both are vital to this region.
Beadles: The Finanance Committee. With business experience, could look out for us and make sure we're not spending away the future.
Takada: There's a subcommitte that deals with water resources so I could cut red tape and give power to locals in water matters, to make sure we "don't trample senior water rights."
Harmer: Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure because it's important to the district, the Financial Services Committee that others in D.C. have asked me about, and the Ways and Means Committee, which has national importance, and, perhaps the smallest and most influential one, the Rules Committee.
Amador: Committee appointment goes by a seniority system, but I am qualified for work on matters of national security because of a law enforcement background as a police officer and U.S. marshal. I am the only candidate with Top Secret security clearance.
Emken: Asked this question knowing that we're all assigned to a committee. Even though this is my "first time running for anything," I have worked for years with the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Q, from Goehring: What would be your top funding priority for the 11th District?
Beadles: We would have to see how we're spending before we commit to spend more. We need to cut, not raise spending.
Takada: Oppose the stimulus spending. If we have a surplus or are going to spend any more money, it should be on paying down the debt.
Harmer: The talk of earmarks "turns my stomach." It's money that we've "borrowed from my children." Earmarks are the "gateway drug" to irresponsible Congressional spending and corruption.
Amador: It's pork, and it's mostly for frivolous projects. But if anything, the priority would be on hospitals, like the Veterans Administration hospital that's slated for San Joaquin County — which was in the works long before McNerney got into office.
Emken: Rescind the stimulus. What we haven't spent, we shoud not spend.
Goehring: No to the stimulus, that we should repeal it. We need to base recovery on free market enterprise. Recovery is like taking off a Band-Aid — it can either be slow and drawn-out, or fast and decisive. Better to be fast and decisive.
Q from Takada: How will you lead for the 11th District and the country?
Harmer: "I've already done this (and) have influenced public policy." "I can hit the ground running," if elected into office.
Amador: Been appointed by two presidents and six governors, and would be glad to be back serving the poeple. The "service model of Rotary" is a good example to follow when taking on leadership.
Emken: Would take a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee. I'm actually "more prepared to serve than to campaign." I've had 13 years of federal advocacy for autistic children and policymaking experience.
Goehring: It would be humbling to represent you. I'd be immersed in the issues and be accountable to the district and voters. I will admit if I don't have the answers, and I'll look for them.
Beadles: Would let your voices be heard, and would always have an open door.
Takada: Would get to work on the committees and subcommittees, and would like to form caucuses to represent local interests. One would be the "Congressional Delta Caucus" to make sure the feds and state don't destroy the region. The other would be the "Congressional Japan Caucus," as I think I would be the only representative fluent in Japanese, and Japan is a huge trading and economic partner for California.
- - - - - - -
There was more than that, to be sure, but I hope this at least opens a small window onto the 2½ hour-long forum.
Expect more on the campaign as the year moves along, including reports on incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney and whoever ultimately faces him in the November general election.