Political newcomer challenging congressional incumbent

By: Don Chaddock Telegraph Managing Editor
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In the race for the 3rd District Congressional seat, political experience is being pitted against a dose of fresh perspective. On Nov. 2, voters will decide between Democratic challenger Dr. Ami Bera or incumbent Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River). Lungren claims the race took a nasty turn almost from the start. “I talk about issues,” he said. “He doesn’t. I said I wanted to be positive. He’s been negative.” Bera alleges Lungren spiked his salary while serving as the state’s attorney general, receiving a 25-percent raise in the last month prior to his leaving the post. In 1998, a state commission approved the raise that he received during his last month in office. Bera, an Elk Grove resident, said he’s tried to improve the region while Lungren has only looked out for himself and the richest 1 percent of Americans. “As a physician, what’s always driven me is service to my patients as an educator … and how you bring forth people into the dialogue,” Bera said. “I’ve always really focused on the middle class.” Lungren said he’s a hands-on representative and when he’s not in Washington, D.C., he’s listening to his constituents and visiting various areas of his district. “It’s my obligation to understand my district,” Lungren said. “I have a pretty good sense how my votes and decisions … will impact my constituents. You can only do that through direct contact.” Health care reform bill Lungren is vehemently opposed to the bill while Bera said it’s a step in the right direction but is flawed. “I know what I hear when I talk to people in my district,” Lungren said. “They say vote no on the health care bill.” He said his party offered 80 amendments to the 2,300-page health care bill, but Democrats shot them down in committee before ever getting to the floor. “I guess you can say we’re the party of better ideas,” he said, firing back at President Obama’s reference to the GOP being the “party of ‘no.’” Bera said the bill still isn’t right, but it’s better than nothing. “(About) 45 million Americans are left without coverage and this bill does a lot to expand coverage but does very little to address the cost of health care,” Bera said. “Insurance companies are raising premiums more and more and we’re (getting) less and less. We’ve got to make healthcare about taking care of Americans.” He said it’s time to take action against big companies. “We’ve got to take on the for-profit health industry,” Bera said. “It’s got to be about taking care of people, not corporations’ profits.” Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Lungren said our military efforts are important and the country can’t back down. “We were attacked on Sept. 11 by people who were assisted and abetted by the (previous) government of Afghanistan,” he said. “For us to fail and allow that government to come back, it would be admitting we don’t have the courage to defend our country.” He said Afghanistan’s success is important for national security. “It would be an invitation to attack us more,” he said. “Afghanistan is something we cannot walk away from.” He said he supports the effort to draw down troops in Iraq. “We’ve done a good job developing their forces of police and military,” Lungren said. Bera said the country should work hand-in-hand with the Afghanistan government. “My hope is, we just had a troop drawdown in Iraq, and we should be in an advisory role in Iraq,” he said. “Shifting the role in Afghanistan seems to be escalating a bit. We’ve got to work with the Karzai government as much as we can so they can self govern.” Bera said it’s time to expand our efforts to other countries to help stabilize the region. “The country of Pakistan is looking unstable,” Bera said. “In a nuclear armed country, we need to double our diplomatic efforts with Pakistan (and) involve India. That has the ability to stabilize South Asia.” Federal stimulus package Lungren said the federal stimulus package was not a success. “One of the things I supported was to stop making those (stimulus-funded project) signs,” Lungren said. “Other than benefitting a few sign companies, it hasn’t helped anyone.” He said a similar program was tried in another country and it failed. “Just see what happened in Japan in the 80s,” he said. “They had a series of stimulus packages and it failed to move their economy forward. Not one, but two, decades have been lost (in Japan).” He said we should learn from the mistakes of others and not repeat them. “At least we ought to pay attention to what other countries have done,” he said. “If you’re going to have a stimulus package, load it with infrastructure jobs and provide (equipment) for (our) armed forces because of all the deployments.” Bera agrees the package could have been better and hopes to make it easier for money to get from the government to a worker’s pocket. “By no means was this a perfect effort,” Bera said. “The problem is the money came from the federal government, went through the states and through the counties, then by the time it got down to the frontline worker, it was too little, too late.” He said making the process smoother is key. “We need to streamline government so the money gets to the frontline worker quicker,” Bera said. “We recognize we have to get our economy going again.”