4 questions for 9 candidates in 24th District congressional race

mfountain@thetribunenews.comApril 19, 2014 

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect salary for the 24th District congressional post; the position pays $174,000 per year.

24th District, U.S. House of Representatives

Term: 2 years • Salary: $174,000 per year

BRADLEY ALLEN

Bradley Allen, 59, is a pediatric heart surgeon and former surgical director at Children’s Heart Institute in Houston. He graduated from Chicago Medical School, did residences in general and thoracic surgery at UCLA, a fellowship in pediatric cardiac surgery at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. A Republican, Allen and his wife Jaclyn Smith live in Summerland. He has two grown children.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

My focus will be on the economy and getting Americans back to work. Congress needs to do more to unleash small businesses, which are the economic engine of America. Currently, only 63 percent of eligible workers are employed or looking for work. Limiting the overreach of the federal government and reining in our nation’s debt will provide a stable climate for businesses to grow and create jobs; eliminating just 5 percent of our regulatory budget would increase 1.2 million jobs per year. . Since the end of the recession, economic growth has been tepid, at best, and is projected to average only 2.5 percent through 2024. In Congress, I will rein in government overreach to give small businesses the freedom to grow and create new middle class jobs.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

The single biggest hurdle to economic recovery is the uncertainty that businesses see coming from Washington. The uncertainty of whether or not Congress can rein in the deficit or pay down our nation’s debt is preventing businesses from investing, growing, and creating jobs. With the threat of tax increases or additional business regulations constantly looming, businesses simply don’t know what to expect. As a doctor, I have seen the disastrous effects of the Affordable Care Act firsthand. This has been a major part of that uncertainty, adding to the costs of doing business while eliminating health care options for families and individuals. We need to eliminate this economic uncertainty by giving businesses and families a climate that allows them to invest with confidence.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

The aim of the Affordable Care Act was to increase the number of insured Americans, and reduce the cost of health care. So far, it has failed on both counts. Unfortunately, for millions of Americans, their health insurance was cancelled, and their premiums increased. According to Forbes, health insurance premiums in San Luis Obispo County are expected to increase 73%. In a time when we should be making it easier for families to make ends meet, we are making it more difficult. As a medical doctor, I have spent 30 years practicing, studying, researching, and teaching medicine, so I can tell you that the Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed and replaced with market driven solutions that lower costs, improve access, and empower Americans.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

In 2013, the federal government collected roughly $2.7 trillion in tax revenue – the most ever. The budget deficit problem in Washington is not a taxing issue; it is a spending one. If we continue kicking the can down the road, the problem will continue to grow and eventually be left for our children and grandchildren to deal with. We must present commonsense solutions and offer a budget that will benefit everyone, not just a few special interests. Closing loopholes that benefit only a handful, unleashing American energy sources, and repealing Obamacare are things that we can do to immediately improve our budget outlook. As a doctor, I’ve learned to gather my facts, and then make the tough decisions; In Congress, I will do the same.

LOIS CAPPS

Lois Capps, 76, is a U.S. Congresswoman and former school nurse who founded the Santa Barbara County Teenage Pregnancy & Parenting Project. She has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Pacific Lutheran University, master’s degree in religion from Yale University and master’s degree in education from UCSB. She and her late husband, Walter, have three children and seven grandchildren. A Democrat, she lives in Santa Barbara.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

The most important issue facing our country is our still struggling economy as the fallout from the financial meltdown and housing bust are still being felt on the Central Coast. I believe we must continue to invest in our people and that means ensuring access to a quality education is available to all our citizens. It means continuing to invest in clean energy and medical research so we keep building for our future. It means reforming our tax code to simplify it and make it more fair for working families and small businesses. And it means reforming our broken immigration system to help families and Central Coast businesses. We have made progress in all these areas but there is much more to be done.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

Our economy is growing, but too slowly. There are steps that should be taken at the federal level that could help our local economy. For example, we must pass comprehensive immigration reform. It will benefit every sector of our economy, particularly agriculture, by ensuring a reliable workforce. Several provisions I was able to get included in the recently passed Farm Bill will also help local agriculture, and I'm working to get Congress to enact additional drought relief. We must also continue to invest in education, research and infrastructure. Two of the world’s largest operating solar fields are in SLO County, creating jobs and lowering our carbon footprint. World-class institutions like Cal Poly are turning out tomorrow’s leaders today. We must build on these successes.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

The Affordable Care Act has provided access to quality, affordable health care for tens of thousands of Central Coast citizens, including over 10,000 young adults now getting coverage through their parents’ plans. It also means you can no longer be turned down for coverage because you have a “pre-existing condition.” Women can no longer be charged higher premiums and critical preventive services, like access to birth control, are now covered with no co-pays. Of course we’ll need to continue refining the law to address problems as they arise, as we did with Social Security and Medicare. But just repealing the law, as some are calling for, would simply take away your control over your health care and give it back to the insurance companies.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

We have two main goals in our budgeting process. First, we must eliminate the deficit and begin paying down the national debt, like we did back in the 1990’s. That is a goal we are much closer to now, the federal deficit having fallen by record amounts as the economy picked up, we reduced our overseas military operations and made slight reforms to the tax code. But we also must keep investing in our people – through education, research and development, and infrastructure improvements. These investments today help build a stronger economy now and more opportunity in the future. These two goals are imminently achievable if we can lower the partisan rhetoric and work together for our common good.

PAUL COYNE JR.

Paul Coyne Jr., 50, is a bank branch manager, former grocery manager and member of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He attended West Point, has a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCSB and master’s degree in political science from San Diego State University. A Democrat, Coyne is divorced with three children and lives in Santa Maria.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

Creating new and well-paying jobs in our community remain our biggest hurdle and would be the single most important issue. Our community needs someone with an extensive financial and business background in Congress. This crucial issue, along with improving the overall economic prosperity of our community/nation would be addressed immediately and in an on-going effort. We need a pro-business representative to introduce pro-business legislation, support small business deregulation, encourage a low-rate interest environment, assure banks and other financial institutions make more credit available to both consumers and small businesses at reasonable rates, provide federal grants for investment and job growth, support subsidized loan programs, pass the Marketplace Fairness Act and finally, allocate federal tax dollars to local and needed infrastructure projects and clean energy industries.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

Creating new and well-paying jobs in our community remains our biggest hurdle and would be the single most important issue. Our community needs someone with an extensive financial and business background in Congress. This crucial issue, along with improving the overall economic prosperity of our community/nation would be addressed immediately and in an on-going effort. We need a pro-business representative to introduce pro-business legislation, support small business deregulation, encourage a low-rate interest environment, assure banks and other financial institutions make more credit available to both consumers and small businesses at reasonable rates, provide federal grants for investment and job growth, support subsidized loan programs, pass the Marketplace Fairness Act and finally, allocate federal tax dollars to local and needed infrastructure projects and clean energy industries.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

Thousands of our residents in our community will benefit this year alone by the PPACA. More residents will now have access to better, more affordable health care, our younger residents can stay on their parent’s policies until they are 26, people with pre-existing conditions can now benefit health care they could not get prior to passage of the law, seniors will enjoy lower prescription costs, more women will receive preventative care at reduced cost, and finally, the overall rising costs of healthcare have already been slowed down and will result in better health, lower costs, and invaluable protections to all in our community. I would propose specific changes to the law after non-partisan studies have been completed that demonstrate unintended and negative consequences of the law.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

I support a balanced approach to reduce federal spending. I support the fair and non-partisan “Simpson-Bowles” proposals. There is too much waste, abuse, and excessive spending in most government entities and we need to limit the growth and scope and spending of our federal government. There are thoughtful ideas on how to reduce our 17.6 trillion dollar debt without sequestration. As the only Veteran in this election, I will always support our troops and improved Veteran’s benefits. We can do much better here. However, we should welcome the “peace dividend” we as Americans have been promised by reducing overall military expenditures, disengaging from foreign entanglements, limiting foreign aid and allocating savings to infrastructure improvement, paying down debt, increasing educational expenses, and getting Americans back to work.

JUSTIN FAREED

Justin Fareed, 25, is vice president of ProBand Sports Inc. and formerly a legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield and an assistant football coach at UCLA. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA. A Republican, he is single and lives in Santa Barbara.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

My top priority is to promote policies that help create and foster an environment that leads to job creation, economic growth, fiscal sustainability and generational equity. Today, our government is doing just the opposite. Rather than unleash the private sector, encouraging Californians to innovate and invest in new technologies and workers, government is instead saddling businesses with higher taxes, more burdensome regulations, and legislation we can't afford. The growing gap between federal spending and revenue means our country won’t be able to afford the promises it’s made in the past or pay for the investments needed for the future.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

We can’t have a federal government that has become a barrier to job growth. Small businesses are our community’s lifeblood and this administration has stifled our friends and neighbors who just want a better California. We can’t have the government being heavy handed when it comes to regulations. We need an environment where the small businesses thrive under the American economic system of leaner and more efficient government, with fewer taxes and less regulations. The way it used to be before five-plus years of government intrusion and outright hostility toward California jobs.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

We need to reform our health care system, but ObamaCare has been forced upon the American people without proper Congressional participation, it has been poorly implemented, and has not met its promises. This law is fundamentally flawed, and we need to start over with new reforms that focus on the issues on a step-by-step basis. Already, millions have lost their health insurance, cannot see their own doctors, and are paying more while getting less. The American people deserve a health care system that works.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

Federal budget decisions should express Congress’s priorities and reinforce Congress’s influence on federal policies. It is an enormously complex process and it’s broken. My budget priority is to fix the system. During the 40 year history of the Budget Act, Congress has met the deadline for completion of a budget resolution only six times. Going to a two year budget will streamline the budget process and improve the fiscal management and oversight of government. I believe that many programs, such as Obamacare, should include sunset clauses so that they may be brought back before Congress and their fitness and funding can be debated, instead of outliving their usefulness and becoming another inefficient drag on our economy.

DALE FRANCISCO

Dale Francisco, 60, is in his second term as a Santa Barbara City Council member and is a former software engineer with Cisco Systems. He has a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in history, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from UCSB. A Republican, he is engaged and lives in Santa Barbara.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

The explosive growth in federal deficit spending is the single most pressing issue facing Congress. Given the complexity of the federal budget and the entrenched interests defending every program, changing this situation will be difficult and will not be affected overnight. I favor the passage of a balanced budget amendment through a strictly limited Article V convention of the states. In the meantime, I will focus relentlessly on every opportunity for reducing federal expenditures to bring them in line with revenues.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

Government policies that restrain businesses from expanding and from hiring—including the ACA. At the local, state, and federal levels, government does everything it can to throw roadblocks in the way of business development. It is estimated that federal regulation alone costs businesses $1.7 trillion annually. The government’s role should be limited to protecting public safety and assuring fair play in a free market economy. For example, if we could develop more of our local fossil fuel resources, using environmentally sound methods, the Central Coast would also be a “Gold Coast” with full employment and high paying jobs.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

The ACA was sold with promises that people’s insurance premiums would decrease, standards of care would improve, and that if people liked their current insurance plan and doctors they could keep them. None of this has proved true. Nearly a million Californians have had their health insurance policies cancelled, and many have found that their new insurance has higher premiums and deductibles. The ACA needs to be replaced with market-based reforms, such as allowing consumers to purchase insurance from out-of-state providers, tort reform, and removing government mandates on what insurance policies must cover. Short of total repeal, the most important change would be to repeal the individual mandate.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

My priorities for spending cuts are to introduce market-based reforms wherever possible and to eliminate programs that fall outside of the Federal government’s purview. For instance, we must begin planning now for reductions in tandem of both subsidies and price/production controls in the next Farm Bill. Pay and benefits for the country’s more than two million civilian Federal workers must be brought more in line with the private sector. Departments such as Energy and Education that fulfill no Constitutional mandate must be wound down. Vital military programs such as missile defense must be fully funded. The ethanol mandate should be eliminated.

STEVE ISAKSON

Steve Isakson, 63, is chief engineer at Rantec Power Systems in Los Osos, formerly a self-employed engineering consultant. He has a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from UCSB, a master’s degree in computer science and bachelor’s degree in physics from Cal Poly. Isakson, an Independent, and his wife Judy live in Atascadero.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

Congressional dysfunction! When proposals are dead before it is presented to Congress for the sole reason it comes from the other party — that is dysfunction.When a government shutdown occurs to make an ideological statement but no progress — that is dysfunction. There are many very smart people in Congress that could get a lot accomplished if they would remember that they are there to work together and make things better for the people and not just to get re-elected. As an independent I would be able to reason with the individual Congressmen. If I held get-togethers with both sides, at least they would talk to one another after hours as they did a few decades ago. Working with both sides could greatly reduce dysfunction.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

This district has a very diverse economy. 40 percent are employed in the service economy supporting the other sectors which include agriculture, construction, manufacturing and retail trade. While diversity tends to provide stability, a weakness in one area will affect the services sector. Each area is has its problems — all important. One that affects the agricultural sector is the recent drought. A short drought, is a hardship, but the sector will recover. However, these drought cycles have become more and more numerous which is indicative of climate change. Whether partially manmade or not, the agricultural community needs to adapt to this change. This is where the government can help, by helping to find new, inexpensive sources, or by providing research into how live with less water.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

Many forget that the reason for the Affordable Care Act was due to the large number of uninsured and this helped drive up the cost of health insurance for everyone else. To eliminate the program at this point would again leave many without insurance who need health care — including children and veterans. My biggest concern is that the Act might be being undermined with all of the delays in implementation. The insurance companies have a captive audience, lessening the need to keep prices low, and employers, a major negotiator, are being excused from participation. To be successful, it must be fully implemented. I will not allow these delays to become a permanent situation or for increased insurance company profits to be shouldered by individuals.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

No one would suggest that we do not need a strong defense and forces that can be called upon to fight a needed battle anywhere in the world. The budget must provide for that, but it does not need to be at pre-2012 levels when we were fighting multiple wars. Nor can we allow our infrastructure to crumble as it helps drive our economic engine and provides needed services. But the economy will become unsustainable and we will not be able to budget either of the above if we continue allowing the debt to grow. It will take time, but we need to move toward balancing our budget and paying down our debt. That will lead to a much strong economy in the long run.

SANDRA MARSHALL

Sandra Marshall, 62, is publisher of the monthly Information Press and calls herself a community networker. She is board chair of ECOSLO. A graduate of South Gate High School, Marshall was arrested for trespassing in 1978 during a Diablo Canyon protest. A Democrat, Marshall is married with four children and one grandchild and lives in San Luis Obispo.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

If elected, campaign finance reform will be my #1 issue. Dark money, undisclosed funds used to pay for an election campaign on behalf of a candidate or a ballot initiative is influencing the outcome of elections. The Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate limits on what can be spent by “independent” political groups is allowing hidden funds to be funneled through special interest groups and Super PACs. The 1 percent wealthiest can now buy a mid-term. Dark money, rather than facts, is often times the deciding factor on issues like climate change, healthcare, fair wages, the right to choose, etc. I would work with the Sunlight Foundation to require that donations of $1,000 or more to parties, candidates and political committees be reported within 48 hours.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

Per an economic forecast report at the end of 2013 San Luis Obispo County was one of the fastest growing economies in the state. Tourism certainly contributes to the economy; from it plenty of service industry jobs are created. Unfortunately many of these jobs are part-time and low wage, making it difficult for these hard working people to live comfortably on the Central Coast. To recover and strengthen our economy I would seek out businesses that are compatible with our Central Coast lifestyle, low impact on our environment, and offer well-paying jobs in IT and other technical fields, or light industry.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a work in progress. I can only speculate on affects it may have on Central Coast residents from my conversations with those that have signed up for it under Covered California. The majority being women, feedback has been positive. For some this was the first time they were able to get health care, others will receive better coverage at a lower rate and a few discovered they qualified for Medicaid. The negative side of ACA, is that it may have caused rate increases on private and employer healthcare plans. Was this necessary? Because this is a new program, I would ask that monthly reviews take place to ensure that it is working effectively.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

In the President’s 2014 Proposed Discretionary Budget 57 percent was proposed for Military spending while only 6 percent was proposed for Education, 6 percent for Veteran’s Benefits and 3 percent for Energy and Environment. It is time to take a new approach; to invest in people over weapons, spying and unnecessary Military programs. My priorities would be to take a portion of the proposed Military funds and invest it in Education, Veteran’s Benefits and Energy and Environment. Knowledge is power. Let’s return to a place of power by making college affordable and available to all. Repay our Veterans for their service by providing adequate benefits. With the climate change crisis at our door we must immediately increase funding and take action.

CHRIS MITCHUM

Chris Mitchum, 70, is an actor, writer and businessman. He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania. A Republican, Mitchum has four children and five grandchildren and lives in Santa Barbara.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

The economy, balanced budget amendment, cut waste (audit), cut spending. I favor the Mack-Penny: balanced budget; a surplus; cuts $7.5 trillion in spending. A good starting point. Repeal ObamaCare. Develop natural resources, unemployment 3 percent in North Dakota, Midland TX. Business booming! Natural resource development jump-starts employment throughout the community. Once working, we can: Lower taxes, people working, less welfare and food stamps, cutting government expenditures. Once energy independent (6 years), exports lowering the trade deficit. Sell gas to EU, Russia will collapse. With lower energy costs, shipping is cheaper, energy costs will be lower to bring manufactures back. With a budget surplus, we can start paying down the debt, make Social Security secure (and be able to restructure it) as well as Medicare.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

Jobs. Develop natural resources. Look at North Dakota and Midland , TX. Less than 3 percent unemployment, and these are jobs throughout the workforce, not just in oil. Lower taxes! Welfare and food stamp enrollment will drop, etc. cutting government expenditures even more. Once energy independent (about 6 years), we can export oil and gas which will lower the trade deficit. Sell gas to EU and the frail economy of Russia collapse. With lower energy costs in the US, shipping (truck fuel) will lower, energy for industry will be lower to bring companies back to the US to manufacture. With a budget surplus, we can start paying down the debt, make Social Security secure (and be able to restructure it) as well as Medicare.

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

ObamaCare is a disaster! I will NOT accept anything other than its repel. The United States has the best medical care in the world. The cost is the problem and that must be addressed. Tort reform. Access to insurance nationally so insurance can carry across state line. (Competition will lower costs as well) and that's just a start.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

The only funding increase should be in defense spending. We are at risk dismantling our defenses. The cancelling of the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning guarantees we will lose air superiority. While the present administration is destroying our ICBMs and the silos, the Russians, though destroying some old ICBMs, are building a whole new breed that are not a part of the equation. The Chinese have super high-speed missiles and torpedoes for which we have no defense. If fact, the Chinese and Russians are in an arms race that rivals the Cold War. Primary targets in the US may be reduced from over 400 to six. In five years, we might not be able to withstand a first strike. Peace through strength.

ALEXIS STUART

Alexis Stuart, 60, is a real estate broker, self-published author on building credit, owner of a musical instrument store and previously worked as a mortgage broker. She has an associate’s degree from Phoenix College in Arizona. A Republican, she is single and lives in Nipomo.

1. What is the single most important issue you would address immediately after taking office and how?

I wish our country only had one “single most important issue” to address. I would start by eliminating most of the 524 federal government departments and turning the responsibility for the departments back to the states. Current rules and regulations of each federal department eliminated can be used by the state as a guide if they so chose to use them. Submit and pass a budget that supports the federal government departments that remain the responsibility of the federal government. Our first budget priority should be to rebuild the Department of Defense. I would immediately work toward abolishing the Affordable Care Act and restore our previous private health care system.

2. What is the biggest hurdle to economic recovery in the district, and how will you tackle it?

High taxes, excessive regulations and defeated attitudes. Reduce taxes and regulations and educate our residents on how buying products online eliminates local jobs and destroys our economy. If we wait for someone in Washington D.C. to rebuild our economy we will be waiting a very long time. I am not waiting until I win election; my campaign is designed to immediately boost the economy. I encourage people to give out my cards that say, “Alexis asked me to patronize my favorite local business instead of donating to her campaign. I chose your business as my favorite! Please vote for Alexis Stuart for Congress and take this card to your favorite business when you patronize them. We have the power to rebuild our local economy!”

3. With the Affordable Care Act now implemented, how do you see it affecting Central Coast residents and will you propose any specific change?

I am already seeing the results of the Affordable Care Act. Many Central Coast residents have lost their health care insurance. Premiums and deductibles are higher. Medi-Cal is over-burdened and cannot handle the large increase of patients who have been added to the system. It currently takes three months to get an appointment with a doctor and six months to get an appointment to have your teeth cleansed. The ACA needs to be repealed and a simple plan passed which will allow health insurance coverage to be purchased across state lines. We need an educational program to help people understand what causes illnesses, how important proper diet and exercise are and hot to practice preventative measures.

4. In the next federal budget talks, what are your priorities in both spending cuts and funding increases for specific programs?

Eliminating most of the 524 federal government departments would drastically cut our spending and ease our budget issues. We should start by determining which departments are allowed by the Constitution. Assign each congressional representative to 10 separate committees to evaluate 10 departments each. The committees must make a case that the department should be a federal department. If the departments do not pass the constitutional test they will be passed back to local and state governments to oversee if they see a need for such a department. Current guidelines and regulations of each department could be a guide for the local and state government entities to follow at their discretion. Funding increases: the Department of Defense, medical and pension benefits for veterans.

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