Tom Fulks

Why I can’t support Katcho Achadjian for Congress

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian is a decent, honorable, well-meaning man.

I’ve known him about 30 years, since his days pumping gas in Arroyo Grande.

I’ve always liked him. But I can’t vote for him for Congress.

Because Katcho embraces a Republican Party today — as personified by several of its presidential candidates — that’s anything but decent, honorable or well meaning.

Try as he might, he can’t outrun the stink.

The 24th Congressional District encompasses San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Its inhabitants are predominantly smart, socially conscientious, defenders of their environment, believers in thoughtful, well-managed government.

Most probably don’t fancy their representative cavorting with a pack of pampered primates constantly waging food fights in Congress, trying to satisfy the bloodlust of their gerrymandered constituent zombies while bootlicking their Sith-like corporate overlords.

This barrel of monkeys shouldn’t operate a lemonade stand, much less “run” the government of the most powerful nation on earth.

The “accomplishments” of Katcho’s party in Congress?

Government shutdowns. Endless votes to repeal Obamacare. Endless hearings on “Benghazi!” Endless harassment of Planned Parenthood.

Ice caps melt, forests die, our nation’s roads and critical infrastructure crumble. Rome burns.

Meanwhile, Katcho’s party — fixated on banning abortion — disastrously fiddles while not one job or multiyear highway bill is passed since taking the House in 2010, promising “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Katcho’s party puffed itself up to interrogate Hillary Rodham Clinton, yet is too craven to bring a single vote on our growing war against ISIS.

Katcho’s a good man attempting to join a cast of self-aggrandizing anarchists who aren’t. He’s not the problem. His party is.

He’ll have tough sledding persuading independent voters that he’s not “one of the crazies.” There simply aren’t enough Republicans in the district to win without help from the sane.

More than half the district’s voters (55 percent) live in Santa Barbara County, with 43.4 percent in San Luis Obispo County and 1.6 percent in Ventura County. Democrats hold 37 percent, Republicans hold 34 percent, minor parties 2.8 percent and “declined to states” a whopping 26.2 percent.

Even if all 34 percent of district Republicans support the extreme Republican agenda — anti-birth control, anti-science, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-Social Security, pro-war, pro-gun, pro-voter suppression, pro-climate-change denial — remaining voters need convincing.

Like so many other rational Republicans, Katcho faces a dilemma: With his party so radically unproductive and unpopular among nonmembers, he has to sway moderates. But if he is too “squishy” on the extremism, he risks alienating his base of party hard-liners.

Katcho and his lone Republican rival, Justin Fareed, 27, of Santa Barbara, face the same math. Each has a geographic base. Both must appeal to non-Republicans.

They may be hoping their three Democratic Party competitors carve their party’s slim majority into slices so thin that Republicans sweep the top-two primary — unlikely, but possible.

Nonetheless, county Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Mayor Helene Schneider, both from Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo campaign finance reformer Bill Ostrander would be wise to settle this before the primary ballots are printed. (Disclosure: I was paid by Ostrander last summer to edit some web copy.)

One of them should drop out.

Though Democrats seem inclined to snatch defeat from the narrow maw of victory, Katcho has a bigger problem: His voting record in the state Assembly belies his cultivated image as a moderate.

His overall record on women’s issues, reproductive rights and the environment is almost purely doctrinaire right.

In May, Katcho voted against a bill requiring religion-based “crisis pregnancy centers” — notorious for pushing misleading, anti-abortion “counseling” — to provide patients full information about reproductive health services available elsewhere, including abortion, and to disclose when they lack medical licenses. The bill was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

In 2012, Katcho withheld his floor vote on AJR 47, a bill urging Congress to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act” to close the gender wage gap. He voted on the bills before and after AJR 47, but deliberately didn’t vote on equal pay for equal work.

Though Katcho appears to be shifting to center — from Planned Parenthood he received a score of 0 percent in 2012, 21 percent in 2013 and 55 percent in 2014 – there is still far to go.

Katcho also likes to appear reasonable on environmental issues, but he has a lifetime approval rating of a mere 28 percent from the California League of Conservation Voters.

The challenge for Katcho: Run away from his party — attempting to entice votes from moderates and women. Or embrace its unpopular radicalism to secure his base.

For a decent, honorable and well-meaning politician, it’s trouble either way.

Tom Fulks is a former reporter and opinion writer whose three-decade career included positions with The Tribune, Five Cities Times-Press-Recorder and New Times. He has been a political campaign consultant for many local races. His column appears twice a month in The Tribune, in rotation with conservative columnist John Peschong.