Democrat Kate Schwartz and Republican incumbent Marie Waldron are vying for the California State Assembly District 75 seat, Nov. 3.
Waldron, who before her election in 2012, served on the city of Escondido city council for more than a decade. Waldron currently serves as the state Assembly minority leader and has done so for the past two years.
Schwartz has been a behavioral health care provider for the past 35 years and currently serves on the Fallbrook Regional Health District Board.
Waldron and Schwartz were provided the same questions to answer by Valley News and these are their responses:
Due to COVID-19, the district is understandably struggling on several levels. How do you intend to lead your constituents through this time, and how do you help them recover?
Waldron: Recognizing there is a strong balance between safety and supporting our economic recovery, I am working every day to ensure we can open our economy safely while advocating and voting for funding to help maintain stability in paycheck protection, for small businesses and in education, health care and especially mental health services. I have been working directly with the governor’s office and have joined with 11 other western states in a joint bipartisan letter for federal funding to enable the state to avoid catastrophic cuts to education, public safety services, fire protection and Medi-Cal. Maintaining budget stability is critical, and I have only supported funding necessary expenditures that keep public safety, health care, education and infrastructure operating.
My district office continues to respond to requests from constituents regarding accessing services or getting answers or assistance from state agencies. I have been working diligently to keep working with the health data we receive daily to advocate for safe reopening of our counties to get people back to work and our children back to school.
Schwartz: In my capacity as a director for the Fallbrook Regional Health District, I have already been working to assist our communities by ensuring we offer residents and businesses face masks and offer businesses safe reopening kits. We have increased emergency funding for our food banks, senior services, Boys & Girls club and urgent care services. My campaign has also been hosting regular virtual town halls updating constituents on the pandemic and available resources.
We cannot have an economic recovery without a public health recovery. In the State Assembly, I would favor funding a contact tracing workforce, continued and ongoing expansion of telemedicine to provide increased access to health care in a safe manner, prioritizing personal protective equipment and labor protections for essential workers and maintaining food supply chains for vulnerable populations. I would advocate for further development and availability of personal rapid testing. And I would promote tax incentives for employers to continue expansion of remote work opportunities. In addition, our governor has signed legislation to create pharmaceutical manufacturing in our state, and I would advocate for North County as the location for these new jobs, particularly with the biotech industry already well-established in San Diego County.
The truth is, this year has been traumatically stressful for all of us, and I would use my decades of experience working in mental health to listen and communicate clearly and frequently with constituents about the public health crisis and resources available to them. I believe with steady, visible, active and engaged leadership which demonstrates competence and concern, a public official can improve the lives of their constituents before passing any legislation.
How would you help business owners endure and recover from this pandemic?
Waldron: As a small-business owner for 25 years, I understand how government action, inaction and regulation can take its toll. Because of my experience I was appointed and served on the governor’s task force for economic recovery and the small business subcommittee to work on recommendations to the governor’s office and GoBiz regarding safely and quickly developing programs and incentives for business to safely open. The key to getting our economy back is supporting businesses – especially small businesses that provide most of the jobs in our state.
Schwartz: I’ve been walking the main streets of our district and meeting with small-business owners. The turnover and closures of local businesses is yet another layer of the devastation this pandemic has caused for our district and across our nation. We have to keep in mind that this pandemic is not isolated to main street and Fallbrook. It is the worst global public health crisis in a century. The economic damage is far greater than what Sacramento is capable of addressing. Without robust federal stimulus, there is no assured recovery for small businesses.
The pandemic put a hold on many things, but we cannot let people trying to make an honest living and run their own business suffer because of events vastly out of their control. I would strongly advocate for small-business relief and hold our federal administration and U.S. Senate accountable to pass additional stimulus legislation immediately. This money would be used for mortgage relief for landlords whose business and residential tenants are unable to pay their rents, expanding the tax credits for small businesses that hire new employees and funding the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program. I would follow and implement policies of the state task force on business and jobs recovery, led by our current and former governors, as well as our state global business leaders, CEOs, union representatives, economists, former Federal Reserve chair and other business and economy experts.
What is your stance on how the state/governor/health department has handled the COVID-19 pandemic until this point?
Waldron: In the beginning of our crisis, we did not know what we were dealing with. Precautions were taken. Since then, I believe the governor and health department have been slow to react to science and to safely reopen our economy. Issues with school openings and uncertainty for parents has been tantamount. I have called for better communication. The Employment Development Department has been a major failure amid the pandemic, and over a million Californians have still not received unemployment benefits. My office has helped thousands of constituents get help with EDD, which is the No. 1 complaint. The DMV shut down and canceled appointments at the beginning of the crisis and finally were forced to modernize and accept online transactions. This government’s slow response is unacceptable.
In fact, I have written two pieces of legislation in past years to modernize California government, including the DMV, EDD and department of health care services which died in committee but could have prevented myriad problems exacerbated with the pandemic if these modernization protocols had been implemented in the past couple of years.
Schwartz: Any criticism of any governor must be put in a context that recognizes the catastrophic failure of the federal government to respond to what is a global crisis. State governments are limited in their abilities to fund emergency responses and issue stimulus money to businesses the way Congress can. We would all be in better and more stable economic standing right now if the Senate had passed either of the House’s proposals for another round of stimulus, and if the current administration had handled this public health crisis responsibly and immediately.
Regarding California’s response to the pandemic, I would point out a stellar performance in communicating and educating the public on a regular and consistent basis. I believe our state could have improved specifically in areas regarding our contact tracing operations and most tragically, our Employment Development Department’s inability to properly process unemployment claims in order to provide timely benefits. Gov. Gavin Newsom inherited an unfortunate situation in which in 2011 former Gov. Jerry Brown, in an effort to balance our state budget, defunded a $200 million state emergency preparedness effort, which included emergency mobile hospitals and surge capacity stockpiles of medical gear, created in 2006 by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. I will advocate that our emergency preparedness stockpiles will never again be defunded.
Given what many consider to be an unstable political and social climate in our communities, how can you best make an impact for the constituents of District 75 in leadership?
Waldron: I continue to work on solving issues that affect my constituents. As mentioned above, my office helped thousands of constituents get responses from EDD, and I have been actively working and passing legislation on wildfire funding and protections and expanding mental health access. The biggest problems we face in our state require bipartisan solutions. I work across the aisle to ensure workable ideas and efficiencies can become a reality to help our residents. Big issues like wildfire protection, rolling blackouts, health care and education need deliberate and non-political solutions. These policy discussions are a strong point for me as I have worked hard to build relationships with colleagues who share concern on these issues regardless of party affiliation.
Schwartz: Let’s start by recognizing the instability is caused by our government’s fundamental failing to meet the needs of its constituents. People feel like their voices go unheard because their elected officials are not listening to them over the noise of politicians and corporate interests. I do not take corporate money, so I will be able to spend my time engaging, listening and working for my constituents. By comparison our current representative has been more engaged with corporate backers rather than present and available to constituents.
As a member of the State Assembly, I’ll hold town halls, host community discussions and offer resources on addressing hate. This country was founded in rebellion against tyranny and religious intolerance, we must continue to stride toward fully realized freedom for our neighbors regardless of their skin color, gender, sexuality or religion. As a proud Jewish woman, I understand that anti-Semitism is interconnected with other forms of hate and discrimination. If the government or individuals can harm me because I am Jewish without recourse, they will feel empowered to also harm my Christian, Muslim, Black or Latino neighbors.
What qualifications or personality/intellectual traits do you have that make you appropriate or the right person for the job?
Waldron: As a small-business owner and mother who has also served in local government I feel I am uniquely qualified to address the real-life issues we face in state government. Having served as a city councilmember in Escondido for 14 years, I have broad experience in working in a nonpartisan manner to address issues affecting the lives of our citizens. Land use planning; public safety; infrastructure, including roads, sewers and water, and regional issues, such as transportation management, intergovernmental relations, regional planning, were all areas I worked in.
My work and commitment to health care access has made me a leader in advocacy in this space. This year I was named “Mental Health Champion” by the Steinberg Institute on Mental Health, and I have extensive experience serving on Assembly Health committee for several years. My work on the Bipartisan Mental Health caucus, as vice chair of the Select Committee on Health Access in High Risk Communities and as one of only two Assembly members to serve on the Stanford Initiative, bringing together researchers and policymakers to address addiction and the brain.
This background is so helpful in being able to jump in and roll up my sleeves to work on the issues our state faces while still representing the constituents of the 75th Assembly district.
Schwartz: I am uniquely qualified for this position because, as a public health professional with 35 years of experience, I will not get lost in the abstraction of our state government and forget about the faces and the places in our district. I want to raise expectations in our district for how present and dedicated their elected officials can be to serving and advocating for them. I’ve been advocating for them for 35 years.
I lost my husband to cancer because in our health care system, the HMO was making the decisions rather than the provider. I lost my husband because the HMO refused to provide a CT scan for over a year, claiming it was unnecessary. For the cost of a CT scan, I lost my husband; my son lost his father and his students lost their teacher. I became a widow, a single parent and I worked two jobs to keep a roof over our head. As difficult as that time in my life was, I know there are millions of Californians who are hurting much worse right now; who don’t have access to health care, housing, jobs and education. I’m ready to work with them to fulfill the American promise and provide a secure future and the opportunities for success we all deserve.
I have had countless face-to-face conversations with my clients. I have been doing the work on the ground for decades. I am prepared to work with the people of Assembly District 75 to confront the public health, economic and environmental crises we face. It is time for change in our region. We can do better.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at email@example.com.