Two challengers campaign to unseat Calvert in 42nd District

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Candidates for the 42nd Congressional District
From left, U.S. Rep Ken Calvert, Democrat Regina Marston, and Democrat Liam O'Mara, Ph.D. Valley News/Courtesy photos

The U.S. Representative for California’s 42nd Congressional District has been Ken Calvert, essentially, since 1993 and in the upcoming March 3 primary the Republican will be challenged by two Democrats.

Calvert has represented the 44th and 43rd District previously and is one of the most senior members serving in the legislative body. He currently serves in Washington on the House Appropriations Committee where he is the ranking member of the Defense Subcommittee and on Energy and Water Subcommittee.

Democratic challenger Regina Marston is a communications professional with 30 years of experience working in a variety of industries including technology, health care, home building, energy, utilities, nonprofits and more.

Democratic challenger Liam O’Mara has a Ph.D. in history and currently serves as the adjunct professor of history at Chapman University.

The 42nd District includes Canyon Lake, Corona, Eastvale, Menifee, Murrieta, Norco, Wildomar and part of Temecula.

Valley News sent each candidate the same four questions and below are their responses:

What makes you uniquely qualified to hold the office you are campaigning for?

Calvert: As a former small-business owner and now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives I have the experience required to deliver results for Riverside County. I put that experience to work last year, working hand in hand with the city of Temecula to help secure a $50 million federal grant to reduce congestion on Interstate 15. The Temecula grant was the only project in our state to receive funding in the national competition.

Marston: I’m a working candidate that has been in the trenches working on issues that matter to District 42 residents for over 20 years. I want to take my experience in affordable housing, infrastructure and development, job creation, sustainable energy and the health insurance industry to push forward policies that will make a positive impact for you. My experience has shown me how to negotiate with a wide variety of stakeholders, including federal, state and local governments, developers and builders, utility companies, policymakers and regulators. I know how to build consensus among varied groups and make sure they feel that their voices are heard. I understand how the local, state and federal government works and will bring that special experience to my office.

O’Mara: I am both a product of the working class – having been a longshoreman, a truck driver and a fry cook – and also a Ph.D. and an expert in the history of ideas. The first in my family with a college degree, I did not even enter school until age 30, but for the past decade, I have been teaching at colleges and universities in my fields of Middle East, European and world history. Knowing not only the struggles of many Americans firsthand, I also have the analytical tools to work through them and the teaching experience to explain and articulate real data-driven solutions to them.

What is the single most pressing issue facing the district you represent/hope to represent in the years to come?

Calvert: I’m deeply concerned by the growing homeless crisis that’s prevalent in communities throughout California, including right here in Riverside County.

Marston: District 42 is the future of Southern California. The area still has affordable housing, land for future development, and it will continue to be the region that builders, residential developers, commercial development and retailers will flock to for the next 20-plus years. With this growth will come challenges to our infrastructure, water resources, schools, fire and police resources. We will need to have a high level of collaboration and cooperation between, local, state and federal governments to meet these challenges and ensure that the district remains a great place to live, work and play.

O’Mara: The continuing decline in American wages and quality of life is especially acute in areas that did not have high socio-economic development previously. Half the Inland Empire does not earn a living wage, yet housing and health care costs have skyrocketed. In a country where wages have been stagnant for more than 40 years, and which has fallen from first in the world to 17th in living standards, this is a serious matter. And since fully 47% of American jobs are at immediate risk for automation, the Inland Empire is in for a bumpy road given the lack of preparation at the national level for these changes.

How do you intend to tackle/solve that issue?

Calvert: Policies enacted in Sacramento have essentially legalized drug use and petty theft making it tougher to get individuals, many with mental health problems, the treatment they need. We need to reverse those policies and connect homeless individuals with available resources. I’ve fought for federal funding for homeless veterans and will continue to advocate for solutions that get people the help they need and off the street.

Marston: I intend to use my 30-plus years of experience working in housing, development and clean energy industries to be the champion to bring all of the various municipalities, NGOs, county organizations, along with state and federal agencies and entities together to work on these issues as one coordinated effort.

O’Mara: The first thing we need to do is to get wages rising again in line with productivity gains, as they did for decades. The longest sustained boom in our history saw everyone rising together, with wages growing as fast as overall productivity, but since the shift away from a progressive tax code the incentives for businesses to pay most workers well, and the incentive to invest in growing operations in the U.S. has all-but disappeared. Changes to the tax code would reverse the trend that has seen a trillion dollars in wealth lost by the bottom 50% of the population, even as the gains made at the top regularly broke records. Wealth in the hands of working families gets spent, and that spending drives every other part of the real economy – to get America growing again, we need to improve wages.

What are some of your key objectives when/if you are elected?

Calvert: I will oppose efforts by Democrats to dramatically raise tax rates on working-class families to pay for a government-run health care system and the misguided Green New Deal. We must be a nation of laws and secure our borders – that’s why I support the construction of a border wall, closing immigration loopholes and making the use of E-Verify mandatory. I’m strongly opposed to the Democrats’ plan to kick families off their private health care plans and into a DMV-style, government-run health care system for all Americans and people entering the country illegally. I will continue to fight for traffic relief efforts, including bringing more federal resources to expand our roads, more high-paying jobs in our region and enhanced mass transit options for commuters.

Marston: I will ensure that everyone in our district is well-represented in Washington by listening to all people, not just the powerful and well-connected. To make sure that we have a clear communication platform for all constituents to bring forward ideas, issues and solutions to my office so that I can hear from everyone and get the information I need to assist my constituents. I will work closely with all local, county, state and federal agencies to ensure that we have the appropriate resources for our district. I will work closely with our local labor union leadership to make sure their voices are heard in Washington. I will host regularly scheduled town halls throughout the district, not just in one location.

O’Mara: I am fighting for higher wages for all American workers, and for families to keep more of what they earn; for single-payer universal health care to greatly reduce the price and improve the quality of care; for investment in the new technologies that will help us beat global warming and come out ahead in the races for artificial intelligence and biotechnology; for thorough campaign finance reform to break the power of the oligarchy currently dictating policy in the U.S. and for the aforementioned progressive tax code, among many other policy areas. The key for me is to focus on the real issues and not the symptoms and to engage in substantive dialogue with the public in order to get past the petty tribalism of our partisan politics.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.