Valley News sat down with Carl DeMaio, one of the candidates for the 50th Congressional District, Friday, Jan. 31. DeMaio, a Republican, is a talk show radio host and a former San Diego city councilmember. The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Give us some of your background.
I think people know me from whether it was my time on San Diego city council or my radio show on News Radio 600 KOGO-AM. Or the work I’ve been doing for the better part of two decades with Reform California, the organization I founded to fight tax increases and stand up for taxpayers against waste, fraud and abuse in government.
They know I’m a fighter, from all that work, they know I’m a fighter. I will stand up and take on the career politicians and put the public interest first. The gas tax repeal last year, I think, was a good example of that. The career politicians from both political parties went into the back room and increased the gas tax. And these people have been stealing our gas tax money every single year. They continue to promise road improvements. They continue to say that they’re going to expand Interstate 15. But instead what they’re doing is they’re shifting the money to everything else but our transportation needs.
So I said, “We got to stop the gas tax,” and we’ve got to then also put accountability on our road repair funds so they can’t raid them and they can’t divert them. In that battle, we were able to send the message by recalling the state senator who was the deciding vote on the gas tax, Josh Newman, the first successful recall of a state senator in 104 years. The first successful recall of any state official in 104 years. And we did that because we were able to give the grassroots a vehicle by which they could have their voice heard.
Now, the gas tax repeal itself was winning until the politicians changed the title and summary on it to deceive voters. Look, they got an ill-got win in 2018, but it’s not going to deter us. We will not stop until we roll back the gas tax as promised and we take the existing gas tax monies which are sufficient to fix roads and we make sure that the money goes only to the roads.
That’s just an example just in the last year of the sorts of fights that I’m willing to wage on behalf of the people and with the people. It’s not me that’s been able to do this. It’s the movement that we’ve been able to build and lead that’s been able to really stand up to the politicians and show them that they are going to face the consequences if they violate their oath and violate their trust of their constituents.
Now, you have other things that you have plans for as well?
Sure, I mean, you have to address a multitude of issues and concerns from the local issues all the way up to the international issues when you’re in Congress.
But the three priorities I think I’ll spend the most time on is No. 1, securing the border, helping President Donald Trump get his border security and immigration reform program through. The president has not been getting support from even members of his own party in trying to build the wall, reform the immigration laws so that we close the loopholes, stop the sanctuary city policies and end the welfare benefits to illegal immigrants. Those reforms are desperately needed if we are going to have a secure border and we’re going to crack down on the illegal immigration. So I think first and foremost that a lot of my time will be spent on border security.
Second, I do believe that we need someone in California to lead the fight to take back our state from socialism. Gas is $5 a gallon. Taxes are the highest in the country. Where is that money going? Not to our priorities. It’s going to all sorts of welfare programs. We have one-third of … individuals living under poverty in the state of California.
That’s because we are increasing our cost of living exponentially without really looking at how we create jobs and how we get people the earnings and that’s because of the taxes, mandates, regulations and fees. So leading the voice of the forgotten California – to try to take back our state is my second largest priority.
And third, I do believe that we’ve got to change Congress as an institution. And this is what career politicians – I’m going to be the most unpopular guy back there. I believe that Congress has got to live under the same laws as the rest of us – no exceptions. What they’ve done is they’ve voted themselves gold-plated pensions and perks and benefits. They exempted themselves from various laws that we have got to comply with. They don’t pass the budget on time.
So can you give us some examples of that?
So for example, I’m a big supporter of open government. The Freedom of Information Act exempts Congress, so their records are not subject to disclosure. I want every single government document, every single email or text message. I want to know who’s talking to our members of Congress, what meetings they’re having and what dialogues they’re having.
And they should have to put their documents out for public review like any government agency. But they exempted themselves from that. The exempted themselves from OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Regulations – from sexual harassment requirements from insider trading laws. The list goes on and on of exemptions. No exemptions.
What about health care?
They receive a subsidized health care plan. They do not have to comply with the “Obamacare” program because “Obamacare” is not just the quote “mandated coverage,” which I disagree with because people should be able to make their own health care decisions, but it also is very expensive. Well, members of Congress get massive subsidies through the Office of Personnel Management, so they get gold-plated health care.
You know what my situation is? Put members of Congress into, no, not just “Obamacare,” put them into the Veterans Affairs health care System.
You want to see change at the VA? Force members of Congress to stand in the same long lines as our veterans and you’re going to see some major reform at that point.
By the way, did you know that members of Congress get their own concierge doctor at taxpayer expense? There’s a House physician on call to see the 435 members of Congress. And so, for anyone who’s ever had a hard time getting a doctor’s appointment, just recognize that your tax dollars are paying for a concierge doctor to, at any, you know, whim, to go to a member of Congress and immediately take care of them.
Again, I want to force members of Congress to live under the same laws as us, no exemptions.
Those are the three priorities: border security, someone to be the voice of opposition in California, and we’ve got to shake up Congress and really have some accountability.
Why don’t you run for a state office?
You know, I think that, as I showed on the radio, that you can use whatever platform you have to try to address the issues that people are concerned about. People would probably say the last person to lead a statewide referendum on the gas tax would be a radio host from San Diego, but no one else was doing it, so I stepped forward and gladly took up the responsibility. As a member of Congress, I don’t care if an issue is local, state or federal, if it’s a concern to my constituents, I’m going to speak out. I’ll provide leadership; I’ll be their voice.
If elected, you’re going to be one out of 435 Congress members. How do you plan to implement your changes in Congress?
This is a common question that I got when I ran for San Diego City Council. Back in 2008, they said, well, you’re just gonna be one of eight. One of eight. You’re not gonna be able to get reform done.
Actually, we did …. we shamed them. We put pressure on the members of (the city council).
And so, what you’re gonna see from me is a very activist, a very grassroots-focused member of Congress who is going to speak out on the issues and galvanize public support. I disagree with everything that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stands for. She’s pushing socialism.
However, I do have some respect for the fact that she has galvanized her grassroots supporters to put pressure on Congress to try to get them to adopt socialism, and she’s been successful at that. She’s a freshman. She gets her ideas from a coloring book. OK, so we’re not talking about someone with a whole lot of resources there, but she’s been effective at driving the debate.
So when I see that on the left, I know that I can take good ideas of freedom, of government accountability, of limited government, of standing up to socialism, I know that I can take those ideas and be as effective in opposition to Ocasio-Cortez.
What are your plans for homelessness?
I have a four-point plan that we’ve put up. And not only is it a policy plan but it’s also a campaign. So the four points are, No. 1 enforce the law – vagrancy, loitering panhandling, drug laws – we have to enforce the law as a mechanism to force people into treatment. That’s the second part, make sure that for everyone who wants to break that cycle of dependency, that we have a treatment program, we have mental health programs and we have a warm place for them to stay. Right now, we’re not requiring that they follow the rules of those programs or that they really commit to the program.
My second reform is that if we’re gonna give someone a warm place to stay, it comes with the strings attached that they have to be clean and sober and they have to go to a program. They have to try to turn their life around.
Third, we need to fund success, not failure. Let’s open up the funding for homeless programs to all providers, including faith-based providers. We’re sitting right now in a homeless shelter. Did you know that I’m the only candidate running for Congress whose campaign headquarters is in a homeless shelter? And I’m proud.
Solutions for Change takes no government money because they don’t coddle. They don’t play by the rules of government, which says you should allow people to use drugs, you should allow them not to participate in the mental health programs and I say that’s absurd. It’s throwing good money (away). So I want to, with my third reform, open up funding to proven successes like Solutions for Change.
Fourth, we would require that anyone receiving public assistance, homeless individuals or any other public assistance, do put a public works shift every other day, cleaning up the community, doing public works so that we require that they give back in some way to the community.
These are the four points that Californians would like to see us to execute, and I think that these four points will actually address the homeless crisis. Now I can offer a plan, but I’m going to do better than that. I’m going to put it into action for filing a ballot measure in San Diego or putting my plan on the ballot in November.
We only need 58,000 signatures, and I believe that we will make San Diego that center-of-gravity, the ground zero in the debate on what do we do about dealing with the homeless crisis in California? If you want to get coddled, go to Los Angeles or San Francisco. They’re good at coddling, and look at the bad results.
But if you want to get help in breaking the cycle of dependency then in San Diego, we are compassionate but we also require accountability. I want that sort of program here in San Diego, and I believe it will produce substantial success on the homeless epidemic.
Julie Reeder can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at email@example.com.