Morse, McClintock square off in first debate

District 4 U.S. Congressional Representative candidates Jessica Morse and incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock debated in a packed Mariposa High School auditorium Sunday.

District 4 U.S. Congressional Representative candidates Jessica Morse and incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock discussed climate change, immigration and healthcare amongst other topics in a heated debate held in Mariposa High School’s auditorium Sunday afternoon.

District 4 includes Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties, as well as parts of Fresno, Madera, Nevada and Placer counties.

In opening statements, both candidates accused each other of being a carpetbagger, a term dating back to the Civil War era which refers to a nonresident seeking political gain in an area outside of one’s registered address.

“You have a choice between a career politician from Southern California who doesn’t live in our district, or a homegrown public servant,” Morse told voters in Mariposa.

McClintock shot back, “Jessica never lived in the 4th Congressional District until she rented a house last year so she could claim residency and come here to campaign against me as a carpetbagger.” McClintock also mentioned that Morse’s home in Pollock Pines is actually farther away from Mariposa than his Elk Grove residence is.

One of the first debate topics was immigration.

Morse proposed biometric entry-exit visa systems for keeping track of immigrants and drone monitoring at the border.

“Most people coming across the border illegally overstay their visas; they come on buses and airplanes,” Morse said. “Drones are monitoring and talking back and watching what’s going on whereas a wall is expensive and it’s passive.”

“I also do not support the stance of trying to take our dreamers out of the country and I absolutely abhor this position on the border of taking children away from their families,” Morse added, referring to the DREAM Act, a bill seeking to grant legal status to certain undocumented youth who entered the country as children. The bill has been reintroduced to Congress several times over the past two decades.

“The biggest problem with our immigration laws is they haven’t been enforced,” McClintock responded. McClintock added that he’s willing to consider legislation to legalize the status of dreamers, once “our borders are secured and our immigration laws are being uniformly enforced.”

On the topic of healthcare, Morse advocated for the development of price transparency bills to fully account for health care costs, with reference to large pharmaceutical companies setting immense charges to patients for EpiPens, amongst other medications and treatments.

To explain the high costs of EpiPens, McClintock blamed government regulations which have effectively forced competition out of the system, according to McClintock.

The candidates also discussed their thoughts on climate change and the threat of wildfires in their district.

McClintock argued that the climate has been changing for the past 4.5 million years and questioned whether increasing taxes on fossil fuel industry was the necessary step to address climate change. McClintock also emphasized deregulating forest management as part of his strategy for mitigating wildfire threats, and stressed the importance of building more reservoirs to conserve water.

Morse considered climate change a matter of life and death, especially given its connection to wildfires, and shared the example of a woman’s home being destroyed by a bark-beetle infested dead tree.

Later on, Morse questioned McClintock's decision to withdraw support for a visitors’ center in Mariposa County to help alleviate congestion at Yosemite National Park and bring revenues to the county.

In response, McClintock argued that he refused to favor one gateway county over another, since the park also has entrances in Madera, Mono and Tuolumne counties.

Those who missed the debate can view the Mariposa Gazette’s Facebook stream here or the Morse campaign’s stream here.

Main takeaways from both campaigns

As to be expected, the campaigns expressed vastly different takeaways from the debate.

In a Sept. 24 press release, the McClintock campaign stated, “While Rep. McClintock highlighted a vision of economic growth, national security and local control of our lands, Morse stuck to her script of lying about McClintock’s record (and her own) and trotted out the leftist playbook of more government, higher taxes, heavier regulations, more bureaucracy and fewer choices.”

The McClintock campaign criticized Morse’s allegedly changing stance on nationalizing health care, her support for sanctuary cities and alleged dishonesty about her credentials.

The Morse campaign stated in a Sept. 23 press release, “As expected, career politician McClintock struggled to explain his vote to eliminate coverage for people with pre-existing conditions – a position that would negatively affect nearly 300,000 of his constituents. Further, McClintock couldn't defend his vote against a budget bill that would’ve provided the district with funding to prevent forest fires.”

The release continued, “McClintock again struggled to defend his vote for the controversial tax bill that gave tax breaks to corporations and special interests at the expense of families in our community. Numerous times, McClintock called the tax bill the ‘largest tax cuts of the past century,’ while neglecting the fact that most of the cuts will go to corporations, special interests, and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of middle-class families in the 4th district.”

The Enterprise asked each candidate for their takeaway after the debate.

Morse stated, “The excitement for a real debate on the issues in California’s 4th district is palpable, with voters lining up for hours at the Mariposa Debate in order to hear where myself and Congressman McClintock stand on the issues. That is why I sincerely hope that Congressman McClintock will finally answer the questions of his constituents and attend the town hall debates he has yet to agree to. Our community is hungry for an independent leader with the bipartisan solutions to lower healthcare costs, increase vocational training and get big money out of politics.”

McClintock stated, “The debate offered us the ability to share our two very different visions for our country. I believe in freedom and that freedom works. We have revived our economy by freeing our job creators from unreasonable regulation and reducing taxes for families and businesses in our district. And we are finally enforcing our immigration laws again and putting the needs of Americans first. Ms. Morse, on the other hand, provided a very different vision for our country. She would nationalize healthcare and double the income taxes of every taxpayer in our district. She would repeal the tax relief my constituents are currently enjoying. And she is weak on border security, opposing the border wall and refusing to denounce sanctuary laws that are releasing dangerous criminal illegal aliens back into our communities. The choice is clear this election, and I’m confident that the voters of our district will overwhelmingly choose to stay on our current path of prosperity and freedom.”

Future debates

Morse and McClintock have both accepted a debate invitation from KQED to debate in Sacramento in early October, with date and formatting yet to be confirmed, according to Morse’s Deputy Campaign Manager Makaiah Mohler.

There are still two pending debate invitations, one in and Granite Bay and the other in South Lake Tahoe. The Morse campaign has accepted both, and is awaiting a response from the McClintock team, Mohler said.



Davis recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies. He spends his free time playing guitar and hiking with his dog, Penny.

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