Enterprise Reporter Davis Harper reached out to candidates vying for California’s Congressional District 4 with questions about various issues in the district and country.
Democratic nominee and tech company founder Brynne Kennedy is looking to uproot five-term incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock.
District 4 comprises Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties, along with the majority of Placer County and portions of Fresno, Madera and Nevada counties.
In the 2020 primary, McClintock won the popular vote over Kennedy by roughly 11 points.
Per Ballotpedia, the race has been deemed “likely Republican” by The Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball, two independent, nonpartisan newsletters. That indicates that although one party has a clear edge, an upset is possible.
By contrast, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzalez has determined the race to be leaning “Solid Republican.”
With nearly $2.3 million in contributions, Kennedy has outraised McClintock by more than $400,000.
That said, McClintock was outraised twofold by his 2018 Democratic challenger, Jessica Morse, and he still won by 8% – albeit, his most narrow margin of victory in a decade, per the Sac Bee.
Below are the candidates’ responses to questions sent by the Enterprise.
1. What would your top priority be in 2021 if elected to the House of Representatives? Why is this important to residents of California’s District 4, in particular?
McClintock: Lifting the devastating lockdowns and restoring our economy must be the focus of the next Congress.
Less than a year ago, we were enjoying the greatest economic expansion in our lifetimes, with the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. In Trump’s first three years, average wages grew five times faster than in Obama’s eight years. This wasn’t by accident – it was because a Republican administration and Congress enacted the largest combined tax and regulatory relief in our nation’s history.
My fight for these reforms is reflected in the fact that Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union and the National Federation of Independent Business have consistently rated me one of the best votes in Congress – and in many years, the best vote in Congress.
In this next session, I intend to continue to defend taxpayers against profligate spending and wasteful programs and to defend small businesses against stifling regulations. I will continue to press for a balanced budget amendment, my Default Prevention Act (that twice passed the House) to protect the nation’s credit, and reforms to restore social security to solvency and place our national government back on the course to balance.
Kennedy: People across our community are hurting and exhausted by the constant chaos in Washington. My top priority will be to help our nation overcome this pandemic and rebuild our local economy so we can get our communities back to normal. And I am the only candidate in this race who is willing to work with any party or president to get this important work done.
First, I will work to facilitate clear communication across all levels of government and deliver the resources our community needs to get our schools and businesses safely reopened, put our neighbors back to work and protect local public services. I’ll work across the aisle on the relief measures, infrastructure investments, tax and regulatory reforms we need to lay a foundation for growth and promote economic resilience – like lowering the cost of health care, cutting taxes for small businesses and working families, fixing our roads, expanding broadband, managing our forests and protecting Medicare and Social Security.
I am not a politician. I’ve spent my entire career in the private sector – building a business and bringing people together to create solutions that help more workers access good paying jobs in communities like ours. And that’s how I’ll lead in Congress.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 210,000 people across the country and left the national economy in a deep recession. Do you believe that President Donald Trump has responded appropriately to this crisis? What is your stance on a federal stimulus for people that have lost their jobs or been impacted financially by the pandemic? What actions will you take to ensure that access to health care is equitable, especially during the pandemic? Coming out of the recession, what opportunities for economic innovation exist in District 4 that you see yourself taking action to support, and what does support look like from a federal level?
McClintock: Back in March, I warned that the lockdowns would do more harm than good and urged the immediate reopening of our economy. Just this week, the World Health Organization finally came to the same conclusion. I also warned against poorly crafted legislation like the so-called Families First Act that required small businesses that had just lost their income to front 90-days of paid leave for employees. Four-and-a-half-million Americans lost their jobs as small businesses cut their liability due to this law.
Sweden got it right and we got it wrong. Sweden kept its schools and shops open, and trusted its citizens to use their own best judgment according to their own circumstances. For the last several months, Sweden has averaged less than one COVID death a day. Not only is its mortality rate much lower than the United States, it has suffered much less economic damage than we have. That has also been true of the states in our own country that stayed open. As I warned on the House floor in March, COVID-19 didn’t destroy our economy – government lockdowns did. When I supported the CARES Act that provided lifeline support to families and businesses, I warned that it was no substitute for getting Americans back to work immediately.
I continue to support the comprehensive health reform package long sought by House Republicans. Instead of bureaucratizing our health care and leaving patients at the mercy of government bureaucrats, it puts patients back in charge of their health care decisions by fostering a dynamic, competitive market that offers the widest range of choices, a supportive tax structure to assure that a basic health plan is within the financial reach of every family, and an assigned risk pool to assure coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
Kennedy: America has 4% of the world’s population and 20% of the deaths from COVID-19. We’ve lost 100,000 businesses this year alone and millions are out of work. Instead of a national strategy we’ve gotten an inept response from Washington – and even less from our incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock, who voted to slash funding to the CDC, insists he knows better than the nation’s top scientists, refuses to wear a mask, and was the only California Representative in either party to vote against the Families First COVID relief bill.
This public health crisis has strained our economy and undermined the revenue streams that support schools and local governments. To position us for recovery, we need additional relief measures focused on solutions we need to create jobs, expand testing and tracing, safely reopen schools, help businesses access working capital and PPE, support for those out of work through no fault of their own, and help local governments fund vital services like police, fire, public health and elections.
As the daughter of parents who each battled cancer, health care is personal for me. While my opponent works to take health care away from 75,000 constituents during a pandemic, I will fight to protect Medicare and fix the Affordable Care Act to expand choice and reduce costs, while defending insurance protections for people with prior conditions.
I’m the only candidate in this race to build a business or work in the private sector. I spent my career pioneering solutions to help more people work from anywhere, and access good jobs in communities like ours. With the right infrastructure and broadband investments, we can be a hub for this type of innovation. I’ll also work to enact tax incentives and regulatory relief to attract capital for new jobs and to create the solutions we need in forest management, housing and upgrading our energy system.
3. Should the U.S. Senate be allowed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee before the results of the presidential election are finalized?
McClintock: “Be allowed?” The Constitution clearly requires the president to nominate replacements to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court and gives the senate the power to act on them. In 28 of the 29 times a vacancy has occurred in the court during an election year, presidents have made nominations to fill them.
This is particularly important this year due to the legal mess that universal mail-in voting is already creating in the vote for president and the likelihood that the Supreme Court will be called upon to adjudicate disputes.
Why doesn’t the Enterprise ask a far more significant question to the future of our republic: democrat leaders have made it very clear that they intend to pack the Supreme Court with new seats, pack the senate with new states, and bypass the Electoral College, giving rural states virtually no voice in the selection of future presidents. These actions would fundamentally transform the fundamental constitutional architecture of our government and hand the left permanent control of our nation. This is what makes 2020 the most important election since 1864.
Kennedy: I strongly oppose efforts to game the system of judicial nominations for partisan political advantage – whether it’s done by democrats or republicans.
The last time a Supreme Court vacancy occurred so close to an election and the presidency and senate were controlled by the same political party, Abraham Lincoln was president. President Lincoln said any action on such a consequential lifetime appointment should wait until after the election – so the American people could weigh in.
I believe President Lincoln was right. And the only difference between what President Lincoln faced and what we are facing in 2020 is that today people were already voting when the vacancy occurred.
Regardless of which party is in power, I will always oppose partisan schemes that seek to usurp the will of voters or undermine our institutions – whether by stonewalling qualified nominees for vacancies that occur months before an election begins, or by trying to “pack” or increase the size of the court after an election has occurred.
4. Wildfire concerns continue to persist in Congressional District 4, which includes hundreds of thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management land, multiple national forests, and Yosemite National Park. What support would you bring back from Washington to ensure federal land managers are adequately equipped to undertake wildfire prevention efforts, including selective thinning and prescribed burning, among other forest management activities? How would you ensure that all homeowners will be able to afford home hardening and defensible space measures?
McClintock: I have focused my attention in congress on restoring active forest management and have introduced many bills to allow immediate salvage of fire-killed trees, to clear out dead timber, to restore fire ravaged terrain and to streamline the environmental regulations that have made tree-thinning endlessly time-consuming and ultimately cost-prohibitive.
In 2016, my legislation to provide a categorical exclusion from NEPA for forest thinning was enacted as part of the WIIN Act. It has reduced permitting time from four years to four months and is now being used as part of the biggest fuel reduction project in the history of the Tahoe Basin. Sadly, due to democratic opposition in the senate, we had to agree to limit its effect to Tahoe. My HR 5218 would extend this authority throughout the federal forests.
Excess timber is either carried out of the forest or it burns out. For many decades, we carried it out. Federal foresters would mark off excess timber, logging companies would pay for that timber, 25% of the proceeds from timber auctions went directly to our local communities and we put the other 75% back into our forests. We enjoyed healthy forests and a thriving local economy.
Kennedy: Devastating wildfires reflect our ineffective federal representation and decades of forest mismanagement – the majority of which are the responsibility of the federal government.
For 40 years – including a decade on the congressional committee with direct oversight over federal lands – Tom McClintock has failed to do the job. He voted against a bi-partisan law to clean up the maintenance backlog in our national parks, and repeatedly voted to shut down our government and defund forest management efforts. He also voted against wildfire recovery aid, fire prevention grants, tax relief for wildfire victims, and failed to hold PG&E accountable for basic maintenance while funding his campaigns with their money. I won’t.
Instead, I’ll work across the aisle to build a stronger partnership between the state, USFS and private sector to more aggressively manage our forests – streamline regulations, expand timber harvesting, and dramatically increase funding for prescribed burns and other forest thinning efforts. I will also fight to restore deductions of wildfire losses, and provide tax breaks that enable homeowners to recoup the cost of home hardening and vegetation management. These reforms can also play an important role in addressing the risk imbalance that has left so many neighbors facing home insurance cancellations.
5. A growing body of research suggests that climate change is exacerbating drought and wildfires in California, along with other devastating natural disasters throughout the country. What actions would you take to address it?
McClintock: Science tells us that the planet has been warming on and off since the last ice age and is likely to continue to do so. In a warming epoch, we need to build more dams to store excess water from early melts and we have to match tree density to a level that the land and groundwater can support. We have to space trees so that snow doesn’t get trapped in dense canopies and evaporate before it can reach the ground. Forest fires and dead forests make a mockery of all the laws aimed at reducing carbon emissions. A burning or decaying forest releases carbon back into the air – while a growing forest absorbs carbon. Milling surplus trees – to make way for a healthy, growing forest – sequesters their carbon indefinitely and renews the forest’s ability to absorb still more.
Before western civilization, paleontologists tell us we lost between 4 and 12 million acres a year to fire. Modern forest management brought that down to a quarter million acres. We’ve lost four million acres so far this year. That’s not a new normal. That’s the old normal reasserting itself. That’s how nature deals with overgrown lands.
Kennedy: Climate change is already imposing higher costs on all of us in disaster response, wildfire recovery, infrastructure repairs, home insurance cancellations and higher utility bills. And it threatens a local economy reliant on tourism, outdoor recreation, and agriculture.
We need to re-align the science with policy design and public investments so we’re focused on prevention and adaptation – not just disaster response. I’ll work across the aisle to review regulations that undermine this work and to convene hearings with industry stakeholders – including insurers – so we can better protect homeowners and businesses.
We’re already seeing how private market-based approaches to climate are creating jobs in our own community and across America. That’s why I would work to end subsidies for yesterday’s technologies, and create new tax incentives targeted at the solutions our communities need right now – on power delivery, vegetation management, bio-fuels, renewable energy, water storage, and farming efficiency.
I believe we can no longer afford to see this issue only as a threat – but as an opportunity to unleash American ingenuity and create jobs. The market demand exists. But the choice is whether to create these innovations in our community or buy them from elsewhere down the road at a higher price.
This article was updated Oct. 20 to reflect the latest quarterly finance reports for both candidates.