Meet the 4th Congressional District candidates

Left to Right: Dr. Robert W. Derlet, Tom McClintock, and Sean White. 

Two Democrats, including one from Calaveras County, are vying with 4th Congressional District Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, in the June 7 primary. The top two finishers will face off in the November General Election.

Sean White of Rail Road Flat, a solar electric power instructor, author and contractor, says he believes voters will see his lack of campaign donations as an advantage. He has made the focus of his campaign efforts to reduce the influence of big money on politics. His goals include a “repeal” of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that gives donations by corporations the same constitutional protection as donations by individual people.

“Voters are sick and tired of how the system is rigged by large campaign contributions. Conservative or not, most people in this country are ready for a change. People do not like status quo politicians who take the big money from those that need favors to stay in power.”

Dr. Robert Derlet, a physician who lives in Sonora, also believes that voter displeasure with the status quo this year will give him a chance.

“I think voters are fed up with career politicians and want to put the people back into congress who will do something.”

McClintock, for his part, notes that compared to other members of Congress, he has a high proportion of small donations from individual donors.

“Like everyone else, I would like to raise as much as I can and spend as little as I need!” McClintock said in an emailed response.

A check of Federal Election Commission records shows that McClintock has received just over $667,000 in donations in the past two years. That total includes dozens of donors listing occupations such as corporate president, CEO or executive. His donors also include author Dean Koontz, four farmers, at least eight physicians and five American Indian tribes, including the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok, which gave $2,700.

White said of his fundraising, “I am shooting for one million $0 donations. The system is rigged and people need an alternative to politicians that take bribes (campaign contributions).”

Derlet said he did not yet know what he might raise and that he will consider the issue again after the primary assuming he makes the cut to be on the ballot in November.

Regardless of the money differential, voter registration in the district would appear to favor McClintock. According to California Secretary of State records through April 8, the district’s voter registration is 44.13 percent Republican, 28.68 percent Democrat and 20.93 percent no party preference.

Derlet said his priorities, if elected, would be to reform a health care insurance system he says serves many people poorly, to increase environmental protection, and to stimulate rural economies in places like the Mother Lode.

He says his priorities work together because preserving healthy forests will increase the tourism that supports a substantial industry here. “People will come from the Bay Area to see beautiful forests,” he said.

Both Derlet and White say they believe human-caused climate change is a huge problem and that they would do something about it. They accuse McClintock of denying climate change.

McClintock defends his record, saying he focuses much of his attention on water and forest issues. He says his work has strengthened local water rights, helped resume efforts to build more water storage reservoirs and promoted efforts to “remove excess timber before it burns” in federal forests. He blames restrictions on logging in recent decades for making forests denser and more prone to catastrophic wildfires.

McClintock has also been an advocate for conserving more water in federal lakes such as New Melones Reservoir rather than releasing it for environmental uses, such as maintaining salmon populations.

Derlet, in contrast, defends continuation of minimum environmental water flows. “I think they’ve been well thought out, scientifically,” he said.

All three candidates advocate some level of reform of federal laws on marijuana.

“If it were not illegal, it would take away the criminal element,” White said. “Three people were shot on a pot farm less than a mile from my house. I have many neighbors that are pot growers. Many of them are good, hard-working people. We need to end prohibition.”

McClintock noted that last year he sponsored an amendment that would have allowed state governments to regulate marijuana within their own borders without federal interference.

“We should do everything we can to assure that every American is aware of the risks and dangers that marijuana use poses – particularly to young people. However, I think a strong case can be made that the violent underground economy and resulting crime that prohibition has created outweighs the societal harm that would be done by allowing commercial access to this drug.”

Derlet advocates a modest reform – having the federal government reclassify marijuana as a schedule 2 drug. The current listing as a schedule 1 drug means that the federal government does not recognize it as having any legitimate uses. “And then really just leave it up to the states on the cultivation,” he said.

Each of the three candidates had a different take on presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to deport undocumented immigrants.

Said White, “I do not think he would really deport them. We need the workers for our economy. It would be bad for business. He did get a lot of publicity with that statement, which is one way to win votes without depending on raising money.”

McClintock said he supports Trump’s proposal.

“Trump proposes to deport illegal immigrants and I strongly support him on this. A nation unwilling to deport those who break its immigration laws effectively has no immigration laws.”

McClintock notes that illegal immigration helps drive down wages for everyone else.

Derlet said he believes immigrant workers should be given “a pathway to citizenship” and that he is not eager to deport people.

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