LOS ANGELES – The three leading candidates for California’s open Senate seat found a lot of common ground and avoided taking pointed jabs at each other at a forum Sunday, but they also showed differences, including how to respond to Israeli attacks — and dealing with Republicans.
Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff all support raising the minimum wage, lowering health care costs and using the federal government to address high housing costs and sick people on the streets. mentally, even if they sometimes differ. how to achieve those goals.
The three answered questions posed by a panel of reporters at a conference of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, whose approximately 17,000 members will vote this week on an endorsement. Roll Call cosponsored the event with the union and Courage California.
Notably, the person who currently holds the seat, Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler, absent from the gathering in Los Angeles. Butler, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week to fill the remainder of the late Senator Dianne Feinstein’s term, was invited to attend but his spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that he is from Washington. Butler has not said whether he will run for a full term in 2024.
(Watch: Democrats vie for California Senate seat debate)
Lee, Porter and Schiff used the event to burnish their brands and make the case that each is best equipped to win a once-in-a-generation open Senate seat. California’s primary system has candidates of all parties compete in March, with the top two vote-getters facing off in November 2024. Early voting shows House incumbents ahead, the race will be between two Democrats.
Porter talks about being a single mother of young children who knows what it’s like to struggle, and says she’s not afraid to stand up to powerful interests. He repeatedly reminded the audience that he does not accept corporate PAC or lobbyist contributions. “This is me. And this is why you trust me to fight for us,” he said. “What happens when politicians get too happy with corporations? Corruption.”
Schiff has described himself as a progressive who is not afraid to go to war with former President Donald Trump but still knows how to work with his political opponents. “We need people to come together to solve problems,” he said.
Lee acknowledged his long history as a liberal advocate and cited the struggles he has overcome. “I have been in this fight for a long time. And I had to choose between feeding my family or managing the rent. I was told I was not qualified because of the color of my skin,” she said. “And I know for sure, if we stand up and fight, we will win.”
Jackki Patrick, a patient care assistant from Oakland and a member of the union’s executive board, said she has not yet decided which candidate will get her support. “I thought it was great that they were here at our event and we got to ask those questions,” he said.
Here are the five issues the candidates answered:
Schiff has the 2022 backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — which has previously funded attacks on Democrats deemed likely to support the Palestinians — but the group has yet to endorse the Senate race.
“The only sentiment I want to express today, as Israel goes through its own 9/11, is clear support for security and Israel’s right to defend itself,” Schiff said. He said he spoke to a friend whose relatives died in the attacks. “This is the tragedy they are dealing with now.”
Porter condemned the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives. “There are lives lost in Gaza, there are lives lost in Israel and it’s because the United States allows terrorism to flourish and refuses to take a strong stand against Iran, which supports Hamas and Hezbollah. ,” he said.
Lee sponsored legislation that placed restrictions on US aid to Israel. In response to the current crisis, he said that the US “has a responsibility” to call for a ceasefire “and to call for the whole world to come together to try to stop the escalation of what is happening in the Middle East .”
All candidates support legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 hourly rate to $17 by 2028.
But is that enough, especially in a high-cost state like California? All three candidates said no.
Schiff said his father made $18,000 a year as a traveling salesman and that was enough for the family to buy a house. “I want people to be able to afford good, safe housing, and we can’t get it at minimum wage,” he said. “What we need is a livable wage that varies from place to place. So states should have flexibility but there should be a minimum and for health care workers, I support more than $25.
Lee said $20 an hour should be the floor. Anything less “is unacceptable anywhere in the United States, especially in California.” Later, when pressed to give a specific number, Lee said the minimum wage should be $50 an hour.
Porter noted that corporate profits have grown in recent years. “We have a Washington that consistently puts the interests of big corporations ahead of the interests of workers and families,” he said. Porter said he supports a $20 hourly federal minimum wage, and $25 in California, and will tie future rate increases to inflation.
Health care costs
Lee and Schiff said Democrats have made significant progress in controlling health care costs, such as capping the costs of certain drugs for Medicare recipients, but said they will expand that program to more Americans, as well as increase the number of drugs covered. . While all the candidates spoke in favor of “Medicare for All,” Porter blamed Democrats for failing to pass it when the party controlled both chambers in the last Congress. “When I came to Congress, we had the gavel as Democrats and we had the ability to pass Medicare for All and put it on the floor for a vote, we didn’t do it. That’s what I mean when I say Washington is rigged to work with special interests and not for us,” he said, drawing an audience of health care workers.
All contenders have expressed support for term limits for Supreme Court justices. But they have different opinions about term limits for elected members of Congress. Porter said he hasn’t fully decided on term limits, but talked about the importance of multi-generational political leadership. “That means there are voices of past experience but there are also voices of people experiencing things in the present,” he said.
Schiff said ending gerrymandering and overturning Citizens United — a court decision that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns — would do more to bring in new voices than to enforce term limits.
Lee, who is serving his 14th term compared to Schiff’s 12th and Porter’s third, said people in a democracy should have the right to choose who they choose. “And if that person isn’t doing their job, you’re not going to vote for them,'” he said.
The next speaker
Lee called the Republican leadership struggle in the House that led to the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy called last week’s speaker a GOP “civil war” and said Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., “is the only person who can restore civility. and move the country forward.”
Schiff — who was criticized in June by Republicans who said he falsely spread allegations about Trump’s 2016 campaign colluding with Russia — said there are conservative Republicans he views as ” people with convictions” suitable for the role. He cited two former members of the House, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, but declined an invitation to name a current member he would support because “my endorsement doesn’t help them.”
But Porter strongly disagreed. “When we say there are principled Republicans on the other side, I think we need to be clear about what those principles are,” he said. “No Republican will support the right of every American to make their own choice about whether to have an abortion. To me that makes all of these candidates unacceptable. “