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SCV congressional candidates lay out qualifications at forum

Posted: May 14, 2014 5:24 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2014 5:24 p.m.

Candidates running to replace the Santa Clarita Valley’s longtime congressman come from a variety of different professional and personal backgrounds, but each said Wednesday it’s his experience that makes him qualified for office.

Seven of the candidates running to replace Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, who is retiring after the current term, laid out their backgrounds and qualifications Wednesday during a forum held by the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Candidates gave a presentation on their experiences and goals, if elected, and each also fielded some questions from the more than 100 people in attendance Wednesday at the Tournament Players Club in Valencia.

As has been the case throughout the campaign, many candidates pointed to their business experience as reason they would make an effective representative to take over for McKeon in the 25th Congressional District, which covers the Santa Clarita Valley as well as portions of the Antelope and Simi valleys.

Business background
Saugus resident and Republican Troy Castagna said his professional background as a financial and tax adviser gives him the know-how to deal with budgetary and tax issues in Congress.

“I think with my knowledge of tax and finance, I can get there and lead on the issues,” he said. “I don’t have to just sit back and passively participate; I can actively participate in the details of the discussions, come up with some legislation, come up with some ideas.”

Castagna also the fact that he is not a “career politician” is a plus.

“I think we need a fresh perspective; we need someone who speaks your language,” he said.

He wasn’t the only one to tout business credentials at Wednesday’s forum.

“I’m a business man — I know how to cut costs,” said David Bruce, a Stevenson Ranch resident who is running as a Libertarian. “When politicians talk about cutting costs, they talk about cutting the rate of their increased spending.”

Bruce said one of his top priorities if elected would be to shutter the U.S. Department of Education. He said he wants to focus on cutting the nation’s debt and fixing — though not necessarily repealing — the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

“I just think we need somebody to run government as a business,” Bruce said, “because if we run government as government we’re going to keep going into debt.”

Another candidate, Republican and former state Sen. Tony Strickland, went a step further and said he would like to see the full repeal of Obamacare, calling it “fundamentally flawed.”

He also said he would fight for a balanced budget amendment if elected to Congress to try and rein in the nation’s debt.

“Right now, we’re passing on a $17.5 trillion debt onto my kids, your kids, your grandkids,” Strickland said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Strickland said he would work to improve the nation’s economy, partly by working toward energy independence by supporting projects such as the proposed Keystone Pipeline.

“I think our challenge in this generation is to be energy independent,” he said.

Obamacare and Cemex
When it comes to Obamacare, Democrat Lee Rogers drew on his professional background as a podiatrist to say he has the know-how to address some issues with the law, which he said also has a number of good points.

He also said he wants to focus on putting more money in the hands of middle class citizens and improving the economy in the congressional district.

“The economy here is doing well in spite of what’s going on in Washington, not because of it,” he said.

Rogers said some of his focus on improving the local and national economy would include protecting and expanding aerospace and green energy jobs, improving transportation infrastructure, and stopping outsourcing.

But Rogers said he would also focus on more localized issues, such as the proposed Cemex sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon.

“My No. 1 priority is to go to Washington and stop the Cemex mine,” Rogers said.

Another candidate, state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, also said Cemex remains a pressing issue and pointed out that he and another Republican representative, Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, had urged McKeon to try to stop the mine by submitting an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act declaring Highway 14 to be a “national defense asset.”

“We need somebody to go there and actually fight this mine,” he said.

Knight also said his experience living and working in the district are part of why he would make an effective representative.

“I want to be your representative because I love this district, because I have roots here and because I can make a difference,” Knight said.

Other issues
Republican Navraj Singh, a resident of Porter Ranch, said one of his top priorities would be ensuring the strength of America’s military forces.

Singh also touted his background as a business owner as reason he would be able to help the district’s economy, saying, “The government should not be in the business of business.”

“I’m not going to Washington, D.C., looking for a job,” he told those in attendance. “I’m going to Washington, D.C., to do a job for you.”

Evan Thomas, a Lancaster resident and Air Force veteran who is running as a Democrat, said he would pledge to hold regular town hall meetings with constituents, if elected, and would provide information showing how much time he spends on district-related work and how much time he spends on campaign or fundraising activities.

“Would you like to spend $174,000 on an employee when you can’t see their time card?” he asked the crowd, referring to the salary for a member of Congress. “I wouldn’t.”

Thomas also said improving education and ensuring economic and job growth in the district would be major emphases of his.

“I think what we’ve seen in Congress are repeated attacks on consumer confidence and business confidence,” he said.

The primary election for the congressional race is June 3.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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