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Gary Horton: Pick your favorite flavor

Posted: August 30, 2016 4:36 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2016 4:36 p.m.
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From the privilege of authoring this (mostly) weekly column over the past 12 years, I’ve gained access and opportunity to speak and meet with many of our public leaders - and those who’ve desired to displace them.

Every two years, some blue newcomer would attempt a charge at Buck McKeon, and every two years the blue challenger would be turned away.

Twelve years back our 25th Congressional District was fairly solidly red. But time changes all things, and the growth of our city - along with local demographic shifts - has changed our political ocean’s color.

No more is the district reliably red. Today I hear that registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans throughout the entirety of the 25th Congressional District.

Recently, I’ve attended small public meetings and had private conversations with both Congressman Steve Knight and challenger Bryan Caforio. They’ve both been quite generous with their time and been helpful and cordial in our meetings and discussions.

What follows is no political hit job: I seek to represent what I’ve learned from these interactions.

Unique to this 2016 congressional race is that both Steve and Bryan are both highly qualified, and both clear on their respective missions and visions for government. In 2016, the 25th Congressional District voters face distinct choices.

This one is “Pick your flavor.” There are only two, and they are fully at opposite ends of the ice cream counter.

Steve Knight is a retired cop. He’s the son of a hard right statewide politician and he’s carrying the family torch. Steve is everything you’ve want in a current-to-the-moment, Tea Party, sometimes admittedly obstructionist congressman.

Steve is a law-and-order man. He’s certainly a “balance the budget and pay off the national debt” flag carrier.

He’s a “cut the budget at nearly any and all cost” guy because to his core he believes that the national debt is the greatest threat we face as Americans.

Steve is a “support Roe vs. Wade” guy - as it stands at the moment – but also a “Do anything legal to deter and overturn it” guy.

He’s a gun rights advocate and has voted time and again against restricting guns at almost any level – to be honest, including exclusions against the “no-fly” list folks obtaining weapons.

Steve says it’s time to accept that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay, and we’ve finally got to seriously work out its weakness. He says it’s time to reign in the pharmaceutical industry and overturn the G.W. Bush law that forbids Medicare from negotiating drug pricing.

He’s pro-investment in infrastructure and first-hand understands the sad condition of our freeways. He’s certainly pro-military and sees military spending as one of the few sacrosanct budget lines.

But above all, Steve is a “cut the deficit to zero” and “avoid the upcoming financial implosion” man. Cut nearly everything save the military, to achieve a balanced budget in the immediate time.

Finally, Steve acknowledges Congress must work with President Clinton to get things moving again. He seems to acknowledge obstructionism may be dead in an increasingly blue nation.

Steve’s positions are those of many, and they continue to resonate widely in our district. However, from my point of view, we must assign weights to each of our national problems and to the priorities with which we weigh and attack them.

So on the other side of the dial stands Bryan Caforio, perhaps the strongest Democratic challenger to recently attempt the 25th Congressional District prize.

Bryan is a UCLA and Yale Law School graduate. He’s practiced law for nine years, focusing on consumer rights issues, especially on consumer losses stemming from the banking and mortgage debacle that ensnared so many millions of Americans during the Great Recession.

He’s left a very successful career for his congressional run. There is substantial personal sacrifice for the ideals he hopes to promote.

Bryan’s focus and passion is “curing the political dysfunction in Washington. “We can’t move America ahead and solve recurring problems that so many Americans suffer unless we get cooperation and proper conduct back in congressional corridors.”

Bryan is very keen on the issues, facts, and figures. He seeks to be a completely “what you see is what you get” guy – so that what he says back home is how he votes in Washington.

Bryan is particularly concerned about protecting Social Security from privatization. He seeks to protect and expand Medicare and overturn the stupid law restricting drug price negotiation.

He’s pro-American military strength, but simultaneously hopes to “cut the fat” on legacy and vanity programs that provide little value at great expense.

Both candidates are pretty close to “by-the-book” for their current party lines. But one key issue where they are surprisingly opposite is support of NASA.

Steve sees NASA as a prime target for cuts to achieve his budgetary goals. Bryan sees NASA as a local driver of hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of high-paying aerospace jobs - and a dynamo of progress for Americans and all humanity.

The two’s difference on NASA is a true curiosity given our local’s aerospace legacy.

Plainly, in the end, this election is a straightforward, “pick your flavor” program. And with our demographic shifts, this election will also be a “fourth and goal” game with each team pushing every voter into the voting booth to score the Big One for the national team.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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