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Old guard vs. new blood in Nov. election

Democrat from Barstow aims to unseat McKeon from House

Posted: October 9, 2010 10:04 p.m.
Updated: October 10, 2010 4:30 a.m.

On Nov. 2, voters will decide who represents one of the largest Congressional districts in California — incumbent Republican Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, or second-time Democratic challenger Jackie Conaway.

McKeon, R-Santa Clarita has represented the 25th district for 18 years. Conaway, a Barstow resident, also ran in 2008.

In the November 2008 election, McKeon won with 112,294 votes — or 59.82 percent — and Conaway came in with 75,427 votes.

The district covers more than 21,000 square miles, stretching from the northern San Fernando Valley and part of San Bernardino County, through the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope valleys and north through Mono and Inyocounties to the Nevada border.

By the end of last June, McKeon had spent $770,816 on his campaign and Conaway spent $2,702, according to information compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Roughly half of McKeon’s money has come from political-action groups, while 30 percent of Conaway’s was from individual contributions.

Jobs, economy and certainty
“There’s just so much uncertainty,” McKeon, 72, said last Friday. “The biggest thing everywhere I go is jobs, the economy — some kind of certainty.”

Banking on a Republican sweep of Washington, D.C. in the coming election and touting the GOP’s Pledge to America, McKeon said the plan is to eschew expansive bills and ensure the public has 72 hours to read legislation before it is voted on.

Otherwise, he said, “We’ll be with the same old status quo.

“(People) voted for change. ... Now they’re really upset with what happened.”

Last week, McKeon was en route to Pennsylvania, where he said he’ll be campaigning for Republican candidates, as well as in New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire.

McKeon said he will “be home in a few weeks” to campaign for his own re-election.

Santa Clarita’s first mayor said a highlight of this last term in Congress was becoming the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee in June 2009.

If Republicans sweep the House next month, McKeon would likely become chair of the committee that oversees national security policy, military resources and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Going in, McKeon said, Guantanamo Bay and the war in Afghanistan were major issues to be addressed.

“I think we have made real improvements,” he said.

Asked about redistricting, McKeon said California’s system needs revision. He supports Proposition 20 and opposes Proposition 27.

The problem, he said, is that while a citizens committee is set to oversee state legislative districts, unless Proposition 20 is passed state legislators will oversee redistricting for members of Congress. That, McKeon said, will likely lead to gerrymandered districts.

Of his 25th district, he said, “It’s big but it’s a great district,” and noted it has swelled from some 680,000 people when he was first elected to nearly 800,000.

“I know it will be changed (through redistricting),” he said.

The big picture
Conaway, 56, was clear about the size of the 25th district.

“The Santa Clarita Valley is part of a district that is too big,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Signal. “It will be reworked to be more relevant ... whether or not some or all of the propositions hold up.”

She said redistricting should be determined by “the people and the courts.”

Conaway, who has worked in home health care and at the Ft. Lewis Army facility in Washington, took a broad approach when asked what she would accomplish for the voters of the Santa Clarita Valley, with a population that represents roughly a third of the 25th district. 

“The question should not be what is in this for ‘us’ but what is good for the entire district and nation,” she said. “We need to rethink how we serve America.”

Conaway said the decision to run again was based on the last election’s numbers.

“If I had two-thirds of the 22,000 first-time new voters in Los Angeles County who voted for Obama only and no one else down the ticket, I would have won,” she said. “I came close that last time and will climb to the top this time.”

Conaway laid out her overarching mission: creating jobs, stopping outsourcing and getting capital to the small-business sector “where jobs can be quickly created.”

She said Social Security and Medicare should be left alone and wants to see a reduced reliance on contractors for civil-service and military jobs.

Much of her campaigning, she said, has been focused on talking with voters and going to public meetings.

If elected, Conaway said she will bring “success, consensus and leadership” to the table, “where (McKeon) has brought failure, divisiveness and an unproductive ‘me too on no votes’ strategy.”


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