Demo­cratic hope­fuls de­bate

Four can­di­dates in agree­ment on many top­ics

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By JULIE DRAKE Val­ley Press Staff Writer

PALM­DALE — Four self-de­scribed pro­gres­sive Demo­cratic can­di­dates vy­ing for the 25th Con­gres­sional District seat in two sep­a­rate races agreed on a lot of top­ics at a Thursday night de­bate.

The can­di­dates — Getro El­ize, Christo­pher Smith, Cenk Uygur and Aníbal Valdéz-Ortega — all crit­i­cized Demo­cratic Assem­bly­woman Christy Smith for not show­ing up to the de­bate. Christy Smith, no re­la­tion to can­di­date Christo­pher Smith, could not at­tend Thursday’s de­bate be­cause she was in Sacra­mento.

“Christy Smith is fo­cused on do­ing the peo­ples work in the State Assem­bly,” Cam­paign Spokes­woman Lexie Kelly said in a state­ment. “As the only woman in the race, she will not be di­rected by a bunch of men from out­side the district who are host­ing a me­dia stunt. She is al­ready do­ing the job of de­liv­er­ing for the peo­ple of CA-25.”

Uygur listed a No­vato ad­dress on his can­di­date nom­i­na­tion pa­pers. Christo­pher Smith is from Los An­ge­les. Valdéz-Ortega is an An­te­lope Val­ley na­tive, and El­ize lives in Palm­dale. Valdéz-Ortega said they or­ga­nized the de­bate them­selves be­cause peo­ple wanted to hear from the can­di­dates.

Stephen Daniels, host of The Talk of Santa Clarita pod­cast, mod­er­ated the de­bate, held at Trans­plants Brew­ing Co. free of charge. Each can­di­date con­trib­uted $27 to pay for the stage used in the de­bate. They said they reached out to Christy Smith’s cam­paign with dif­fer­ent op­tions for the de­bate date but did not get a re­sponse.

Daniels ad­dressed the con­tro­versy of whether the de­bate was ac­tu­ally a de­bate. Daniels read a def­i­ni­tion of de­bate he pulled from the In­ter­net.

“A de­bate is de­fined as a for­mal dis­cus­sion on a par­tic­u­lar topic in a pub­lic meet­ing,” Daniels read. “This is pub­lic. We’re hav­ing a dis­cus­sion on a par­tic­u­lar topic, op­pos­ing ar­gu­ments are put for­ward. I would say this clas­si­fies as a de­bate, so let’s move from that.”

Uygur, El­ize, Valdéz-Ortega, Christo­pher Smith and Christy Smith are among a field of 13 can­di­dates vy­ing to fill for­mer Demo­cratic Rep. Katie Hill’s seat.

Hill re­signed last Novem­ber fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of re­la­tions with

staff members that trig­gered a House Ethics Com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tion and fol­low­ing the on­line re­lease of nude pho­tos of Hill in con­ser­va­tive out­lets.

Hill de­nied the al­le­ga­tions of a re­la­tion­ship with a con­gres­sional staffer as the re­sult of a di­vorce from an abu­sive hus­band, but ad­mit­ted to one with a cam­paign staff mem­ber.

“I think what hap­pened to Katie Hill was wrong,” Uygur said. “I don’t think she should have re­signed. … From what we know, (she) cer­tainly shouldn’t have re­signed over pic­tures; that’s her pri­vate life.”

As to how he is dif­fer­ent from Hill, Uygur said he will not be con­trolled by any­body, in­clud­ing Demo­cratic lead­er­ship.

“I think what hap­pened to her is not fair,” Valdéz-Ortega said.

Where Valdéz-Ortega dif­fers from Hill, is that he thinks the fo­cus should be more on chil­dren and ed­u­ca­tion, and the peo­ple in the district.

“I don’t think Katie Hill should have re­signed … Like Aníbal said it’s a dou­ble stan­dard,” El­ize said. “How I’m dif­fer­ent is I would held ac­count­able, un­like some of the politi­cians that we have that’s cur­rently elected.”

Christo­pher Smith said he is un­like Hill in that he can’t raise as much money as she could.

“I agree with what Cenk said, which is I think that as pro­gres­sives when we get to Congress we need to work and col­lab­o­rate with other pro­gres­sives,” Christo­pher Smith said. “We need to stand up to lead­er­ship, who doesn’t al­ways have our best in­ter­ests in mind.”

Uygur, Valdéz-Ortega and El­ize sup­port U.S. Sen Bernie San­ders for pres­i­dent. Christo­pher Smith sup­ported San­ders in the last elec­tion. But he chose U.S. Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren for pol­icy wonk­i­ness in the up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“I kind of want to elect some­body who’s smart, and I’m not say­ing Bernie’s not, I think he re­ally is,” Christo­pher Smith said. “I think Bernie prob­a­bly lines up a lit­tle more with my val­ues, but I think it’s time for a woman.”

Daniels’ first ques­tion to the can­di­dates was why they are run­ning for Congress, and why they are the best per­son for the job.

Uygur said he does not care about the power or priv­i­lege that comes with be­ing a con­gress­man.

“The rea­son I’m run­ning is be­cause no­body will call out the can­cer in our sys­tem, and that is the cor­rup­tion,” Uygur said. “If you don’t call it by its name, you’re never, ever go­ing to fix it. When a cor­po­ra­tion gives you money, they don’t give you money for char­ity. They give it be­cause it’s bribe and they’re look­ing to buy you. … If you don’t get the money out we’re never, ever go­ing to fix it.”

Valdéz-Ortega, who at­tended lo­cal schools and is now an at­tor­ney, said that af­ter the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion he woke up with a big headache.

“I’m run­ning be­cause so many peo­ple af­ter that elec­tion told me, ‘What do we do now?’” Valdéz-Ortega said. “What does this mean for im­mi­gra­tion? What does this mean for DACA? What does this mean for my pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion.”

Valdéz-Ortega also agreed with Uygur about get­ting money out of pol­i­tics.

El­ize pointed out the 25th District is cur­rently un­rep­re­sented.

“We’ve got to elect some­one that’s go­ing to rep­re­sent the 25th and its best in­ter­ests,” El­ize said.

Smith, a doc­u­men­tary film­maker, said it can takes years to get a project out. He missed the hand­son part of be­ing in­volved in change.

“When what hap­pened did hap­pen with Katie Hill, you know there was a brief win­dow and it just felt like in my gut it was time to get back in­volved,” Christo­pher Smith said.

Asked what they would do specif­i­cally as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the 25th Con­gres­sional District, El­ize said he would fo­cus on home­less­ness.

“We have peo­ple out here dy­ing on the street,” El­ize said.

El­ize added he would fo­cus on eco­nomic growth to bring jobs closer to home.

“I want to bring infrastruc­ture ex­pan­sion,” El­ize said. “We have places like Ac­ton, and Lake L.A., and Gor­man, things like that. They are ru­ral ar­eas. How can emer­gency ser­vices re­spond to some­body if we don’t have roads up there.”

El­ize added he would like to can­cel stu­dent debt.

Valdéz-Ortega said the an­swer is to ed­u­cate the fu­ture. He said there are not enough jobs in the An­te­lope Val­ley.

“We have the peo­ple ca­pac­ity,” Valdéz-Ortega said. “We have the op­por­tu­nity, and the 14 (Free­way). It’s a mess; we need to ex­pand it.”

Uygur said home­less­ness is out of con­trol in the district. He also crit­i­cized politi­cians who take money from the NRA.

“We don’t have af­ford­able hous­ing. We need af­ford­able hous­ing,” Uygur said.

Uygur also touched on cli­mate change.

“We’ve got fires all across the district,” Uygur said. “Mean­while, the An­te­lope Val­ley’s per­fect for so­lar and wind en­ergy. We could bring high-pay­ing jobs and help (the en­vi­ron­ment).”

Daniels asked Uygur, the founder and co-host of the “The Young Turks” on­line talk show, about do­na­tions to his cam­paign.

“Even though you don’t live in the district you have raised the sec­ond-high­est do­na­tions,” Daniels said. “How much of that is from the district it­self ? Do you know?”

Uygur said he has raised $800,000, of which more than a quar­ter came from Cal­i­for­nia. Uygur said he did not col­lect that amount of money from cor­po­rate donors he would be be­holden to.

“I got it from 30,000 do­na­tions,” Uygur said.

Daniels also asked about Uygur’s “celebrity” sta­tus.

“I’m known for be­ing a pro­gres­sive fighter that says get the money out of pol­i­tics,” Uygur said.

Vot­ers will vote twice for the 25th District Con­gres­sional seat on March 3. One is the pri­mary for a full two-year term. The top two vote-get­ters will ad­vance to the Nov. 3 gen­eral elec­tion. The oth­ers is a spe­cial pri­mary elec­tion to elect some­one to com­plete the un­ex­pired term on Hill’s for­mer seat, which ex­pires in January 2021. If no can­di­date gets more than 50% of the vote, there will be a May 12 runoff elec­tion.

Uygur, El­ize and Valdéz-Ortega filed their nom­i­na­tion pa­pers for the spe­cial pri­mary elec­tion on Wed­nes­day. Smith has yet to pull nom­i­na­tion pa­pers as of Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les County Reg­is­trar-Recorder-County Clerk’s of­fice. All four can­di­dates’ names will ap­pear on the pri­mary bal­lot for the two-year seat.

JULIE DRAKE/VAL­LEY PRESS

Pro­gres­sive Demo­cratic can­di­dates Cenk Uygur (from left) Aníbal Valdéz-Ortega, Getro El­ize and Christo­pher Smith, vy­ing for the 25th Con­gres­sional District seat, par­tic­i­pated in a de­bate Fri­day at Trans­plants Brew­ing Co.

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