By Miriam Raftery March 23, 2009 (San Diego)--Honored as outstanding advocate by Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, Tracy Emblem now wants to fight for the rights of people in the 50th Congressional District who need help with healthcare, housing, and jobs. "Brian Bilbray has not been an effective leader. He hasn't brought back any jobs to our community," Emblem said in an exclusive interview with East County Magazine.
She noted that the Republican Congressman voted against a measure to bring over 8,000 new jobs to his district. Bilbray has turned a "deaf ear as more and more people in his district are losing their jobs, their healthcare, and their homes," added Emblem, an appellate lawyer specializing in public policy and constitutional issues. She has argued before the California Supreme Court and has represented consumers in high-profile cases, including a family who lost their son in a Ford Explorer roll-over accident. In addition, Emblem has served on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Escondido, a nonpartisan organization that provides information to voters on legislation, candidates and ballot measures.
After seeing foreclosure signs on homes throughout her community last fall, Emblem decided to run for Congress to provide a voice for people who are struggling. Then in December, her two-year-old granddaughter had to undergo two successful open chest surgeries. Although the family has health insurance, it doesn't cover the special and brand-name medications needed to save the child's life.
"One medication costs $6,000 a month," said Emblem. "This is giving me the heart to get out and fight for healthcare, for helping people. This is the driving force." Like President Barack Obama, Emblem offers a message based on hope. "I believe in our future and dream of the greatness we can accomplish together when we work for change and help one another," said Emblem.
Her website links Bilbray to "disastrous economic policies" implemented by Republican leadership over the past eight years. Emblem believes that access to health care and life-saving medications should be rights, not privileges. "Many small business owners cannot afford to purchase health coverage for their families and employees because of rising premiums and deductibles, contributing to our struggling economy. I support President Obama's plan to make health care insurance and prescriptions affordable and accessible to all." She wants help for people facing foreclosure and bankruptcy.
"Housing is a key issue," said Emblem, noting that many military families in the 50th Congressional District are now facing serious housing issues exacerbated by the financial crisis. `Penny Macs' are making money off people who have lost everything," she said. Emblem believes bankruptcy courts should be able to renegotiate loan payments when lenders refuse.
Emblem also aims to create jobs locally in "green technologies" as well as programs supporting science, engineering and technology. She also supports job creation through infrastructure improvements to water projects, hospitals, schools, roads, and bridges as well as creation of mass transit to ease traffic on I-15 and I-805. Francine Busby, the Democratic candidate who ran against Bilbray in 2006 and lost by a close margin, declined to state whether she will run again in 2010. Asked how she would differentiate her campaign from Busby's well-funded effort,
Emblem said she plans to focus on key issues that are important to inland voters in the eastern portions of her district--areas that were Bilbray's strongholds in the past. Wildfire prevention and protection are high on her list of priorities.
"Fire safety is not a red or blue issue," observed Emblem, who has evacuated her home in Escondido three times due to wildfires. Bilbray voted against federal stimulus funds which could have been utilized to build more fire stations or fix aging infrastructure locally, she noted. "In my district, we also need to rebuild the dam at Lake Wohlford. The dam is not earthquake proof and it's only holding 40% of its water capacity, it's so old. In Escondido, the city wastewater treatment plant is over 50 years old and needs to be completely refurbished." She also cited a need to address housing in Escondido.
"No one is controlling the slum lords," she said. Emblem is also a strong advocate for children and families. She has served as board president for the Escondido Child Development Center, which helps low-income families. "These are the kinds of programs we need. They bring jobs to the community and they help children, so when they start kindergarten they are not so far behind. At night, they have parenting classes to help parents take better care of their children," said Emblem.
She and her husband, attorney Thor Emblem, have seven children in their blended family. Emblem has lived in the 50th Congressional district since 1964. The district encompasses areas east of I-15 (including Rancho Bernardo, Escondido, Rancho Penasquitos, and part of Poway) as well as Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch, portions of Mira Mesa, San Marcos, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Cardiff, La Jolla and Del Mar.
Environmental issues and energy sustainability are also priorities for Emblem, who faults Bilbray for recently co-sponsoring a bill to exempt solar projects from environmental review on some federal lands. "We have to keep our eye on ecology even with green projects." Emblem also supports desert use by off-road enthusiasts. She says "you cannot ignore threatened species and the ecology, but you have to balance competing positions. It's not always an all or nothing issue." She supports incentives such as tax credits for consumers and businesses to invest in solar, wind or other green technologies, helping to create jobs as well as reduce greenhouse gas emission. She also believes in conservation of our natural resources, as well as clean air and water policies.
Although the June 2010 primary is still over a year away, Emblem is getting an early start on fundraising and has brought on board a prominent campaign manager and a national financial consultant who has worked on seven Congressional campaigns, including several in which challengers won over incumbents. Her daughter, Erin, a paid field organizer on other campaigns and past intern with Congresswoman Susan Davis, is also assisting Emblem's campaign.
Bilbray has been targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has already begun airing TV commercials targeting Bilbray's voting record on key issues. Emblem believes voters will support her message of hope, not fear. "We don't need to be building a campaign based on hate," she said, noting that Bilbray's focus on immigration issues has aimed to distract voters from other serious issues, such as the economy and the Iraq War--a $10 billion a month expense that Bilbray has consistently supported.
"We need to build a campaign based on solving problems," Emblem said. She voiced concern over homeless veterans and said it's wrong to portray anyone who is critical of the war as unpatriotic. "Somebody who stands up for liberty and justice for all is a true patriot," the Congressional candidate concluded. "You're a patriot when you lead by example--when you go out and help your community."
For more information on Emblem's candidacy, issues, events and volunteering, visit www.tracyemblemforcongress.com.