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By Miriam Raftery
October 14, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – East County Magazine invited both candidates for the 50th Congressional District to be interviewed on our radio show. Congressman Duncan D. Hunter did not respond, but we did sit down for an in-depth interview with his opponent, Navy veteran and medical professional James Kimber, who talked about his views on topics including Social Security, healthcare, education, veterans, women's issues, bringing jobs to the district, student loans, energy issues, the Iraq and Syria conflicts, and the need to bring back compromise and end the partisan divide in Congress.
Kimber has served in the healthcare field for 30 years, currently as a physician assistant specializing in neurosurgery. Asked why he’s running for Congress, he states, “I see the inaction going on within Congress. There are a lot of issues facing this country and some of them are very serious right now, but Congress has stepped back and they’re not working together very well right now.”
Kimber wants to do more to help veterans, citing high rates of homelessness, PTSD, suicide and joblessness. He also cites a backlog in care and pledges to work to improve veterans’ care.
On bringing jobs to the district, he faults Hunter for stating that government cannot create jobs, noting that Hunter supported funding for tank manufacturing. He calls for incentives to encourage solar on rooftops and drone technology for civilian uses such as agriculture. “We should be bringing high-tech out here to East County,” he added.
As a medical professional specializing in neurosurgery, Kimber differs sharply with Hunter on healthcare issues. He acknowledges that the Affordable Healthcare is not a perfect system and would prefer to see universal healthcare, but believes the current system should be improved, not scrapped as Hunter wants to do. He believes that healthcare should be a right.
He says that as a healthcare provider, he sees firsthand “the vast majority of people who are now receiving care who could never, ever afford it or weren’t able to get it because of pre-existing conditions. In the beginning of this year, probably in the first two months I saw more patients than all of last year. I would say a day doesn’t go by when I’m in my clinic that I don’t see a new patient who tells me they have waited for this day because they couldn’t get healthcare…” due to a pre-existing condition. He chides Hunter for calling for free marketing competition in healthcare, citing price gouging by some medical providers.
Unlike Hunter, who wants to shrink government by eliminating the Department of Education and cutting funds for Social Security, among other things, Kimber believes that “government certainly does have a role in helping with problems.”
Kimber supports Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to reduce student debt. He sees a need for a federal department of Education to set minimum standards nationwide and opposes Hunter’s stance of eliminating the department of Education, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.
He says Social Security is earned by those who have worked and paid into the system. “If you were to privatize you would create this whole new class of impoverished elderly people.” He aims to protect Social Security benefits. Asked how to assure funding availability, he replies, “If we would pass immigration reform, that is the number one thing that would shore up Social Security.” That's because getting undocumented immigrants who are already living and working here to pay their fair share of taxes would mean a lot more money paid into Social Security to suppport future retirees.
Asked his views on the military conflict in Iraq and Syria, Kimber indicated that Congress should not have adjourned. “Congress needs to get back to D.C. and debate this issue,”he states. Like Hunter, he opposes sending ground troops, but does support air strikes since doing nothing sends the wrong message. That said, he wants to hear a long-term plan for resolving the crisis.
Hunter has called for tactical nuclear weapons use against Iran. Kimber disagrees with that strongly. “The General of the Air Force actually terminated that program in 2012 in lieu of conventional bunker buster bombs, for two reasons. One the nuclear fallout, the radiation, really could not be controlled despite that these are bombs designed to go below the ground. The other…is nuclear proliferation.” If the U.S. uses nuclear weapons, other nations such as Pakistan and North Korea would use them, he believes. In addition use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East could increase the chances of terrorist groups such as ISIS getting their hands on them.
Kimber strongly disagrees with Hunter’s denial of climate change as a serious problem, as well as Hunter’s call for use of nuclear power as a “green” energy source. While Hunter stated in a recent debate that he supports putting nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Kimber notes that Hunter actually voted to shut that facility down.
By contrast, Kimber supports clean and renewable energy such as solar on rooftops and parking lots. He believes that global warming is real and made worse by emissions by man. “I think we should be following the lead that many other countries around the world are doing and using alternative energies.” He cites Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s support of charging stations for electric vehicles as an examples. “Alternative energy is not the only answer, but it is a big step towards becoming energy independent.”
Kimber also spoke out to voice concerns about impacts of industrial scale wind and solar projects in East County. “I honestly don’t think that we’re getting our money’s worth with these solar or wind farms when you simply look at other ways we could do this,” he says, adding that on a grander scale, the answer is to support commercial solar projects in urban areas. “If you see a problem them let’s fix this,” he says, likening issues with industrial renewable energy projects to the healthcare situation.
Asked about agricultural issues, he says he visited wineries across the region and after hearing about the tiered winery ordinance that they backed, he met with Supervisor Jacob and vintners, working to change the law “to allow these people to do business without worrying about being fined or losing their jobs.”
As for the drought, Kimber says he’s met with representatives of Helix and Padre Dam water district. He supports recycling water. “Coming from the Navy, this is nothing new,” he says, noting that Navy ships rely on recycled water. “As much as we need to become energy independent, we need to become more water independent especially in an agriculitural area as we are. “ He wants to be a voice for bringing federal dollars to the district to address water issues particularly recycling water.
Asked about the manpower shortage among volunteer firefighters and whether the cap on stipends for firefighting volunteers should be raised, Kimber responded, “When you’re talking about federal dollars there always seems to never enough money except when they want to increase the border agency…or bomb other countries.” As with the winery ordinance, he says outdated laws may need to be updated. He also wants to see more reliance on the military to fight fires and wants to see more funding for this, noting that much of California’s firefighting funding is already exhausted.
A key difference between the candidates is on women’s issues. Hunter voted against the Fair Pay for Women Act and has stated that he does not believe pay discrimination is still a problem today. But Kimber states, “The facts are right now, women earn 77 cents on every dollar and that goes down depending on ethnicity….Hispanic women earn the least amount.”
He says there are many areas where “the facts are glaring and people choose to ignore them,” citing healthcare and climate change as other areas where Hunter denies the facts.
Hunter also introduced a bill to ban all abortions, even for women who are victims or rape or when their life is at stake. Kimber is pro-choice and says his views arise from his experience in the medical field. “We’re trained at that in school, to be objective and not bring our personal biases into it.”
Asked if he believes compromise is needed to prevent a government shutdown, since Hunter voted to shut down the federal government in a failed effort to block healthcare reforms, Kimber says, “I think this was a lot of theater to shut the government down.” He recalls that even when colleagues voted to reopen the government, Hunter voted against it. Kimber notes that even the Chamber of Commerce opposed the shut-down, which hurt the economy and many in the district.
His major endorsements include the California Democratic Party, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, the California Teachers Association and California Labor Federation. But he says he’s had fundraisers held for him by both Republicans and Democrats.
Hunter has relied on telephone town halls with questioned screened. By contrast, Kimber says he would hold at least one town hall each quarter in different parts of the district. “There’s no reason why you cannot get out there…You may not agree with everybody, but you need to meet everybody.”
For more information on his candidacy, visit www.KimberforCongress.com.
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