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Shirley Wilson, president of AARP, said she and her members are very concerned about health care changes if Romney-Ryan prevails, including the notion of a voucher program instead of Medicare that will be costly to seniors. [Patric Hedlund photo]
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Terry Phillips brought along a DVD of his earlier debate with McCarthy. He left the image on the screen as he talked about the ways McCarthy and he differ on issues such as creating gridlock in Congress as a political tactic. McCarthy wasn’t there to explain his positions. [Patric Hedlund photo]
By Patric Hedlund
About 50 people arrived at Cuddy Hall on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. for a candidates forum, but third term U.S. Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R, Bakersfield) was not among them. McCarthy is the District 22 incumbent, but remapping has created an entirely new District 23, for which the House Majority Whip is running against unaffiliated independent candidate Terry Phillips, also of Bakersfield.
McCarthy’s staff had been vague for 6-8 weeks about his schedule when contacted about the invitation. The Rotary Club, Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce, TriCounty Watchdogs, Sierra Club and AARP decided to forge ahead when they didn’t receive a clear reply.
It was a lively event.
Phillips dove right in, popping up an image of a virtual Kevin McCarthy on a screen. He made a joke about the Clint Eastwood monologue to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention in August.
A third of the way through his dialogue with the audience, Phillips hit hard, saying, “We have institutionalized corruption in the body of my opponent.”
Phillips introduced himself as a journalist and businessman who has worked all over the world, including as a war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan who has received two regional Emmy nominations.
“Conflicts are resolved when people talk about their joint interests rather than their differences,” Phillips said, then pivoted to take a swipe at the gridlock tactic used by Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy as the “Young Gun” partners in the 2010 Congress, who together crafted the debt ceiling showdown and contributed to the “fiscal cliff” sequestration debacle Congress must face in January 2013.
“This is the least productive Congress in the history of the U.S.,” Phillips claimed.
He said that despite the economic meltdown that started to be serious by 2008, “my opponent villainizes government, so they haven’t been able to use the strategies of the 1930s.”
He said he favors reducing the business tax rate, but “customers cause expansion of employment, not cutting the tax rate or cutting regulations— which is what got us into this mess in the first place.”
He said high speed rail is in the black in every country where it is running, and cutting air pollution.
“What is his solution? He just wants to add more lanes to the freeways,” Phillips said, also claiming that “when it was a Republican idea,” McCarthy endorsed high speed rail.
He rolled on to note that the first president to endorse health care mandates was George Washington, for sailors aboard merchant vessels. He recalled the bipartisan nature of the Clean Air Act, signed by President Richard Nixon, then said McCarthy had “voted against it 60 times.” He said McCarthy is “an oil man” who gets his biggest donations from Oracle Corp., oil, insurance companies and Big Pharma, adding that McCarthy had raised $4 million to Phillips’ $40,000, and that broadcasters should have to offer free air time to candidates in the terms of their FCC licenses for use of the public spectrum.
Phillips lamented the 1994 Telecommunications Act, along with the fading of the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Rule, plus lost opportunities for removing the role of money in the electoral process.
Dave Martin said, “our democracy is done for, by calling money speech.” Phillips agreed. “We have 535 people in Congress working to raise money constantly…you have two years, so as soon as you get there, you have to start raising money again.” He suggested that, with technology, it makes sense for representatives to be able to vote from their home districts now.
Asked about California’s propositions, Phillips replied that “California now has the second longest constitution in the world, after India,” and that the proposition system is out of control, creating bad law.
Phillips added that his independent vote could benefit Kern County in a divided Congress. “Democrats and Republicans will need to compete for my vote.” He said he will be working from the inside of Congress with his journalist friends to bring greater transparency to government.
This is part of the November 02, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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