Incumbent Republican congressman Brian Bilbray, port commissioner Scott Peters, and former state assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, the three front-runners in the newly redrawn 52nd Congressional district, took part in a KPBS debate on March 14.
Moderated by the network’s Evening Edition host Joanne Faryon, candidates were asked a series of questions submitted by journalists and San Diego residents that pertained to both national and local issues.
Among other questions put forth to the candidates, a 75-year-old woman identified as Mary asked, “Do you support health insurance covering women’s health care, specifically birth control?”
“Absolutely,” Peters said. “It’s remarkable that we appear to be on the precipice of a new war on women…. [We are fighting] the battles that women like Mary fought and won 30, 40 years ago. It is quite outrageous…this battle should have been done. My wife and I have been longtime supporters of Planned Parenthood. Mr. Bilbray voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which is the wrong way to go. We ought to be past the issue of getting the government out of these choices between a woman and her doctor.”
Saldaña agreed, adding that healthcare coverage for all is just as important, saying that many who have insurance have had to file for bankruptcy because their coverage was not enough to cover their medical bills.
“I have members of my family who, like Mary, are in their 70s and 80s and rely on Medicare,” Saldaña said. “The proposal Mr. Bilbray has supported in the past would turn Medicare into a voucher system. That affects healthcare for everyone, especially women…. It is interesting that a 75-year-old woman is concerned about family planning and birth control, but she knows that is the best investment we can make for women’s’ health. Women who choose to plan their health have healthier pregnancies, babies, and healthier families.”
Bilbray also expressed support, stating that as a father of three daughters and three granddaughters, he understood the necessity of women’s health.
“The problem is when the federal government starts getting in between patients and doctors,” said Bilbray. “That has always been an issue. When and how these decisions are made should be made [by] the local communities and with the women themselves. I want my daughters to have these choices; I don’t want Washington imposing themselves between them and their healthcare system.”
The topic changed to a question on everybody’s mind — the rising cost of gas.
“In your mind, how much responsibility should the administration bear for the rising prices at the pump, and what should Congress be doing about it?”
Saldaña said that through the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, Congress is already taking action to look into speculator trading effecting the price of fuel.
“President Obama needs...to make sure [the commission] is doing its job of oversight,” Saldaña said. “A signed letter by 70 members of Congress…which Mr. Bilbray has not signed as of a week ago, [asks the commission] to enact the regulations put into place by the Dodd/Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Speculation is what is driving [prices], and this is a free market system…but lack of oversight led to the Wall Street meltdown three years ago, and now we have the tools in place to have better oversight. The president can enforce that, but members of Congress currently there need to be part of this plan to make sure that the high gas prices that disproportionally impact the lowest income people in this country are managed in a better way.”
Bilbray expressed his strong support for developing green fuels such as algae but also voiced his opposition to ethanol, citing its high cost and pollution factors. While choices like that are important, Bilbray said, “Government has to start saying ‘yes.’ I may not agree with everything about the [proposed] Keystone pipeline [that would bring oil from Canada to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas], but the pipeline’s employable gain is being played rather than its jobs or energy independence. We need to talk about why natural gas is not available for our automobiles when it is available for most of our houses. Consumers should have a choice between oil and clean gas, rather than being forced to go with one. People always say no and turn it down, but we could start by allowing natural gas into our fuel system and allowing people to build the pipelines. The State Department should not be making the energy decisions.”
Peters, who recalled his father once being upset over 44-cents-per-gallon gas, said, “Gas prices have been going up under every president and every Congress. The pressure is even more now with Brazil, India, and China all seeking to use these depleting fuels. We can use natural gas, but it is more of the same,” Peters said. “We have to bridge to a new energy future that is based on renewable and sustainable things. China and Germany are investing in solar, and if you can turn your economy away from these depleting fossil fuels towards solar, wind, and renewable energy, you can avoid the cost of war for oil and the cost of cleaning up spills.”