Key Issues

There are many serious and important issues facing the residents of the 21st Congressional District.  I have outlined some key priorities I will be sharing with the voters.   Providing quality affordable health care; improving the quality of our drinking water; creating new good-paying jobs; securing more water for our farmers; reforming immigration; protecting Dreamers, and preparing our schools for the remainder of the 21st Century are some of my top priorities.  But, I want to hear from you.  What are your concerns? What issues are important to you and your family? 

Tell me your concerns  Go to the section on my website titled SUBMIT YOUR ISSUES/CONCERNS and fill out the form provided.  I will respond to you directly via email until we can meet in person safely. 

Thank you.

COVID-19 Recovery

COVID – 19 Recovery

Even with heroic efforts to eliminate the virus with the vaccine, the devastating economic impacts of the pandemic will be felt for years.  We will need to stay vigilant to ensure our families, businesses, and local governments have the resources to rebuild, rehire, and recover.    

The effects of the pandemic have devastated families, small business, and the budgets of our local governments.  It is imperative that local governments have the money to keep our teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and other front-line personnel working.

It will require leadership, experience, and hard work to overcome the crushing effects of the pandemic.  In Congress, I will push for and support legislation that will provide direct assistance to Central Valley local governments, families, and small business.

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Affordable Health Care

Affordable Health Care

One of my top priorities is to make sure all Central Valley families have access to quality and affordable healthcare.  In Congress, I will fight to make it easier for all Valley residents to access affordable health care, see a doctor of their choice, get prescription medicines, and access preventative testing and treatments.  Affordable health care is essential for all Central Valley residents.  Healthy families make for a healthy economy and improve the quality of a life for all Valley residents.   

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that more than 350,000 Valley residents are uninsured.  I know what it is like to be uninsured.  Over ten years ago, I changed jobs, and during the transition, like thousands of Valley residents, I could not afford health care insurance.  Being uninsured is stressful, unhealthy, dangerous, and harmful to families and the community.  During this time, I prayed every day that I would not get sick or get in an accident.  A few years later I got a new job with benefits.  I was luckier than most; far too many of our neighbors, friends, and children live day to day not being able to afford a simple visit to the doctor.  This is unacceptable; we can and must do better.

I promise to fight and protect the Affordable Care Act, and I will reject any efforts to repeal it.  No one should be denied healthcare coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

We also need to ensure that we have the doctors, nurses, and health care support staff to care for our Central Valley families.  Even if we provided everyone in the Central Valley with access to healthcare insurance, it means nothing if we do not have the health care infrastructure and professionals to provide the care.  

I will continue to work with community leaders to support efforts for a new Central Valley Medical School.  I will also continue to support scholarships for local students who pursue a degree in medical/health care and who pledge to work in the Central Valley.  As a member of Congress, I will work with our local hospitals to get reimbursed adequately from the federal government to cover the cost of care. 

I will continue to support women and their efforts to have access to reproductive health services and always support a woman’s right to make free and educated choices about their own health care.

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Water for the Valley

Water for the Valley

Throughout my years of public service, I have worked tirelessly and without compromise to bring quality, affordable water to the residents, farmers, and farmworkers of the Central Valley.  As a member of the State Assembly, I worked across party lines, stood up to the pressures of partisan leadership, and fought the interest of Los Angeles and the Bay Area to take Central Valley water.  During my time in the Assembly, I fought the special interest in Sacramento and worked to secure funding to improve the supply and delivery of water to our Valley farms.  I was punished by Democratic leadership for putting the needs of Valley residents over the needs of the Party. But I can assure you, as a member of Congress, I will do it again. 

I will always work to secure water for the Valley.  Water availability is critical to the Central Valley to meet the demand for our products from all over the world and to keep our economy moving.  Most importantly, a healthy water supply is critical if we want to continue to grow and support a heathy lifestyle for all residents.  

There are millions of Californians who don’t think twice about where their water comes from.  Their water flows effortlessly from the faucet.  It smells and tastes good.  And it flows uninterrupted.  That is not always the case in the Central Valley.  For many families in our area, water wells are still the sole source of water.  Water must be boiled, used, and collected sparingly.  As a member of the Assembly, I saw firsthand how thousands of residents in the Central Valley struggle with water quality and availability.   While in the Assembly, I met Sandra Meraz from Alpaugh, a small town in Tulare County.  The community of Alpaugh had lost access to safe drinking water when the community well failed.  I worked with Sandra and community leaders to secure grants from the California Department of Water Resources and the United States Department of Agriculture to begin construction of a new well.  I was recognized for my work with Sandra by community groups and a national radio network.  But the most important recognition I received was from the business community, families, children, and first responders of Alpaugh. 

Water is essential for sustaining a strong economy and high quality of life.  In Congress I will fight daily to secure an adequate and quality water supply for the Central Valley.

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Energy Security

Energy Security

In Congress, I will fight for sensible, fair, practical, and balanced energy policies.

It is imperative that we have a balanced policy concerning climate change and energy production. 

Kern County is California’s top petroleum producer.  More than 80% of the oil produced in California is extracted from Kern County.  Recently, a county report found the assessed value of land and mineral assets was more than $15.6 billion.  The oil industry contributes 11-12% of Kern’s total economic activity and property tax base.  More than $100 million of oil tax revenue supports Kern County schools, and over $80 million funds important community programs.  In addition to the economic contributions of the oil industry to Kern County, thousands of working men and women are employed in good union jobs with good wages and benefits.  These good paying jobs support families, local businesses, schools, and the communities of the Valley.  

We can support our local petroleum industry as well as support innovative technologies in renewable energy.  

Partnerships like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Bakersfield College are working together to find ways of promoting “local employment opportunities in environmentally friendly energy production”.  In addition, local energy producers are working with the state and federal government to secure funding for carbon capture and sequestration projects.  

While supporting our local domestic energy production, I support federal efforts to ensure our energy independence.  Our policies must be based on sound science as well as realistic economic, national security, and environmental needs. 

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Veterans

Veterans

The essence of being a Veteran is service and sacrifice.  It’s simple.  Because of their service, we owe them our service.  As a member of Congress, I will work daily to honor the service, bravery, sacrifice, and commitment of all American veterans and their families. The veterans of the Central Valley can count on me to always put them first. 

Working on behalf of Central Valley veterans has been one of the greatest honors of my public service career. 

While serving in the California State Assembly, I was honored for authoring and co-authoring several bills relating to military personnel, veterans, and military families.  I was the recipient of the California National Guard’s highest honor for a civilian, The Order of California Public Service Award.  The California Association of County Veteran Service Officers awarded me “Legislator of the Year,” and the California Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Alliance presented me with the Freedom Fighter Award for my support for disabled veterans.  

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The loss in combat of my friend Major Jason George informs my decisions regarding veterans and their families.

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Immigration

Immigration

Immigrants have always been part of the Central Valley.  They improve the economy and enrich the culture.  They are our friends, neighbors, and family members.  In the Central Valley, they grow our food, care for our loved ones, serve in our armed forces, and provide critical health care services. Immigrants make the Central Valley stronger.

Our current immigration policy is broken.  It is antiquated, unfair, confusing, and it needs a major overhaul.  It is time for Congress to act. We need an immigration system that reflects our values, makes our economy stronger, and is fair.  Immigration reform should strengthen our democracy and improve the long-term economic competitiveness of the Central Valley. We want to attract and keep talent in the Valley.  We need a policy that will give lasting protections to Dreamers and keep families together.  Improving and increasing opportunities for legal, permanent immigration should be the cornerstone of immigration reform.

I have wonderful memories of going to the Bakersfield Adult School with my mom where she helped immigrants from all over the world obtain a GED.  These immigrants realized how important it was for them and their families to learn English, finish their degrees, and become citizens.

They inspired me.  Their struggle, their persistence, and their belief that they could create a better life for their children was why so many sacrificed so much.

Creating a better life for their children was why my grandparents came to the Central Valley.  My paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States over 100 years ago from Mexico and settled in Kern County.  My maternal grandparents came to California in the 1950’s, and my grandfather came to Kern County to teach at Pond Elementary School near Wasco.  They came for the same reasons so many immigrants still come to Valley; they came to make a better life for their children.  My family story is the story of the Valley.

Like my grandparents, my parents sacrificed for their children.  My parents provided opportunities for my brother and me to go to good public schools, go on to college, and return home to serve.

In December 1998, the Central Valley suffered a major citrus freeze. Many counties in the Central Valley were declared state and federal disaster areas, which made undocumented workers ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits and other financial help.  The effects were devastating; approximately 12,000 workers lost their wages and were without benefits.

The federal law was clear.  If workers sought assistance, (whether it was food from the local food bank, clothes, or other assistance) their citizenship status would be placed in jeopardy.  I was working for Congressman Dooley at the time, and it was our responsibility to find a solution.  We asked U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to issue a letter indicating that the future citizenship applications of the workers would not be impacted. As a result, thousands of workers were able to feed their families during this crisis.

Working on immigration has taught me that any future immigration policy should be fair, clear, and empathetic.  Most importantly, our immigration system should reflect the promise of America and acknowledge the fundamental worth and dignity of every person.

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Jobs and the Economy

Jobs and the Economy

As a member of Congress, I will always put the economic health of the Central Valley first.

For years, job creation and economic growth in the Valley have lagged behind the rest of California. Family incomes have been stagnant, while the cost of day-to-day living has continued to increase.  The 21st Congressional District is one of the poorest areas in California.  More than 25% of our neighbors live in poverty, 1 in 4 children struggle daily with hunger, and more than a third of our children grow up in poverty.  For decades, household incomes in the Valley have been much lower than in other parts of the state.      

The time for waiting is over.  Now is the time to get Congress working for the Central Valley.  To attract new business, industries, and high paying jobs, it is time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and build an economy that works for everyone.  We must repair, modernize, and expand our highways, roads, schools, water delivery systems, bridges, and other public facilities. 

As a member of Congress, I will support economic policies that are practical, strong, consistent, and fair.  Building a strong economy requires that we all work together, avoid partisan politics, and focus on what is right for the Central Valley.  Our economy must be strong but fair.

Building a strong and fair economy that works for everyone will require leveraging all federal, state, local, and non-profit resources.  My experience in this area is extensive.  Nearly a decade ago with community leaders from Fresno to Bakersfield, I helped create the Federal Interagency Task Force in the Central Valley and the San Joaquin Valley Partnership. Over the years, both organizations have worked to grow our economy and create good paying jobs.

As a member of Congress, I will continue to help guide policy and funding to our Valley communities. I am committed to creating good paying jobs with benefits and child-care assistance. I will use my experience working with both political parties and the oil and agricultural industries to expand economic markets and promote and grow the major industries in the Valley.

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