(By Chris Sharp) California Congressional District-25 candidates Steve Knight and Tony Strickland have here submitted their respective official responses to key questions from diverse locally-known activists. Neither candidate has seen the responses of the other in this SCV questionnaire, which was compiled from participants in three Santa Clarita Valley Facebook communications groups – Santa Clarita Open Community, Santa Clarita Letter to the Editor, and Santa Clarita Open Forum.
Group question: To the best of your ability, what can you say is the main difference between you and your opponent?
STEVE KNIGHT: I grew up in this community, chose to raise my family here, and have represented many of the residents in CD-25 at the local level, as well as in the State Assembly and State Senate. The people of CD-25 are my neighbors and friends. My opponent, Tony Strickland, represented a very small portion of our community while in the State Senate and chose to seek this seat after losing in a nearby district.
Now more than ever, we need leaders in Washington who truly understand the needs of their constituents and are willing to work tirelessly to ensure that their interests are represented fairly. I want to give a voice to the hardworking families, community members, and businesses of my district, by implementing tax-reducing, business-stimulating, solution-focused legislation that will get our community members back to work. I am not a political opportunist, but rather a local guy who is steadfastly committed to representing the interests of my constituents.
TONY STRICKLAND: I think the biggest difference between us is leadership. I have never been shy about doing what is right, even when it is unpopular. If something helps our community and state, I was always ready to fight for it, no matter if that meant taking on the Governor, or taking on my own Party. I’ll do the same in Congress.
I have never been one to sit on my hands when in office and have always been proactive in helping constituents. I firmly believe that we cannot afford more members of Congress who merely vote with their caucus. I will be a proactive leader in Washington fighting for the good of my district and our country.
Ultimately, I am willing to break away from party for the good of our district and country. I don’t care if it’s a Republican’s idea or a Democrat’s idea… I just care if it’s a good idea. I’ll represent everyone in the district, not just the people that support me.
Maria Gutzeit: What specific changes, if any, would you seek to change in the Affordable Care Act or, alternatively, do you think it should be repealed?
TONY STRICKLAND: I believe that the Affordable Care Act has serious issues. While it does provide some very good changes to our health care system like getting rid of preexisting conditions and allowing children to stay on their parent’s health care plan until they are 26, the main problem with our health care system is the cost of care. We need to take the best parts of the Affordable Care Act and build a health care law that lowers costs for hard working families and creates a strong health system based around the doctor-patient relationship.
STEVE KNIGHT: The Affordable Care Act is a prime example of bad policy that was rushed through the political process, rather than carefully analyzed or planned out. It is clear that we need comprehensive health care reform, but we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in veering away from time-tested market principles. Successful reforms will bring supply and demand together at market prices in order to support a well-functioning, healthy, and growing health care sector. Our health care system should be consumer driven and allow for competition so that men, women, and children across the U.S. have access to quality care at affordable rates.
William Reynolds: What's an instance where you have reached across the aisle and produced results that improve California's economy?
STEVE KNIGHT: California is facing one of the most significant crises in the history of our state: a widespread drought that is crippling our economy and putting communities at risk of running out of water. Water is neither a Democratic nor a Republican issue. Water is a resource that is vital to Californians of every political stripe as it affects California’s businesses, agriculture, and standard of living.
Recently, I worked closely with my colleagues across the aisle and coauthored a water bond that was supported by virtually every member of the Legislature. Though the process of finding middle ground is not easy, I firmly believe that elected officials are tasked with identifying solutions, rather than furthering partisan-fueled stalemates.
TONY STRICKLAND: I spent a lot of my time in Sacramento working across the aisle to create jobs. A great example is the work I did to help create green energy jobs in our community. While in the Senate I teamed with a Democratic Senator to eliminate taxes on Green Energy manufacturers, allowing these companies to reinvest their money in creating new jobs, instead of spending it on more taxes. By working together across the aisle, we were able to create 5,000 new jobs in the state. This is the kind of bi-partisan partnership that has been sorely missing in Washington in recent years.
Wendy Albright: For the last year and a half, more than 50,000 illegal alien children have been dumped over our border without their parents and left for the United States to do something about; this number grows/changes daily. What is your solution to the current situation?
TONY STRICKLAND: The truth is our immigration system was broken a long time before this latest crisis and Washington has been too dysfunctional to fix the problem. There are two things we need to do to address the problem. First, we need to secure our border, and secondly we need to make it easier to immigrate here legally. Right now, our border is porous and the wait for legal entry to our country is absurdly long. Making both of those changes will reduce the incentive and the ease to come here illegally.
STEVE KNIGHT: Immigration policy must be addressed for its deficiencies and updated to reflect 21st Century realities. In over 40 years, we have not stopped the constant inflow of people from our southern border and the drug war in Mexico has escalated drastically over that period of time. Violence cannot be allowed to spill over into the U.S. and cause harm and untold trauma to American families and communities. Truly comprehensive reform involves a strategy that keeps the interests of the United States as the first and only consideration. We therefore must secure our fence, provide for adequate border security, and seek to collaborate with neighboring nations in order to formulate a stronger and more cohesive policy.
John Fortman: Does the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech prevent encumbrances or restrictions on huge lighted computer advertising screens along our federal highway system?
STEVE KNIGHT: As a proponent of both the First Amendment and local control, I believe this decision is best left up to the regional leaders and residents of a given community. It is for this precise reason that I collaborated with the Antelope Valley Transit Authority, in order to secure authorization for their plan to install digital signs on the sides of buses. We concluded that the low level of traffic congestion in the Antelope Valley allow our roads to serve as effective conduits for this innovative program. Technological advances are not inherently bad and with careful planning, local public agencies can ensure that digital billboards do not inhibit our standard of living or the safety of our streets.
TONY STRICKLAND: No, I don’t think mobile electronic billboards are what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. Advertising has always had a much lower level of protection under the First Amendment then individuals do, and for good reason. I do not believe full First Amendment Protection extends to advertising
Joe Messina: Many feel like our legislators just don’t care and that ‘we the people’ really don’t know what we need or want. What type of communication lines will you keep open to make sure that We are heard, by you on a regular basis? AND I am not talking about a ‘community liaison.’ How will the people be able to get to YOU?
TONY STRICKLAND: I’ve always believed that my constituents should be able to find me easily. That’s why as an Assemblymen and Senator I regularly had community coffees, card tables, mall hours at busy locations, and I always give out my cell phone number. In the end though, it’s my job to come to you to get your opinion and your feedback about issues. That’s the way I made my decisions in Sacramento, and that is what I will do in Washington. You’ll never have to wait to talk to me. I’ll be calling you.
STEVE KNIGHT: Given the virtually limitless ways to communicate in today’s modern world, there is no excuse for disconnect. Social media has revolutionized society, and citizen voice has a platform that is more direct and effective than ever before.
When the legislature is in session and I am in Sacramento, I receive constant and live updates on what is happening in my district and how my constituents feel about a given issue. I pledge to you that as your Congressman, even when I am 2,600 miles away from home in D.C., I will maintain an open door policy and utilize every channel of technology available in order to enable constant communication with my district and its constituents.
Alex McHaddad: How do you intend to work with and seek input from individuals and groups within this District who have political beliefs differing from your own?
STEVE KNIGHT: California is a heavily-Democratic state. I have been in the State Legislature since 2008 and was elected to the Senate in 2012, when the Democratic Party claimed a Supermajority in both chambers. In order to accomplish anything for my constituents, it was necessary to work with individuals whose beliefs differed quite stridently from my own.
The American economy has not yet experienced a full and robust recovery and employment numbers leave much to be desired. While our leaders in Congress focus on politicized issues and sideshow antics, Americans are left out to dry. The future of our nation is not an issue of Democrats or Republicans, or who is currently in control of Congress or the White House. The future of our children, and the serious fiscal and structural problems they will inherit if these problems are not addressed upfront, is at stake. Politicians are elected to roll up their sleeves, set aside their political differences, and identify solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. I am running for Congress in order to do just that.
TONY STRICKLAND: I’ve been meeting with leaders from all parties. While we might not always agree on the solution, it’s vital that I talk to ALL of the groups in the area. My job isn’t to represent one section of people but to represent everyone. The only way you can do that is by talking to everyone, keeping an open mind, and being honest about what you believe in. No matter your political beliefs, you’ll always know where I stand, and I’ll always be interested in hearing your opinion, no matter if we agree or disagree. I find the more we engage on ideas about fixing problems, the more we will find common ground.
Todd Andrews: If your conservative principles differ with a known consensus desire of your constituents (for example say 70% of your constituents want something that violate your conservative principles and, if every congressional district did it, would be bad for the country's finances), would you do what your constituents want and why?
STEVE KNIGHT: I am an honest broker through and through, and I believe that my constituents expect honest representation. As a Congressman, I will stand against any attempts by legislators of any party to force a compromise on my beliefs about the role of government, the use of taxpayer dollars, and the virtues of liberty and individual responsibility. I stand for limited government, the freedom to order your life as you see fit, and accountability to the people of this nation. These are my principles, and I am committed to seeing them through. I believe many, if not most of the constituents in this district believe in these commonsense principles.
TONY STRICKLAND: Sometimes leadership means doing the hard work of changing people’s opinions. If there is something that I believe is wrong for our district and our country, then it’s my job to influence my constituents and stand for what is best for the district and country. John F. Kennedy stood in support of the Civil Rights Movement when it was not popular with all of the country, yet his vision was necessary and best for the country. Ronald Regan supported a policy of peace through strength and we ultimately won the Cold War because of his vision and leadership. This was not a decision that the entire country was supportive of at the time. Standing alone or folding under pressure is easy to do. But convincing others to stand with you is the test of a true leader, and that’s how I intend to represent this district in Congress.
Susan Wachter: Do you believe there is usefulness for restraining orders in the judicial system that can protect the community from those who possess guns who are the subjects of complaints about dangerous behaviors?
TONY STRICKLAND: I think we need to take a serious look at how to use restraining orders to prevent the mentally ill from access to guns. One of the common threads in many of the recent mass shootings has been someone with known, dangerous mental issues getting access to weapons. Providing a system to protect communities from such dangerous individuals, while not restricting the rights of other legal gun owners, seems like a very sensible path for us to explore.
STEVE KNIGHT: I am a profound believer in the United States Constitution and will protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. We must limit the ability of criminals to commit crimes, rather than infringing on constitutional rights, in order to ensure the safety of our schools, neighborhoods, and cities. Gun control merely takes the guns out of the hands of lawful citizens, disarming them and taking away the best crime deterrent: an armed citizenry. Gun rights are pivotal in my district and California as a whole, where they are constantly under attack by those who seek to restrict the Constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. I will oppose every gun control proposal in Congress, and fight on every front to protect and defend Americans’ right to keep and bear arms.
Chris Sharp: Where do you see the accommodations heading with the Cemex mining plans as they relate to the Santa Clarita Valley? Will Cemex accommodate to guidelines that would minimize the pollution and the noise of their mining in the Santa Clarita Valley? Or will the accommodation be in Cemex receiving local tax-based financial compensation for mining at some other site to be made available to them?
STEVE KNIGHT: The issue of the Cemex mine is incredibly important as, should it begin operations, it will be the largest mining operation in the U.S. As a State Senator, I joined Assemblyman Scott Wilk and sent a letter to Congressman Buck McKeon asking him to stop the Cemex mining operation.
Highway 14 is an important national defense asset as it serves as an important link between LA Air Force Base and Naval Base Ventura County to Edwards Air Force Base, China Lake Naval Weapons Center, and the defense and aerospace prime contractors headquartered at Plant 42 in my hometown of Palmdale. Not only would the significant traffic impede these roads for military purposes, but the subsequent mining operation would cause a drop in home values and reduction in air quality.
Congressman McKeon was able to halt the operations a decade ago and as your Congressman, I can definitely implement a similar course of action.
TONY STRICKLAND: I am opposed to the Cemex mine, and I will support any effort to block the mine in the Santa Clarita Valley… including proposed land swaps. I am hopeful that this issue will be resolved before I get to Congress, but I will do everything in my power to prevent the mine from breaking ground in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Julie Olsen: Given that Democrats (and Liberals, Progressives, Moderates) don't have a candidate on the general election ballot — in what specific ways will you commit to ensuring that you represent our needs and interests and not just that of Republicans/Conservatives?
TONY STRICKLAND: I think my record shows that I’m willing to work with both sides and make sure that the needs and interests of all voters will be represented. I have a reputation of being willing to work across the aisle in order to help our community. That reputation was earned by years of bi-partisan work and I’m certainly not going to stop doing that now, when it can help our community in Washington.
STEVE KNIGHT: Congress is broken, and bitter, deadlock partisanship only further threatens the future prosperity and security of all Americans. I am running for the House of Representatives in order to implement solutions, rather than be the cause of additional problems. As your candidate for Congress, I pledge open communication, a straightforward campaign, and a clear commitment to this community—three tenants that everyone, no matter their political party, can get behind.
David Bruce Warburton: Do you believe (along with the vast majority of scientists who study the issue) that significant and dangerous climate change is occurring, and (if so) do you believe that at least part of the change is caused by human activity? If elected, what are you prepared to do as a congressman to support national and international efforts to slow down climate change?
STEVE KNIGHT: California’s environment is one of our state’s greatest assets and I believe we should all be responsible stewards of our natural resources.
For the past decade, California has embarked on a rash mission to curtail global warming. While there are several problems surrounding this campaign, the main one is economic in nature: we are adopting policies that are not embraced elsewhere in the world, at the expense of our economic future. AB 32 is killing California’s economy and raises the cost of energy for both businesses and homeowners. Job killing measures like this should not be replicated at the federal level.
TONY STRICKLAND: I believe climate change is real. I think some of the problems with climate change are caused by man. In the State Senate I was a leader in fighting for a true “all of the above” energy policy in California as I was one of three Republicans that voted for renewable portfolio standards for energy companies. This bill required energy companies to invest 33% of their portfolios in alternative sources of energy by 2020. I was also a joint author of the green manufacturing bill along with Senator Alex Padilla. This bill eliminated taxes on green manufacturing equipment and boosted the development of green energy and technology. In congress, I will fight for more possible solutions to our energy needs.
Betty Arenson: If a candidate campaigns for an office where he actually lives, and collects a large amount of campaign funds from that district while staunchly denying the loud rumors that the candidate is going to switch to running in a different district where he/she does not reside, should that candidate fully and publicly explain the switch and return all the money to the original donors who are left behind?
TONY STRICKLAND: This is a hypothetical question that has nothing to do with this race. I am focused on the issues and providing bi-partisan solutions to the most critical problems facing our community.
STEVE KNIGHT: I am lifelong member of this district and the only candidate in this race who can rightfully vote for himself. My choice to run for Congress stemmed from my commitment to this community and the desire to see my children, my friends, and my neighbors have the same opportunity to pursue their own version of American Dream.
As far as this question relates to my opponent, we’ve known that this would be a possibility for a long time. However, as it is relates to me, I would just stress that my decision to take on the heavy responsibility of representing CD-25 in Washington is not a political convenience, but something I have pursued at the counsel and urging of the people who actually live in this district.
Raymond Kutylo: Have you explored alternative means of transporting mining product from Santa Clarita other than local streets and roads – for example, railroad – should Cemex mining begin in Santa Clarita?
STEVE KNIGHT: As I stated above, Santa Clarita needs assurance that its air quality, local roads and infrastructure, and standard of living will not be impeded by Cemex’s mining operations.
TONY STRICKLAND: Again, I am opposed to the Cemex Mine, and I am committed to pursuing any solution for preventing the development of the mine in the Santa Clarita Valley. I am hopeful we will not have to deal with the demands on our infrastructure because the mine is never built.