Only candidate forum in Nevada County for 4th District
By David Mirhadi
With Election Day just two weeks away, 4th Congressional District candidates Tom McClintock and Charlie Brown squared off Tuesday night to highlight their differences on energy policy, the economic crisis and gay marriage before a packed south county audience.
McClintock and Brown are campaigning in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country, vying to represent an area that ranges from rural national forests to burgeoning suburbs.
Perhaps the sharpest difference between the two candidates arose over California's Proposition 8, which would mandate the institution of marriage as one between a man and a woman.
"Calling a homosexual partnership a marriage does not make it one," said McClintock. "We need to strengthen marriage as an institution, not further dilute it."
Brown said he would vote against Prop. 8. "I think government should just stay out of this (issue)," he said.
Brown, an Air Force veteran who flew missions in the Vietnam War, touted his two decades of experience as a combat pilot before more than 200 people at the Higgins Lions Community Center near Lake of the Pines. He said he supported the recently completed surge of troops in Iraq in quelling violence but said much work was left to be done.
"We are going to hold them accountable and we have to make them stand up and do something," Brown said. "Gen. Petraeus gave the military solutions. It's time to hold the Iraqi people accountable."
McClintock, who recently launched a Web site touting his military supporters, said Brown hasn't always been true to the military, observing his opponent has attended anti-war rallies in the past.
"Our soldiers deserve the full might and fury behind them when they go to war," McClintock said. "When we send our troops into battle, we need to make sure they have our full support."
Both candidates differed sharply on the recently completed $700 billion bailout provided to banks and other financial institutions.
McClintock said the bailout keeps the government saddled with bad debt that will hurt the economy's expansion in the long run.
The bailout amount represents "five percent of the GDP that the government has to go out and borrow just to repay that," McClintock said. "The federal government doesn't have that money, so they have to go out and borrow it.
"It is absolutely imperative that financial institutions shoulder the risk of their own bad decisions and not leave it to the taxpayers," he added.
Brown said he supported the bailout, providing a needed boost to the economy.
"If we hadn't taken some action, we would have been looking at a 20- to 30-year depression," he said.
Brown said his own fiscal management of his campaign proves he can help manage the national budget.
"I'm running my campaign on a budget. Your campaign is over budget," he said, looking at McClintock. "I don't trust you running the national budget," he said, to some whistles in the audience.
Though both candidates supported wider energy exploration, they differed on how to diversify the nation's energy sources.
McClintock repeated his support for the long-standing but dormant Auburn Dam proposal, arguing it would generate enough hydroelectric power for 1 million people.
Brown described the Auburn Dam proposal as a 30-year plan with no feasible solutions. He promoted alternative forms of energy, such as wind farms proposed in Roseville and Truckee.
Brown also pointed to untapped oil resources. "We can triple our oil with our existing leases. We have to stretch it as far as we can because we need for it to be here 100 years from now," he said. "It's going to take every possible energy source to maintain our quality of life."
McClintock said nuclear power is a clean energy source that must be utilized. "We need to do a lot more than consider it we should do it," he said.
The winner of the election in November replaces the retiring John Doolittle.
Tuesday night's debate, the last between the two candidates before the election, was moderated by The Union Publisher Jeff Ackerman.