By Jared Whitlock
Three candidates hoping to oust Rep. Darrell Issa from the U.S. House of Representatives took part in a debate at Miracosta College May 3.
Independents Albin Novinec and Dick Eiden and Democrat Jerry Tetalman, along with Issa, are on the June 5 ballot in the Republican-leaning 49th Congressional District, which was recently redrawn and stretches from coastal northern San Diego to southern Orange County and inland to Vista.
The candidates, who have not run for office before, criticized Issa for his role in controversial congressional birth-control hearings in February, as well as other parts of Issa's record. Issa, a Republican incumbent, was invited to the debate, but did not attend.
While Issa's voting history was mentioned a handful of times throughout the two-hour long debate, the candidates primarily focused on their ideas for jumpstarting a stagnant economy.
Tetalman, a Carlsbad resident who worked as a nurse and later started a real estate and property management company, believes "this election is about the middle class."
He said the Bush tax cuts disproportionally favor the wealthy, and unions, especially postal workers, are unfairly being targeted by Republicans, and that funding for Social Security and Medicare should be protected, rather than raising the retirement age.
When asked about job creation, Tetalman advocated giving small businesses tax breaks and said the country should embrace more public-private partnerships.
"UCSD, Salk Institute -- that's why we have biotech in San Diego," Tetalman said. "It's that relationship between government-funded research and development that has built our biotech industry."
He also said the U.S.'s deficit is an important issue. But he cautioned against "the severe austerity measures we've seen in Europe."
"We want to cut the deficit, we want to cut that spending, but we also don't want to kill the recovery," Tetalman said.
Tetalman said he supports the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed by President Barack Obama to regulate mortgages and the banking industry.
"We don't need further regulation at this time," Tetalman said.
Eiden, a Vista resident who's a retired attorney and long-time political activist, said he "respectfully disagrees." He said Obama hasn't reformed the banking industry.
"Obama continued with Bush-era officials and policies in banking, and he failed to punish wrongdoers," Eiden said.
Challenging the "two-party system," he contended that both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the banking collapse. As an example of Democrats enforcing deregulation, he cited former President Bill Clinton repealing the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, a move that relaxed rules that previously separated commercial and investment banks.
"It really helped bring about the terrible recession in 2008 that continues today," Eiden said.
If elected, Eiden said his main priority would be campaign finance reform. He believes other issues won't be addressed until super PACs are outlawed.
Thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010, Super PACs can collect nearly unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals.
"As long as politicians are owned by the big corporations, they will not work for the people on Main Street," he said.
One of Eiden's campaign slogans is "End War, Rebuild America." He said tax dollars should be reinvested into infrastructure projects and advancing green technologies. And in contrast to Tetalman, who favors Obama's recently announced withdrawal plan in Afghanistan, Eiden said troops should be pulled out from Afghanistan "as quickly as possible."
Novinec, an Oceanside resident, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 28 years and completed three tours of duty in Iraq. He's also a realtor. On the topic of Afghanistan, he said the U.S. shouldn't have sent troops there in the first place.
"I'm all for the Marine Corps and the United States, but we shouldn't have went into Afghanistan," Novinec said. "It's a no-win situation."
He said the housing market is at the root of an ailing economy and needs to be stimulated.
"It's the housing market we'll have to fix," Novinec said. "It will bring jobs back."
Although he declined to list specifics during the debate, he encouraged the audience to look up his 10-point plan for the housing market on his website. The first point of the plan is to bring back an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.
When asked about education, he said there should be more teachers; they should be paid more and states should be given more control over schools.
Novinec also affirmed he's decidedly against political parties.
"The parties are running the politicians and the government," he said.
"So let's get rid of the parties," he added.
The candidates offered differing opinions on whether marijuana should be legalized. Eiden was for, while Novinec was opposed to legalization. Tetalman said he supports decriminalizing the substance.
All three candidates were against continuing operations at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in the long term.
Republicans hold a 14-point registration advantage over Democrats in the District, and Issa's $1 million campaign fund dwarfs the three candidates. Still, each candidate said they can beat the incumbent.
"Darrell Issa has to leave, especially with women's rights," Novinec said. "He's living in the Stone Age."
The two candidates who receive the most votes on the June 5 ballot will move on to the November general election.
The debate was moderated by the League of Women Voters of North County.