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The Baskerfield Californian - 21st Congressional District Candidates Weigh in on Health Care, Economy, More

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John Hernandez, David Valadao and Blong Xiong are competing for the 21st Congressional District seat.

The newly-drawn district looks somewhat like the current 20th district, represented by Democrat Jim Costa. It includes parts of Kern, Fresno and Tulare counties and all of Kings County.

The Californian has asked candidates in all the races we're covering a set of questions on current issues, and Valadao, Xiong and Hernandez weighed in with their views on health care reform, foreign policy and the Central Valley economy.

Valadao, a Republican currently representing the 30th state Assembly district, is also Hanford native whose family owns dairies in Kings and western Tulare counties. Hernandez, a Democrat, is the CEO of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and lives in Fresno. Xiong, who's also a Democrat, is a Fresno city councilman and previously worked for a non-profit that helped immigrants transition into the community.

We asked candidates to limit their responses to 100 words each and have edited responses to fit within that limit.

1. If the Supreme Court strikes down the health care reform law, what would you suggest to reform health care?

Hernandez: I believe that it is important to make healthcare affordable and accessible to all. I am a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act because it provides comprehensive health care to many Americans. If the Supreme Court overturns this legislation, I will work with other members in the House to draft, propose and sponsor new legislation that will cover everyone. We have worked too hard to let the dream of everyone having healthcare fall through the cracks. We also need to help our small businesses by keeping down the cost of healthcare.

Valadao: I oppose Obamacare. The best way to make health care more accessible is by encouraging competition in the marketplace in order to drive down costs. Creating another government bureaucracy to mandate health care on taxpayers will only increase costs.

Xiong: The issue isn't a bill or a bill author. It is access to health care when you need it. It is the right to make your own healthcare decisions in consultation with your doctor rather than having an insurance company accountant decide what treatment you get. If the court strikes down all or part of the current health care reform, those are the areas I will concentrate on. This should not be a political issue. It should be regarded as a quality of life issue for real people, valley people.

2. As a member of Congress, how would you advance the Central Valley economically?

Hernandez: The 21st Congressional district is the poorest in the country. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to stimulate the economy and bring jobs to the Central Valley. I've been the only vocal supporter of high-speed rail, and it's alarming that I stand alone on this issue. The construction of this project will bring working-class jobs to this district and stimulate tourism. I will work to get federal funds to aid this project, and I'll continue to advocate for similar projects in the Central Valley. I'll also fight to get funding for improvements to our education system and infrastructure and for promoting alternative energy.

Valadao: I will advance the Central Valley economically by providing small businesses the best environment to create jobs and put people in the Central Valley to work.

Xiong: Being an immigrant, especially a refugee camp survivor, gives me perspective and a love for America and the Valley, but also the belief that we must earn the privilege of being here through our public service. No candidate in this race has the long-term public service record I do, especially for the Valley's working families. When it comes to speaking up for the Valley in Congress, no one will outwork me.

What spending is needed? What programs can be more efficient? Which ones need expanding or deleting? The answer starts by making your goal a more efficient, economically-sound system that helps the Valley.

3. A growing number of voters in California, about one in five now, are registering without a party affiliation. And it's not hard to find voters who are dissatisfied with what they see as increased partisanship in Washington, D.C. How would you balance your party affiliation with those two factors if elected?

Hernandez: Let me be clear with your readers. I am a Democrat. I have always been a Democrat, and I am the only true Democrat in this race. I'm also the only candidate who isn't a career politician. As a Democrat, I will fight for the middle class, and I will stand up for working families, seniors, veterans, unions and women's rights. I will support the Dream Act and work to protect our environment and promote alternative energy. If elected, I will stand by these ideals and make the right choices for my constituents regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation or party affiliation.

Valadao: If elected, I will represent those who I am elected by, regardless of their political party.

Xiong: The political answer is to say that no matter what my party affiliation I believe government should be involved in everything I want and get out of everything I don't want. The trouble is simple approaches like that lead to political gridlock and nothing changes. I believe the answer isn't more government or less, it's about more efficient, effective government. That means viewing every issue as a problem to be solved, not an opportunity to call the other side names.

4. What is the biggest foreign policy concern facing the United States?

Hernandez: My first concern is our need to strengthen our relationships with our allies and work to develop new alliances with other nations. Second is the need to continue to practice aggressive diplomacy with nations like North Korea and Iran. We cannot let Iran obtain or develop nuclear weapons. We need to pressure both of them to comply with the United Nations and allow for missile inspections, and we need to hold them accountable with strict economic sanctions. Third, we are wasting money and lives in our war in Afghanistan. We have spent more than $500 billion in Afghanistan, and we have lost 1,828 brave young men and women.

Valadao: Ensuring that our country has a safe and reliable food source is essential to our national security. We can fulfill this need by providing those who produce our food with an adequate water supply.

Xiong: As an immigrant myself, I feel passionately about the need to reform immigration policies and bring the hope of opportunity to those seeking freedom and advancement in the USA.

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