A woman's platform is a good one for America. Public safety, education, health care, sustainable energy... no matter what it is. This is a time for women to exercise the right to vote. Women have to find cookie jar money to fund good candidates. If everyone just gave $10...if women had $10 on a horse, they'd pay attention to a race. [emphasis mine] --candidate for Congress Beth Krom
It was just Mother's Day, and after the hugs and tributes, it's time to think about improving the lives of women and girls in this country every day. If we aren't all mothers, we women are certainly daughters, nieces, sisters, and aunts. And if we do a simple thing like vote in every election up and down the ticket, we can really turn this country around. I recently had the good fortune to interview Beth Krom, a Democratic candidate for congress challenging the Republican incumbent John Campbell in the 48th district of California.
Conventional wisdom's written off Orange County/Southern Caifornia as the all-too cozy home of hardcore anti-choice Republicans like Darrell Issa (CA CD-49), John Campbell (CA CD-48), and Dana Rohrbacher (CA CD-46). But as Krom points out, the demographics of her home district in Orange County are changing and in 2008 Obama won the 48th congressional district by a slim margin (49.3% to 48.6%) over McCain. I'm not a handwringer worried about a GOP onslaught this November. I think it'll be about what it's always about: who has the better and more motivated support that's willing to GOTV. And after talking to Beth Krom, I think she has an excellent chance at winning.
See what Beth Krom has to say over the jump.
Cynematic: At MOMocrats, we have both a local and national audience. For people who aren't familiar with CA-CD48, could you quickly sketch this part of Orange County in Southern California? What are some of the unique things about the people and region that make it home for you?
Beth Krom: CA CD-48 is made up of four major coastal cities, contains most of the preserved open space in Orange County, is the home of University of California, Irvine, seven public school districts, an environmental district, and a high-tech business hub: Irvine-Laguna-Tustin-Dana Point. Some folks might know of us from a tv show called The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Cynematic: You've been a mayor and city council member in Irvine, CA. What were the factors that compelled you to set aside a $30 million rainy day fund for Irvine when everyone else was ignoring the signs of a bursting real estate bubble and collapse in the financial services industry? What are some of the ways the city of Irvine is currently buffered from budget stresses other cities are experiencing?
BK: Irvine is the largest city in the district, with a population of 200,000-plus. During good economic times, we did well. We tripled reserves. Instead of $10 million, we had $30 million in reserves. The state's current economic challenges impact local government--we need someone who understands the intersection of local government and Congress.
We have about 3 million people [in CA CD-48]. From 2003 onwards there was a big home lending boom--Irvine became the hub of the subprime lending industry. [The Washington Post's take on why the O.C. became the hub here. --Ed.] High-tech, med tech, clean tech, subprime mortgage loan industries, and real estate development are all big SoCal industries. With the subprime meltdown, lots of jobs were lost.
Cynematic: Are there any issues where you feel you overlap with the incumbent, John Campbell, currently Congressman from CA-CD48?
BK: I don't see any see any similarities between myself and John Campbell. He's someone who's never had to run a competitive race. [Campbell was a CA State Assemblyman before winning a special election to replace Chris Cox when Cox vacated office to become chair of the SEC. --Ed.] I've run for 5 seats. [As Congressman for the district,] he's been non-responsive. When I was Mayor of Irvine, he never once came to city hall--there was no letter of congratulations when Irvine was named safest big city four years in a row. The current congressman is out of touch with his home district. He hasn't made any effort to work with people there. The only point of overlap is that we do both live inside the district.
Cynematic: The incumbent, John Campbell, positions himself as a fiscal conservative. He sits on the House Budget and the Financial Services committees. His major contributors are real estate development companies and insurance/financial services companies.
BK: Campbell takes a stridently partisan position on everything, but didn't show up to vote on jobs bill. His largest contributor base is the financial industry. [He consistently] doesn't look after his constituents, but looks after himself.
I believe government shoud be a watchdog on behalf of the consumer. Campbell voted to roll back regulations on car loans, an industry in which he has investments.
To me, people are important to the equation.
Cynematic: How well do you feel he's done as a watchdog of the financial services industry, which, as new discoveries come to light, seems to have preyed upon homeowners and investors? What are the ways you feel you can offer better protection to consumers?
BK: Unfortunately, a lot of policies feel like new layers of wallpaper. We now find ourselves in a situation where we're looking for reform in financial industry services, homebuying, and health insurance. It's hard when Congress is so divided. [Since our conversation the Senate has taken up financial regulation and reform with renewed activity and even bipartisan agreement on many key points, no doubt in response to many allegations of underhanded dealing by Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street investment firms. --Ed.]
Cynematic: As we know, health care reform passed and that will have not only impact on the physical well-being of Americans, but help family budgets as well by ending medical bankruptcies and poverty-inducing rescissions of coverage.
BK: It's good that the health care bill passed. It's disconcerting to me that many people didn't know what were the provisions. As a newscaster's daughter, I hope media will do a better job reporting what's going on. As an educator I believe in a structure for improving basic education in this country. It's unfortunate that the health insurance industry doesn't feel a need to regulate themselves internally, so we have a responsible business environment as well as successful businesss environment.
Those on right must explain why the insurance industry gets public funding, but feels no compulsion to serve the public.
Cynematic: I'm really excited by the ways you've worked to make Irvine a green city. What are some of the ways you feel its successes could be repeated in other cities on a national scale? Are there examples of experiments that didn't work, but might if revamped?
BK: Irvine was a leader in the ban of ozone-damaging fluorocarbons. I was one of the first mayors to sign on to green cities [via the Mayors for Climate Protection Center --Ed]. We've had green building ordinances in place for years. I believe we need to help advance initiatives -- be environmentally respectful but we also have to be innovative in our business models. We should strive to be sustainable environmentally and sustainable economically. In terms of environmental stewardship. We were the first city to implement curbside recycling in the 1980s and ban fluorocarbons. As mayor, I noticed that the city was talking certain things for granted. We instituted the Irvine green ribbon committee to set and keep the bar high and keep an eye on water agencies and green construction.
Cynematic: To that point, Campbell recently passed a bill giving coastal rock formations protected status. What's that all about?
BK: Here's the thing about Campbell's latest bill--rocks off the coastline that were previously under the stewardship of the coast guard are now managed by the California Coastal National Monument. Nothing impressive has been done with them. He has only done this since I launched my campaign; all the years prior in office nothing else has prompted him to take this action. It's a compliment to my campaign that he's making an attempt to up his environmental perspective. It does show he's out of touch with the people of his district.
Cynematic: I know a big issue for SoCal communities like Santa Barbara (and I'd also imagine parts of Orange County and San Diego) is offshore drilling. Where do you stand on this? [Since the interview was conducted, the Deepwater Horizon/British Petroleum spill has become an ongoing environmental crisis as well as a situation where worker safety may have been egregiously ignored, resulting in the deaths of 11 BP workers on the ocean rig.]
BK: I strongly oppose offshore drilling. I was first appointed to the sanitation district as city council member. I opposed dumping fecal waste into the ocean. I was the deciding vote on moving this to full secondary treatment. I'm opposed to not only offshore drilling, but also coal mining and coal sequestration. My biggest fear is that economic downtown will stop us from thinking aspirationally [when it comes to green energy] and [have us] start thinking what's the easiest way.
I'm all for energy independence. I strongly favor research into alternative fuels. I've always supported a more innovative path.
I've never been a supporter of nuclear energy because of the significant downsides. How you deal with waste? "Clean coal" has similar problems. However, I don't want to take any thing off the table for discusison. Instead, let's have industries invested in what will be most beneficial/productive.
Cynematic: What are some of the caucuses you'd like to join once in Congress?
BK: I'm something of a hybrid--I'm least inclined to join Blue Dogs (because I think it's a confusing message to define oneself as a "fiscally conservative" Democrat as if Democrats are not already fiscally conservative). The Progressive and New Democratic caucuses are appealing. I haven't given it too much thought... I'm a teacher, parent, and business owner. I want to participate in every conversation for the people on behalf on my constituents.
Cynematic: What are some areas of pending legislation you'd like to take on?
BK: I'd like to focus on health care, financial services reform, fulling funding special education in public schools. I'm an educator by nature and training. We have tremendous need for college loans and grants, and a need to have an educated population. The things that touch peoples' lives the most are most important. On Afghanistan, I'm deeply concerned about path forward and the responsibility to remove yourself in a way that doesn't create a much more dangerous situation. I care about the impact of war on the financial and human level--even the lack of diplomacy in our Congress... We have a long a way to go to even achieve this on an international level. We need to start leading again and be a better watchdog for those who need the advocacy and support of the U.S.
On special education: I was trained to teach visually impaired kids. I grew up a product of public education and attended UT Austin. We need to shift the focus back to what's inspirational. Let's revamp No Child Left Behind...look at President Obama's initiative with Race the Top. Teaching to the test is concerning. I've raised 4 children and have seen often how kids are given the newfangled approach of the day when the quality of the teachers they had should have equal emphasis. We need to encourage our best and brightest to enter the profession. Engage and inspire...not teaching to the test. In our own community, we've suffered a $2.3 million cut to school budgets. This pushes responsibility back to local districts but with no resources. This isn't the most optimal environment to serve the interests of young people.
Cynematic: From speaking to the residents of CA CD-48, what do you think are the top 3-5 priorities of people in this district?
BK: [laughter] I call my campaign "Mrs. Krom Goes to Washington"--a combination campaign & civics lesson. I've been in every city in the district and the #1 concern is jobs. #2 is seeing us expand transportation resources, such as high speed rail and inteconnected transportation throughout the district. #3 water quality/the environment. #4 concern from parents regarding fewer programs for their kids, whether that's after school or summer camp. #5 what we hear consistently, people are frustrated the level of negative discourse. We have people in positions of "leadership" who are there to tear down rather than build things up. This is not the kind of environment that people want to see in DC.
Cynematic: Do you feel as if you might be going up against an entrenched GOP machine or that you're running an underdog campaign?
BK: Any time you challenge an incumbent, it's tough. I've won 5 consecutive local elections...several without any sense from those who have opinions that I'd win. One advantage we enjoy: Irvine's the biggest city in the 48th district. The University will be an excellent source of votes all coming from an extremely diverse base. In the past, I've worked very closely with East Asian and South Asian American communities. This district has changed: it used to be 57% R, 15% D. It's now about 44% D and adding in Independents, about 52%.
I also have the advantage of understanding what it means to run a real campagin. It's not an easy thing to do [for the incumbent] when you haven't paid any attention to your constituents. We've seen crossover polling with 20% of Republicans supporting us, which is encouraging.
Our current rep is an extremist ideologue. He co-sponsored the "birther" blll. I have an opponent who feels comfortable challenging our first African American president's citizenship. Yet ours is a very diverse district. I grew up in an era where we had segregation--but young people find this very strange.
I think we have assets, we're committed to raising what we need to win. We've not had as competitive a race in as long as any one can remember.
I'm extremely proud to be endorsed by NOW, Planned Parenthood, Women in Leadership. I'm a vocal pro-choice supporter. I have a daughter--I want her to have every opportunity.
It's offensive to me that the Hyde amendment was passed, because it demonizes women. It always seems to be men who are comfortable using that issue to undermine the long term interests of women.
Women have a unique place in our society. In our role as mothers, we deserve a great deal of value as well. The choice to have children, or if to have children, or how many. The same people who oppose pro-choice [sic] also oppose sex education. When they're willing to fund contraception at a higher level, when they're willing to give women tools and choices of how to live their lives and have their families, then they can talk to me about being "pro-life."
Women are still the most important part of the electoral process. Women voting as a bloc are the most important force for change in this country. You can't be disappointed if you discover they don't represent you. You just vote differently.
Cynematic: We're all about full electoral participation here at MOMocrats! And for more and better pro-choice Democrats in Congress.
BK: This is what I bring: a willingness to work across party lines and a willingness to get things done.
Cynematic also blogs at P i l l o w b o o k.