Having controlled the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate for the past two years, Democrats have little to gain and much to lose in next week’s congressional elections. Republicans in districts across the country are poised to take over dozens of seats, and political analysts say it’s all but certain that the GOP will walk away from this election with a resounding majority in the House.
In California’s First Congressional District, which includes Davis, Republican Loren Hanks, is trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Mike Thompson, who has represented the district for nearly 12 years. While Hanks has brought some important issues to the foreground, we endorse Rep. Thompson’s reelection.
One of Congress’ biggest achievements in the past term was the stimulus (formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). In an interview with the Aggie Editorial Board, Thompson said he thought all of the stimulus money should have gone to Army Corps of Engineers projects that would have directly benefited the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The Corps has a backlog of important projects that need that funding.
Thompson also had a refreshing take on Proposition 19. Whereas Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein threw in her lot with the paranoid establishment by not only opposing Prop 19 but writing the poorly thought-out ballot argument against it, Thompson didn’t hesitate to tell us he was thinking about voting for the measure.
“We need to have a more serious discussion about what to do about recreational use of marijuana,” he said. And he’s right. Humboldt and Mendocino counties (which are part of the First District) are notorious for huge grow operations that damage critical streams and wildlife habitat. Legalizing cannabis cultivation will bring it out of public parks and onto legitimate farmland.
Hanks seemed more libertarian on the drug issue than expected. Noting that it is much harder to control the propagation of a plant as opposed to the laboratory synthesis of designer drugs, Hanks’ biggest reservation about Prop 19 seemed to be that if California is the only state with legal marijuana, we’ll see all the problems and none of the solutions Prop 19 promises.
Thompson could learn some things from his opponent on federal debt and deficit issues. Hanks proposes a plan to cut discretionary spending to $1 trillion for three years, which would be accomplished with proportional across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending programs. Hanks is also in favor of simplifying the tax code and linking federal spending to federal tax receipts.
Both Hanks and Thompson have personally served in the military – Hanks is a major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and Thompson is a Vietnam veteran. Hanks was equivocal on repealing the military don’t ask, don’t tell policy, questioning whether now is the time to do a “social experiment.” To his credit, Hanks did say he believed gay and lesbian soldiers would serve admirably, but Thompson has a much stronger record on this issue, having co-sponsored legislation to replace DADT with a nondiscrimination policy.
Hanks’ answers to questions about federal programs that benefit college students were disappointing. He said he doesn’t think the government should have stepped in to reform the federally backed student loan industry. He also said he is leery of loan forgiveness programs that encourage recent college graduates to work in government-approved jobs.
Ultimately the decision is up to voters on Tuesday, but all things considered we think Rep. Thompson is the better candidate.