Democrats host Congressional candidate forum

Moderator Hilary Schardein and candidates Katie Hill, Bryan Caforio, Diedra Greenaway and Jess Phoenix smile before WIN to Lead's forum on Oct. 23, 2017. Gina Ender/ The Signal

Four Democrats took the stage Monday night at Women’s Initiative Network’s (WIN to Lead) candidate forum with almost 150 attendees, allowing local liberals to hear from the Congressional candidates how they would approach holding Steve Knight’s seat.

Though their answers varied in strategic approach, the candidates agreed on most issues. Universal health care, distaste for President Donald Trump, environmental protections, funding public schools and women’s rights were all unifying themes.

For the first time in Santa Clarita, new candidate Diedra Greenaway joined Bryan Caforio, Katie Hill and Jess Phoenix for an event. Greenaway works as a budget advocate for the city of Los Angeles and serves on the Northridge East Neighborhood Council.

Keeping up with constituents

Candidates addressed how they would keep in touch with people in the 25th district when they were in D.C.

From her experience as former executive director and deputy CEO of nonprofit PATH, Hill said she and her staff would physically go out into the community.

Most often, people who are in need are not attending town halls or being politically active because they do not have time with their jobs and family, she said.

“The ones with the toughest concerns are the ones who can’t get to you,” Hill said. “We have to make sure we are going to the places where people are untouched.”

For Phoenix, this would mean having her chief of staff based in the district instead of with her in the Capitol.

Greenaway said she would ensure she held town halls.

In addition to holding town halls and maintaining an open door policy in his local office, Caforio said he would make sure he went back to the district every weekend and would regularly host hikes with the congressman.

Katie Hill answers a question while Bryan Caforio takes notes and moderator Hilary Schardein listens at Win to Lead’s candidate forum at Pico Canyon Elementary School on Oct. 23, 2017. Gina Ender/ The Signal

Talking to Trump

The candidates were asked with they would do with a minute in an elevator with President Trump.

By stroking the president’s ego, Caforio said he would convince Trump to fund projects he was passionate about by flattering him, like asking him to pay for road improvements by naming a freeway after him.

For Phoenix, she said she would not be able to hold back her feelings of distaste and would curse at him.

Greenaway said she would use the opportunity to talk to the president about rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I would ask him how he slept at night,” Greenaway said.

Hill decided she would ignore him completely and pretend she did not know who he was.

Working with Republicans

All candidates agreed they would need to collaborate with Republicans to accomplish anything in Congress.

By working alongside Republican members of the Arizona legislature while fact checking a memorial, Phoenix said she learned to respectfully share her viewpoints with them. Also, she said her eight years of retail experience would transfer over to the legislature.

“The skills I got from listening, talking to people and solving problems, that’s a skill that transfers into the government world,” Phoenix said.

Experience working with the Department of Defense would help Greenaway interact with other members of Congress, she said.

Caforio said his work as a lawyer equipped him with the tools to talk with people who disagree. Focusing on what people have in common instead of where they differ is key, he said.

“When you really get down to it, most people agree on big issues,” Caforio said.

With a family full of Republicans, Hill said she was well-suited to listen to those who differ. Also, she said having worked for PATH gave her persuasive skills, such as convincing neighborhoods to let the organization build homeless facilities and encouraging voters to pass the Measure H homelessness initiative.

Jess Phoenix answers a question while Diedra Greenaway takes notes at Win to Lead’s candidate forum at Pico Canyon Elementary School on Oct. 23, 2017. Gina Ender/ The Signal

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