25th special election: Candidates talk jobs, housing and health care

Five out of 12 candidates running in the 25th Congressional District special primary election. Bobby Block/ The Signal

While seven candidates missed out, including the top-two fundraisers, five others in the 12-person race for the 25th Congressional District’s special election discussed their priorities in a forum hosted Tuesday by the Valley Industry Association. 

The handful of candidates at the Hyatt Regency Valencia discussed jobs, housing and health care for about an hour during the forum. The candidates are seeking the 25th Congressional District seat in a special election that was called after former Rep. Katie Hill resigned.

While all candidates were invited, in attendance were: Steve Knight, a Republican former 25th District representative; Courtney Lackey, a Republican businesswoman; Anibal Valdez-Ortega, a Democratic attorney; David Rudnick, a Democratic business owner; and Cenk Uygur, a Democratic media personality.

Two candidates were unable to attend but sent representatives to deliver a two-minute statement for each. Candidates Mike Garcia, a Republican executive at Raytheon, did not attend because he was asked to greet President Trump, who visited Los Angeles on Tuesday, and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, who was in Sacramento for the legislative session, their representatives said.  

The biggest local issue

One question posed to the hopefuls asked them to identify the biggest issue facing residents of the 25th District, and also how they’d address it. Their answers split generally around the need for more jobs and tackling the housing crisis. 

For Knight, bringing more jobs within the district must be the highest priority, he said. “You need to get new jobs in the area. That’s how you stimulate an area, that’s how you bring in those abilities to buy a house and send somebody to school or do all those types of things. How many people do you know that drive more than 25 miles to work each day?” 

Valdez-Ortega said a low unemployment rate is not good enough for the working people of the district because, “People still can’t find housing. They’re underemployed; they’re not making enough.” He would create local jobs by stimulating the economy and relaxing taxes on small- and medium-business owners. 

On housing, Uygur said money has been allocated to address the issue but “it hasn’t gone to the right place,” which he said has played a role in rising rents and decreasing wages, ultimately hindering people from affording a place to live. Health care is also an issue tied in the first place with housing, he said, adding that “we need universal health care, no copay premiums or deductibles.” 

Lackey said health care, in terms of helping small-business owners, is the most important issue facing the district. “Small-business owners have specifically said that one of the challenges they face in terms of hiring people, retaining staff and just making it as a small business is health care. I don’t think it’s something that should be government-run,” she said. 

Rudnick also raised housing as the biggest local issue, saying, “Laws that have red tape are destroying, once again, our middle class. I want to build here and I can’t because of the laws here that are strangling not only me but all our future generations out there.”  

Candidates were also faced with questions about how to curb the nation’s $23 trillion debt, what can be done to alleviate additional tax burdens and how to lower the cost of higher education. 

On Super Tuesday (March 3 primary), the ballots in the 25th District will include candidates for both a special election primary to fill the remaining term after Hill’s resignation and a general election primary for the new term. The non-special election primary ballot will not include Lackey but will list candidates George Papadopoulos, a Republican former Donald Trump advisor, and Otis Lee Cooper, an independent legal defense investigator. 

All candidates running for both races have also been invited to attend a forum at California State University, Northridge, which the institution will co-host with College of the Canyons on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

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