Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove has been in his share of elections. But this fall, there’s a twist, as he fields a challenge from fellow Republican Art Moore, an Army veteran. The Bee caught up with the conservative stalwart this week at his campaign office in Roseville. Below is lightly condensed transcript of some of the conversation. The sprawling, 10-county district stretches from Truckee south to Fresno.
What is your message ahead of the Nov. 4 election?
Freedom works, and it is time that we put it back to work. We need to restore those traditionally, uniquely American principles of individual liberty, constitutionally limited government and personal responsibility that produced the prosperity that this country has enjoyed for centuries. I fought very hard for two (committee) assignments: Budget, because it’s absolutely essential to the country to get our spending in order; and Natural Resources, because that’s of absolutely critical importance to the local economy and the health and safety of our communities.
What is your impression of the top-two election system and how it’s applying to your race?
It was sold as a way to increase people’s choices and increase participation. It’s been exactly the opposite. Since it was imposed on California, we have had among the lowest voter turnouts in our history and people have discovered that their choices are severely restricted.
Are you going after Democrats and independent (voters)?
I always have. If you look at (exit polling) from 2003 from the gubernatorial race you will find I got more support from non-Republicans in that election than I got from Republicans. In the June primary, I got 56 percent of the vote. That’s 11 points ahead of party registration. There has always been a large group of traditional Democrats and conservative independents who have responded very positively to my message – we used to call them the Reagan Democrats – and they’re still there.
Art Moore’s campaign has circulated a memo predicting you will pull only 5 percent of the Democratic vote. Have you seen it?
Yes, I have. And don’t forget they were selling the same soap in the primary and the results were radically different. ... They have already been proven wrong in those calculations.
But part of his message is ‘vote for Art Moore because he’s not Tom McClintock.’ How do you counter that?
When people find out that he’s 36 years old and had never voted in his life, never even registered to vote until he decided to run for Congress, it’s all over. People know where I stand and can trust where I stand. Art has spent the campaign telling Republican groups he’s a strong conservative and telling liberal groups he’s a moderate alternative. He’s very much established a record during his short time as an American voter arguing with himself and trying to be all things to all people.
I know his excuse for not voting is he felt military officers shouldn’t vote. The problem, of course, with that is the military actively encourages their officers to vote. And even if you hand him that indulgence ... for the past nine years he’s been a member of the Maryland National Guard. He has to explain why it was inappropriate for him to vote all those years, but now it’s appropriate for him to run for Congress? And while we are at it, if it’s not appropriate for regular Army officers to vote, why is it that he has been soliciting regular Army voters to make political contributions to his campaign? When all that is laid out, it falls apart for him.
Could you respond to three of his criticisms ... that you live outside the district, take the (government) pension and you voted against the Violence Against Women Act?
With regard to residency, it is not unusual for members of Congress to live outside their districts. Just in this region, John Garamendi lived outside of his district when he was first elected to Congress. Mike Honda lives outside of his district. Doug Ose, running for Congress, lives outside of his district. That’s not unusual. My basic problem has always been, I bought at the height of the market. Until I can redeem my mortgage and recover my down payment, I am stuck where I am. But I come to the district every week and have since I was first elected.
How long do you expect that to take?
It depends upon the market.
I know one of his themes that’s continued from the 2008 race is that I’ve been feathering my own nest in public office. If you go to OpenSecrets.org, and you look at the personal wealth of members, you will find that I rank, out of 435 members of the House of Representatives, 425th in personal wealth. You can say I have grown old and gray in the service of my country, but you cannot say that I have grown wealthy.
And on the Violence Against Women Act vote?
My principal objection was provisions in the measure that subject American citizens to trial in tribal courts if they are accused of sexual harassment on tribal land. That means if you are in an Indian casino, and are accused of an inappropriate sexual advance, you will not be tried in a court of your peers. You will be tried in tribal court. I find that brazenly unconstitutional. Art Moore says he would have voted differently. Wait a second, Art Moore didn’t vote at all, even in a presidential election. So I think it’s rather strange for him to say he would have voted differently in Congress when he was neglecting even to vote for Congress.
Barring any major shift, this Congress is set to become the least productive in six decades. Are you OK with that?
No. Of course not. Three hundred and fifty bills, actually closer to 400 now, have been passed by the House to the Senate; without any Senate action. The two houses are designed to disagree. But once the House has exercised its best judgment on a measure and the Senate has exercised its best judgment, then there is a process that has evolved over centuries that’s very good at isolating the differences between the two houses. But in order for that process to be invoked, both houses have to act.
The Senate also has acted on a number of Democratic priorities.
Quite a few, actually.
They acted on immigration. That didn’t come up for a vote in the House.
The House did pass immigration measures onto the Senate. You can’t say the House has not acted on the issue. We will not accept a general amnesty as called for in the Senate legislation. That is what has produced this huge surge of illegal immigrants this past summer – the prospect of amnesty. Ninety-five percent of them expect permission to stay, specifically because of these promises of amnesty. The House has made it clear that is a nonstarter. But the House did pass comprehensive legislation to secure the border, expedite hearings and is still awaiting Senate action on that.
You mentioned Doug Ose. Briefly, are you supporting him?
Sure, he’s the Republican nominee. Absolutely.
Are you supporting the entire ticket statewide?
I am. ... When I was on the ticket, you know the profound differences I have with Pete Wilson. I certainly supported him as a member of the ticket when we shared that ticket in 1994.
Do the party rifts (this year) hurt folks up and down the ticket?
I am not going to speak for others, but I think that the races this year present clear choices and our nominees should recognize those. Have I always supported the Republican nominee? No. But the ticket runs as a team, and whenever I have been on the ticket I certainly have supported every nominee.
Should they reduce the number of state (GOP) conventions?
I think the conventions are a healthy thing, and I couldn’t support reducing the number of them. They are the one time every six months where Republican activists from all wings of the party can get together. That’s a very healthy thing. And by the way, it’s also a very messy thing. But that’s democracy.