Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove is set to debate his Republican challenger Scott Jones Tuesday in the only televised confrontation of the contest.
The 7 p.m. event at KVIE-TV studios in Natomas is sponsored by the public television station, along with The Sacramento Bee, Capital Public Radio, Folsom Lake College and the Los Rios Community College District.
Bera, who has the upper hand in fundraising, is campaigning for a third term in the highly competitive 7th district, which stretches across suburban Sacramento. Jones, the county sheriff, comes into the debate having newly disavowed his party’s controversial standard-bearer, Donald Trump.
To date, most of the tough exchanges between the two candidates and their supporters have occurred in television ads.
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Bera’s campaign is highlighting recently uncovered court records in which a sheriff’s deputy alleged Jones made unwelcome sexual advances toward her between 2003 and 2005. The National Republican Congressional Committee produced a spot linking Bera with “dirty money” and “fraud” after the congressman’s octogenarian father, Babulal, was sentenced to a year in prison for election fraud in connection with his son’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012.
More recently, another Super PAC allied with Jones, Congressional Leadership Fund, is criticizing Bera’s support for the Iran agreement. Jones touched on the deal in a discussion with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, excerpted for length and clarity below:
Q: This has been a tough race. Did you anticipate it being this tough?
A: I knew it would be tough. I knew it would be close. There are some things I didn’t fully anticipate, or maybe appreciate. One is the impact going from a nonpartisan officeholder to a partisan candidate would have. The (other) part I don’t think I fully appreciated was the absolute elevation of this race into the national forefront, the fact that this would become the No. 1 race in the state and by some accounts the No. 1 race in the country – for the Republican side. And therefore, necessarily, one of the top races for the Democrats to defend.
Q: Can you clarify what changed for you in choosing not to vote for Donald Trump?
A: I was very much in a period of deep introspection when I heard the statements (from Trump bragging about groping women) ... For anybody to assert that I am doing this for political reasons, or to be politically correct or because I am bowing to pressure from the Democratic Party or Congressman Bera, it’s absolutely foolish. This will cost me votes. This will cost me in the election.
Q: As someone in law enforcement are you troubled by what Mr. Trump said about putting Hillary Clinton in jail if he’s president?
A: I am not bothered by either side’s political rhetoric, frankly ... I truly believe that Hillary Clinton did get away with illegal conduct. I truly believe that anyone that’s issued a subpoena and thereafter destroys the subject matter of that subpoena would likely face potential criminal consequences ... Putting that aside, you have the issues. And some things that are very, very important to me, I don’t believe Hillary Clinton will do. I don’t believe that she brings the skills or the desire to the White House.
Q: Do you feel like the Sheriff’s Department is favorable to women given harassment allegations against you and a separate successful retaliation lawsuit against the department.
A: Let’s talk about this ‘Bro culture ...’ First of all, I would challenge that. I would say that our culture inside the department, both in the morale of our people, and the unity of our purpose, our connection with the community, is better than it has ever been in our history. I would make that bold statement.
Q: Given what’s come out on some of the people that did get concealed-carry permits, do you have any regrets?
A: I have absolutely no regrets. And I am unapologetic as I have been. But I will color this a little bit differently and give some of my perspective. I revoke a lot of permits ... On average two to three a month ... I would liken it to driver’s licenses, right? You get a driver’s license based on getting your qualifications, getting your driver’s training, passing a written test, demonstrating good decision-making in terms of driving (such as) not having too many points against your record. And if you meet all of that criteria, you get a driver’s license. That’s not a license forever, and the DMV is pretty good, we have a pretty good system in place with traffic citation, accident monitoring, where if you demonstrate you depart from that prior record of good decision-making and qualifications than you can affect your driver’s license, including having it revoked. It’s the same thing for a CCW. You might say, ‘One is a gun, one’s a car.’ I would argue that more people are killed by car accidents than gun violence.
Q: What are you hearing from people on the campaign trail?
A: I don’t think people feel safe, whether it’s crime locally or abroad. Compounding that problem is you have a president that not only is not addressing it satisfactorily, but he’s not even acknowledging people’s fear. In an NPR interview before Christmas last year, he blamed the media for making people afraid. In his State of the Union address, he dismissed as rhetoric that our enemies are getting stronger ... People aren’t stupid. People know we are in an uncertain world and we are less safe than we were five years ago, three years ago, eight years ago. I would also I think that’s the reason that gun sales have set records in this country month after month.
Q: Articulate the policy differences between you and Congressman Bera.
A: Obviously he’s a Democrat and I am a Republican, so there’s that ... The Iran deal, which he’s voted for ... It is not only the most horrific deal we ever made with a state sponsor of terrorism, I don’t think it even solves our problems for the duration of the deal. It will sell our children down the road.
Watch the Debate
The debate will be broadcast live on KVIE and Capital Public Radio. You can also watch a livestream at sacbee.com. Follow along on Twitter at #CA07.