A second Republican has entered the race to unseat Congressman Ami Bera, a Democrat from Elk Grove who last year narrowly defended the 7th Congressional District seat he has held since 2013.
Yona Barash, a Fair Oaks physician, said the health care debate in Congress sparked his candidacy. His campaign is being run by those who handled Republican Scott Jones’ unsuccessful 2016 campaign against Bera. He has never held elected office.
“I’m frustrated with what’s happening with the country – especially health care,” said Barash, a Republican who backed President Donald Trump last year. “Pharmaceutical companies are charging more, insurance companies are charging more ... it’s a vicious cycle. The costs are unaffordable, and something needs to be done about it.”
Republican Andrew Grant, a Marine Corps veteran, is also challenging Bera next year, when he’s up for re-election. On the Democratic side, Brad Westmoreland, a 30-year-old lawyer who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign last year, has also launched a campaign.
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Barash immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. Originally from Romania, he fled to Israel in 1950, post World War II, with his family at the age of 5. It was there that he attended medical school. He has been a citizen of the United States since 1980 and has practiced medicine in the Sacramento area since 1989. He is a surgeon and currently runs his own practice in Roseville.
He criticized Bera, also a physician, for being a “bureaucrat.”
“People are losing their insurance because they can no longer afford their premiums. They’re having to change physicians, and they’re canceling appointments because they can’t afford their deductibles,” Barash said. “It’s hard for me to see somebody sitting there for almost six years and not issuing a single bill to deal with health care.”
Bera is, however, involved in bipartisan talks in Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act. As a founding member of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, he has outlined a proposal that seeks to stabilize the individual insurance market, increase enrollment – especially among younger, healthier people – and allow people near retirement age to buy into Medicare.
Barash, 72, voiced support for Trump’s initial travel ban on refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, saying “we cannot allow people into this country if we cannot decide if they’re terrorists or not.”
“I support stricter vetting,” he said. “I grew up in Israel where we dealt with terrorism every day. We can’t live that way ... I think we’re only seeing the beginning of this.”
He also said he supports Trump’s effort to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The border needs to be controlled, whether it’s through a brick and mortar wall, or any other kind of device to prevent free entry into our country,” he said. “We need to control the border not only because of illegal immigrants, but because of terrorism.”
On immigration, Barash said he favors allowing so-called “Dreamers” to stay in the country.
“Those kids are here not because they wanted to, or chose to break the law ... they were brought here by their parents,” he said. “I don’t want to see them deported. This is now up to Congress.”
Barash said he doesn’t support efforts by some Democrats in Congress, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, to establish a national, universal health care system where the government operates as the “single payer” for health care costs.
The proposal, unveiled by Sanders last week, would do away with employer-sponsored plans and insurance companies. Instead of paying for premiums and deductibles, people would pay higher taxes for their health care.
Barash endorsed what he described as a “free market” approach.
“You can’t have a monopoly of health care, like we have today, where people can charge whatever they want and there is no competition to keep the price down,” he said. Barash voted for Trump for president, and said he’s behind his policy agenda.
“That’s why he was elected – to do things, rather than just talk about it,” Barash said. “I don’t agree with the way he carries himself, but by and large his agenda is good for the country. And getting it done is why he was elected.”