For Democratic voters in the 7th Congressional District, the choice is clear – incumbent Rep. Ami Bera, who is seeking his fourth term.
Republican-leaning voters must decide who will present the best alternative to Bera. In the June 5 primary, the two top vote-getters, regardless of party, move on to November. But both Republicans concede Bera is a shoo-in for one spot, so it’s a battle for the second.
Andrew Grant, a former Marine intelligence officer who lives in Folsom, is the stronger choice over Yona Barash, a longtime physician who lives in Fair Oaks.
Grant has broader knowledge and experience, especially in Washington, D.C., and is more prepared to hit the ground running and work for the district on a wider range of issues. He also appears to be less of an ideologue than too many Republicans in Congress.
While both Grant and Barash voted for Donald Trump, Grant is more willing to break from the president on immigration and trade and wants to focus on fighting for the district, especially on jobs. He’s among a significantly higher number of younger veterans who are running for Congress this year, and he has a good idea for improving constituent service to veterans by opening an office at the Mather VA Medical Center.
And with his national security expertise, Grant could engage on foreign policy – including North Korea – with Bera, the vice ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Barash is running largely to challenge Bera on health care policy. But Barash calls the Affordable Care Act a major step to “socialized medicine” and he proposes an unrealistic and risky “free market” approach that would blow up the current system.
Barash, who also says fixing the immigration system is a main priority, has a compelling personal story of how he became an American. His family in Romania survived the Nazis, then fled the Communists for Israel in 1950. He served in the Israeli military and attended medical school before coming to the U.S. in 1975 for his residency. He finished his training in San Francisco and moved to the Sacramento area in 1989. A surgeon, he has a solo practice in Roseville.
Yet, Grant’s personal story is impressive in its own way. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, he served in Kosovo and Afghanistan and at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. He returned to California in 2008 and has since worked for the Department of Homeland Security, Raley’s and the Northern California World Trade Center.
This district – which covers suburban Sacramento County, including Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom and Rancho Cordova – has been one of the most competitive in the nation in recent elections.
Unlike some Democratic members of Congress in California, Bera isn’t being challenged from the left, even though he has clashed with labor unions on trade. Brad Westmoreland, a backer of Sen. Bernie Sanders, withdrew from the race in February after Bera won the official party endorsement, which he failed to do in 2016.
Bera has a clear agenda. He wants to tackle big economic issues such as job losses due to automation and artificial intelligence. He also wants to continue working to expand health care coverage. He is proposing to automatically enroll some people in Medicaid, unless they opt out. He is backing a bill to move health plan enrollment from the end of the year to April, when he says people can make smarter choices as they also do their taxes. And he is looking at offering more affordable coverage, with lower premiums but higher deductibles, to middle-income families who don’t get government subsidies.
Unless Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller, or Mueller finds clear evidence of wrongdoing, Bera says he’s not among Democrats who want to start impeachment proceedings on day one next January if they win control of the House in November. He says impeachment – which would be all consuming for Congress and deepen divides in the nation – should only proceed if there’s broad support from the public and at least some Republicans in Congress.
Both Barash and Grant also say that Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation.
That’s good. The fall campaign should be less about Trump and his possible impeachment and more about who would be the best advocate for the district. Bera and Grant are the best suited to make that case to voters.