Rep. Ami Bera is a hardworking and thoughtful member of Congress who has shown he is willing to find common ground with Republicans, to the extent possible in these partisan times. We recommend voters return the Elk Grove Democrat to Washington for a third term.
California’s 7th Congressional District, which includes much of Sacramento County from Elk Grove to Folsom, is one of a handful of seats in which Republicans believe they can unseat Democrats. Bera, who won re-election by 1,455 votes in 2014, faces a tough challenge again this year from Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican. Every vote will count.
Although Jones could be a capable representative, Bera has an unusually impressive résumé. As a physician, Bera can offer expertise and insight into the Affordable Care Act and how best to mend it, an issue that should be a focus of the next Congress.
A former chief Sacramento County medical officer, Bera can help focus attention on health care threats, including the spread of the Zika virus. He also served as associate dean for admissions at UC Davis medical school, and intends to engage in efforts to curb the rising cost of college.
In Congress, he was one of the early Democratic co-sponsors of legislation by Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., to aid severely mentally ill people. That stand put him at odds with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and most other Democrats.
Bera, the only member of Congress who is the son of immigrants from India, sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he has focused on trade, which benefits the Central Valley. He supported President Barack Obama’s authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Although the TPP seems dead for now, Bera showed an independent streak that placed him at odds with the Democratic base, organized labor.
Sheriff Jones, the challenger, is accessible, plain-spoken and intelligent. Although we disagree with him on one of his signature issues – his policy of liberally granting permits to carry conceal firearms to adults – he sees the need for some gun control measures.
Lately, Jones, to his credit, has disavowed Donald Trump, saying he will not vote for the GOP nominee after the “Access Hollywood” tape became public in which Trump bragged about groping women, a pastime also known as sexual assault. But for the longest time, Jones stuck by the GOP standard-bearer, which is unfortunate.
If Jones were to win, and if Republicans maintain control of the House, Jones theoretically could be in a position to deliver for the district. However, the prospect of Republicans maintaining control of the House is one of the main reasons to oppose Jones and support Bera.
Reasonable though Jones is, he would be known by the company he keeps. On abortion rights, Obamacare, the Second Amendment and immigration, the national Republican Party’s leadership is out of step with California and most voters in the district Jones seeks to represent.
And once in Washington, Jones would soon learn the difficulty of moderation in a caucus held hostage by rigid partisan dogma. Another Republican, Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock, tried to buck fellow Republicans by carrying a modest immigration measure, one that would ensure that children of illegal immigrant parents could gain citizenship by serving in the military. It failed.
Jones promises he would not pile on with other Republicans who seek to repeal Obamacare. And yet the Republican-controlled House has voted more than 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Repeal would disrupt the lives of millions of Californians who have come to depend on the benefits of health care reform.
Operating in a flawed system, Bera has had a rocky year, largely because his father, Babulal Bera, broke long-standing campaign finance law to help his son’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012. The 84-year-old retired engineer pleaded guilty to laundering $268,726 in campaign funds by using his own money to reimburse 90 friends and family members who had contributed to the candidate’s election campaigns.
Rep. Bera says he was unaware of the scheme. Still, voters have reason to wonder why he didn’t know what his father was doing. Similarly, voters have cause to question the Sheriff’s Department’s treatment of women, in the wake of a suit by four female sheriff’s deputies and a $3.6 million sexual harassment judgment. Another female deputy testified in a deposition that Jones engaged in inappropriate conduct with her. Jones has denied wrongdoing.
The Bee’s editorial board endorsed Jones when he ran for sheriff in 2010, and may endorse him in future races. However, given the national implications of the outcome in the 7th District and Bera’s potential to engage in issues that are vital to California, we recommend that voters retain him for another two years.