Westside Congressional candidates debate Santa Monica Airport, fracking, minimum wage
The two men competing to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman had plenty in common during a debate Wednesday but displayed a few key differences on local and national hot-button issues.
Democratic State Sen. Ted Lieu and Republican Elan Carr, a Los Angeles County gang prosecutor, faced off at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in an event moderated by Larry Mantle of KPCC and Dan Schnur of USC's Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.
One of their clearest areas of conflict is over the future of the Santa Monica Airport. Next month residents must choose from two competing ballot measures over the future of the airport. A jet crashed one year ago close to homes that ring the runway.
Lieu said the city council should have the power to shorten the runway, blocking airport use by the largest, most powerful private jets that land there amid substantial local opposition.
"I support local control, I support the city's decision, and as a member of Congress I would fight to make sure that the city's wishes are implemented," Lieu said.
Carr agreed that the city should call the shots at its own airport, but he cautioned that the airport is a public transportation resource that should be preserved to create jobs in the region.
"I am worried that reducing transportation opportunities will only make it harder for businesses to come here," Carr said. "Mind you, our job creators are fleeing California."
On another hyper-local issue, Lieu said he opposed oil drilling in Hermosa Beach. The Hermosa city council has asked its residents to vote on whether to let a company conduct slant drilling within city limits or to block the project and pay a penalty to the energy company.
Lieu said he opposed the oil extraction practice known as fracking throughout California. Fracking is a process in which water and chemicals are injected into underground rock formations to bring up oil that cannot easily be pumped out.
Carr did not directly address drilling in Hermosa Beach, but said he did favor energy exploration in California when it can be done safely and without environmental harm. He was not explicit as to the types of drilling he would support, saying he would prefer to see a panel of scientists weigh in on environmental safety.
The two also differed on raising the federal minimum wage. Carr said taxes and regulations are "suffocating the life out of our private sector." He said increasing the minimum wage would prevent the creation of new jobs. Carr said he preferred to see a strengthened economy increase the number and quality of jobs.
Lieu said he had voted in the Legislature to raise California's minimum wages, which will rise to $10 next year. He said he supported President Obama's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, even though a wage increase could cause some businesses to cut jobs.
"The money is pumping right back into the economy, so you might get shifts in what kind of businesses benefit from it, but we need to increase the minimum wage to reduce income inequality."
In the mostly low-key debate, the candidates agreed on several issues, including the need for more bipartisan agreement in Congress. Carr said he was a lifelong Republican, but agreed on 95 percent of political issues with his wife, a lifelong Democrat.
Lieu countered that when it came time to vote on leadership in Congress, there would be no reaching across the party aisle because he plans on voting for Rep. Nancy Pelosi for House Leader. Carr would vote for Republican Speaker John Boehner.
Schnur described both men as children of immigrants who lived the American Dream, who had committed themselves to careers in public and military service.
Both said they favor giving immigrants a path to citizenship if they are in the country without authorization. Both favor what's known as comprehensive immigration reform, which combines legalizing the immigration status of existing residents while strengthening border protections.
Both agreed that women should have the right to obtain abortions, but Lieu favored continuing full federal funding to provide abortion services to poor women, while Carr said he would discontinue such funding out of respect for the "many Americans who are deeply pained by the practice."
Lieu has been in the Senate since 2011 and served in the Assembly beginning in 2005. Carr placed first in the June primary amid a crowded field of mostly Democrats and is making his first run for elective office.
The debate was held at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and a good portion of the discussion focused on the Middle East. Both men said they favored a negotiated two-state solution to Israel's conflict with Palestinian neighbors.
Both candidates' experience serving in the Iraq War -- Carr in the Army Reserve, and Lieu in the Air Force Reserve -- showed in their answers.
Lieu said he would not favor any military ground action against the group that calls itself Islamic State. Carr seemed more willing to send in U.S. ground troops, but only if they were in large enough numbers to make a significant difference.