On Tuesday, Davis voters will have a choice in the congressional race between a familiar face in Democrat John Garamendi and an up-and-coming politician, Republican Kim Vann, who promises a fresh approach.
In the most expensive congressional race Davis has ever seen, their pitches sound like this:
Garamendi: “I represented Davis from 1982 to 1990 in the state Senate. I represented Davis for 11 years as a statewide official. I was a regent of the University of California for three years (as lieutenant governor). There are probably $200 million of research facilities on the Davis campus that are a direct result of my legislation.
“I am in sync with Davis. My principal district office will be in Davis.”
Vann: “I’ve heard a lot of voters in that area frustrated with the gridlock, frustrated with both parties’ unwillingness to compromise and work together at the cost of our future. I would say to the voters in Davis: Look at my record. I have proved that I can actually do that.
“And, you know, they’re going to see me at the grocery store — this (district) is my home. I will commute to Washington, D.C., and live here. I think they would be pleasantly surprised by how accessible I am and by my leadership.”
The pair is vying to represent the newly drawn 3rd District, which includes most of Yolo County, minus West Sacramento, and all or portions of Solano, Sacramento, Lake, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter and Yuba counties.
Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is a two-term incumbent in District 10. The 67-year-old has been in public office almost continually since 1974.
“I think there’s a major difference in the experience and knowledge that we bring to the job,” he said.
Vann, 37, is now in her second term as a Colusa County supervisor. She said there is “a clear contrast between the two.”
If elected, she would be just the second Republican to represent Davis in the House since 1953 (the other was Doug Ose, whom Vann worked for as an aide).
“I can’t tell you how many offices (Garamendi has) run for. He’s been in office for over 40 years,” Vann said. “I’m a county supervisor — boots on the ground. I’ve been in the private sector at the same time. I have a history of being able to reach across the aisle and come to compromise with everyone I’ve worked with. His record is that 98 percent of the time he voted with Nancy Pelosi.”
In fact, both seek to claim the mantle of bipartisanship.
Vann points to her county’s bipartisan success at building a natural-gas power plant near Maxwell, creating new jobs without increased taxes or regulations — once locals succeeded “in getting the state and the feds out of the way.”
The county then was able to invest larger property and sales tax revenue into the county’s first college, the Woodland Community College branch in Williams.
Vann is also the chair of the Regional Council of Rural Counties — elected unanimously, she says, by liberal and conservative members alike.
Garamendi says it’s easy to cherry-pick voting records to make him look partisan. He says he has worked with Republicans in the House on efforts to end the war in Afghanistan and bar indefinite detention of American citizens, as well as on issues like water and transportation.
Both candidates bristle at what they say have been false accusations made by the other.
“Straight out of the gate in his campaign, what does he do? He lies about me buying a $4,000 chair for myself,” Vann said. “And he says that when they found that out, they took it off the air. That’s not true at all. It took two weeks and several media outlets pushing him to remove the ad.”
In fact, the county had purchased several chairs, not just for the Board of Supervisors. Vann says her opinion on a proposed peripheral canal has been distorted — she opposes the idea as bad for farmers and the environment — and that Garamendi unfairly accused her of not doing enough to spare a veterans’ hall.
The building was condemned before Vann took office, she said, and the board was unable to secure grant funding to repair it.
Garamendi blames a Super PAC acting on Vann’s behalf for mailers accusing him of wanting to end Medicare as part of a single-payer health care plan.
“It’s an absolute lie,” he said. “No one in the current Congress has fought harder for Medicare on the floor of the House of the Representatives than John Garamendi.”
If anyone would change Medicare, it’s Vann, because she supports a Republican agenda, he said. The Republican ticket of Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., propose giving seniors a choice between public and private plans.
Vann says she doesn’t support the plan and would work to keep Medicare and Social Security as they are — a pledge Garamendi also makes.
There are many clear differences between the pair.
Garamendi supported the Affordable Care Act, the stimulus bill and the auto bailout, calling them “absolutely successful”; Vann disagrees with all three.
Vann alluded to the bankruptcies of Solyndra, a solar panel company, and A123 Systems, two firms that received stimulus money.
“We’re picking the winners and the losers and the winners we picked went bankrupt,” she said. “Government is not set up to be private industry or to run private industry.”
While she supports tax credits and enterprise zones, Vann said, “I just don’t think giving a check to industries is what we should be doing.”
But not all stimulus money went to green energy companies. UCD received $160 million in research funding from the stimulus, which also expanded and increased Pell Grant funding and federal work-study programs.
“If you look back over the years, they’ve gotten grant money from other places. The stimulus isn’t the end-all, be-all for UC Davis,” Vann said.
Said Garamendi, “Research at the university is critically important. Not only for employment but for future opportunities as a result of the research.”
Colusa County, Garamendi noted, also received a share of stimulus funding: More than $9 million, accord to the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica.
Of the health care reform law, Garamendi said, “The affordable health care act was a very important, significant step toward providing health insurance for all Americans. It’s incomplete but it is a very significant advancement toward a goal that both Democratic and Republican presidents have had until the current Republican Congress.”
Vann lauded some aspects of the bill — allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until a later age, for example — but added, “I don’t support the mandate, the tax increase and the penalties. And I don’t support the (Independent Payment Advisory Board).”
Tossing out the law and starting over probably would be the best thing for everyone, she said.
“I really just think it needs to be slow and methodical and put the relationship between the patient and doctor first.”
Key to Vann’s platform is pushing back against what she views as the federal government overburdening businesses with regulations and taxes. She does not, however, fall neatly into line with many in her party on the issue — “I’m not Romney or Ryan,” she said — noting she didn’t sign a no-new-taxes pledge because she thought it important that her hands not be tied once in office.
Rather, she said, the tax system needs to be overhauled to make in easier to understand. She doesn’t use the word “deregulation,” but says that after getting federal agencies to work better together, a logical next step would be to look at how regulations are impacting business.
Garamendi said he had supported middle-class and small-business tax cuts without fail, and that he backs President Obama’s plan to ask more of the wealthy.
Further, Garamendi supports the president’s American Jobs Act, which has been bogged down in Congress.
He also touts his own legislation, the Build It in America Act, which would require federal agencies put their money behind products — be they buses or solar panels — no less than 85 percent American-made.
Garamendi says that would reinvigorate American manufacturing. Vann has called that a “Band-Aid” that doesn’t address real economic issues.
On immigration, both candidates support a guest worker program and strong border security.
Garamendi also supports a path to citizenship and the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented people brought to the country as children to attend college and provide them with a path to citizenship through their schooling or military service.
Vann said discussion of either is “putting the cart before the horse” of larger reform.
“I’m a mom, I like to do things in order,” she said.
The pair also part ways on gay marriage.
“I support people marrying whoever they want to marry,” Garamendi said.
Vann sees marriage rights as a state issue. In 2008, she supported Prop. 8, which barred gay marriage in California.
The candidates do have positions in common. For example, they oppose a peripheral canal, support abortion rights and believe existing gun control laws are sufficient.
Both want to see an end to the war in Afghanistan as quickly as possible, though Garamendi wants to see the president’s 2014 timeline for withdrawal kept and Vann would defer on exact timing to military commanders on the ground.
Both also have hauled in their share of campaign dollars: $1.8 million for Garamendi, $1.1 million for Vann. The congressman’s biggest supporters have been unions, while the challenger primarily has been backed by agricultural interests.
Garamendi’s statewide ties have allowed him to attract more donations from places like Oakland, Livermore and Los Angeles than from district cities like Davis. Vann has pulled in most her donations from her home county, though she also has done well in Woodland.
Residence: Walnut Grove
Occupation: Congressman, District 10 (second term)
Previous offices held: Assembly, State Senate (four terms), insurance commissioner (two terms), lieutenant governor
Education: bachelor’s degree in business, UC Berkeley; master of business administration, Harvard Business School
Family: wife, Patricia, and six children
Occupation: Colusa County supervisor (second term); project manager, Tim Lewis Communities
Previous offices held: none
Education: bachelor’s degree in political science, California State University, San Marcos
Family: husband, Jim, and son, Asa
— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden