By Jesse Franz
The current 22nd Congressional District was created by the Citizens Redistricting Commission based on the 2010 Census. The reworked district includes northern Fresno, all of Clovis and most of Tulare County. Two candidates are vying to represent this district, Democrat Otto Lee and the incumbent, Republican Devin Nunes. Constituents are eager to learn of the policies and ideas of these two Congressional hopefuls.
Lee has challenged Nunes many times to a debate on the critical issues facing the Central Valley and present the voting public with both candidates’ policies and ideas. However, Nunes has repeatedly denied Lee’s invitations to debate.
Constituent Michael Maldonado, in a recent letter to the editor, stated that “with the 22nd District in such bad shape, I think our current representative owes it to his constituents to discuss our high unemployment and our high poverty rate. I can’t think of any reason why Mr. Nunes would refuse to debate unless he’s worried he will be called out on these issues—or is he just scared?”
To educate voters on the two candidates, even in the absence of a debate, we present the following comparison of Nunes’ voting record and Lee’s positions.
Nunes: Nunes voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which sought to make it easier for women to prove gender discrimination in pay. Had this bill not passed, it would be extremely difficult for women to prove they are being undercompensated on the basis of gender. Nunes has repeatedly received a zero rating from Planned Parenthood, indicating a hard stance against this national organization that seeks to provide health services and contraception for all American women.
Lee: Lee is a strong supporter of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and seeks to ensure the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. He has been an advocate for the Campus Save Act, which seeks to enhance the reporting of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on campus. This legislation would help provide a better environment on campus for young women seeking to gain a valuable education. Lee is also dedicated to promoting preventive healthcare for women, including lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screening, along with mammograms without co-pays or deductibles. Furthermore, Lee is dedicated to ending health insurance discrimination, which enables insurance companies to charge women more than their male counterparts for the same coverage.
Nunes: Nunes voted to build a $7 million, seven-foot, double-sided wall along the Mexican-American border and voted in favor of not telling undocumented immigrants coming into America about the Minute Men vigilante group. Nunes has received a 0% rating from FAIR, “a national, non-profit, public interest membership organization of concerned citizens united by their belief in the need for immigration reform.” Nunes’ record indicates a strong anti-immigrant stance.
Lee: As an immigrant himself, Lee has experienced the immigration system firsthand and knows that the system needs to be reformed. He believes that “immigrants contribute greatly to our economy as workers, consumers, business owners and taxpayers. Our nation deserves a workable program that provides a legal path for immigration that does not sacrifice security.” Lee is also a strong proponent of the DREAM Act, which seeks to protect young, non-criminal undocumented immigrants who serve our military and are committed to a higher education.
Nunes: Nunes has voted in favor of the indefinite extension of the Patriot Act. He also voted to keep the provisions in the Patriot Act that enable the government to demand American citizens’ “library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, or book customer lists.”
Lee: Lee is a 22-year veteran of the Navy Reserves and has served in Iraq. During the war, he was stationed in Baghdad in combat zones where he came under mortar fire. Lee was instrumental in bringing troops home safe and sound to their family members. Lee has seen the front lines and knows what it takes to ensure American safety without impeding on American liberty.
Nunes: Nunes co-signed the Paul Ryan Budget Plan, which sought to establish a Medicare voucher system. This plan, had it taken effect, would have sent seniors into the private sector to look for healthcare by giving seniors a debit card with which to buy their new healthcare. Under this plan, the money allotted to them would not increase at the median rate of increasing healthcare costs. Ultimately, the Paul Ryan Budget Plan was rejected as being harsh and unnecessary.
Lee: Lee believes that seniors have earned the benefits of Medicare and Social Security during their time in the workforce and therefore are entitled to these benefits. “We must give due respect to the seniors that have worked hard, blazed the trails before us and provided us the opportunities to succeed,” Lee says. “It is vital that they are not being neglected, marginalized, or forgotten.” He adds that he is dedicated to “protecting Medicare benefits that are guaranteed to all seniors today.”
Nunes: Nunes has voted with his party on 95% of the legislation put before him. His policies and views have been rated extremely conservative by organizations such as the NAACP, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He is also part of a Congress with a near historic low approval rating of 16%. Studies have shown this to be one of the most divided, obstructionist and partisan Congressional bodies in modern history. Nunes’ staunch political stances and inability to reach across the aisle have helped lower the Congressional approval rating and stagnate the Congress.
Lee: Lee says that he is “tired of the partisan bickering in Washington, which did not solve our economic crisis and deficit.” As a veteran, City Council member and mayor, Lee has proven to be a consensus builder who works with Republicans, Democrats and Independents to get results. Lee is taking a strong stance as an independent voice to better represent the 22nd district and pass legislation that directly benefits the Central Valley and its residents.
Corporate PACs Funding the Campaigns
Nunes: Nunes has accepted large amounts of money from PACs and Super PACs since the beginning of his Congressional career. Since January, his reelection campaign has accepted PAC money from Phillip Morris, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, at least four separate defense contractors, Chevron and many other big businesses. Nunes also has his own New PAC, which has financed conservative political campaigns such as those of Bob Whalen, Brian Whelan and David Valadao. Some of the top funders of Nunes’ PAC are the Koch brothers ($30,000), Phillip Morris Tobacco Company ($22,500), R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company ($35,000), Bank of America ($20,000) and Goldman Sachs ($5,000).
Lee: The Otto Lee for Congress Campaign does not accept money from corporations.
Jesse Franz is the Media Coordinator with the Otto Lee For Congress Campaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.