Four Democratic challengers to Tom McClintock speak in Rocklin

Regina Bateson, Jessica Morse have raised more than any Democratic opponent of McClintock since 2008
By: Graham Womack, Staff Writer
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California District 4 net contributions, Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2017

  1. Tom McClintock, Republican, $422,479
  2. Jessica Morse, Democrat, $263,071
  3. Regina Bateson, Democrat, $194,699
  4. Roza Calderon, Democrat, $22,465
  5. Rochelle Wilcox, Democrat, $18,490
  6. Richard Martin, Democrat, $0

Source: Federal Elections Commission website

One question that has lingered since President Donald Trump took office has been if opposition to him, that mounted both locally and nationally, could maintain energy.

A town hall held Tuesday evening hosted by Placer Women Democrats and attended by four Democratic challengers to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) at Rocklin Event Center showed that, locally at least, momentum hasn’t flagged.

A room that could seat 500 people and appeared roughly 80- to 90-percent filled as a forum got underway witnessed Regina Bateson, Richard Martin, Jessica Morse and Rochelle Wilcox take questions from a moderator and audience members on a variety of topics.

“I’m so inspired by the turnout,” Bateson said. “People in our district are mobilized for change.”

McClintock, first elected to represent California District 4 in 2008, drew 62.7 percent of the vote in his most recent reelection bid last November. But with Trump’s approval rating at 36 percent in a recent Gallup poll and McClintock toeing his line on major issues, the incumbent could be more vulnerable than he has been in years.

Bateson and Morse have already raised more money than any Democratic challenger to McClintock since Charlie Brown in 2008, with Morse receiving $263,071 and Bateson receiving $194,699 in net contributions between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, according to the Federal Elections Commission website.

McClintock has raised the most of any candidate in the district, with $422,479 in net contributions between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, though his Democratic challengers have combined to raise approximately $75,000 more than him.

“I think we have an actual path here,” Morse said. “That’s why we’re getting that national support and fundraising.”

The race could intensify in the months to come with the Democratic Party expected to formally endorse a candidate in February, ahead of the June 5 primary. On Tuesday evening, though, candidates were mostly pleasant to one another and the atmosphere in the room lighthearted.

Morse, a 35-year-old who grew up in Carmichael and lives in Pollock Pines, repeatedly made audience members laugh, such as when she accidentally said, “I say we win when our community loses.” While laughter rippled through the audience, Morse said with a smile that she meant to say “wins” instead of “loses.”

Asked after the event about her sense of humor, Morse said she had done two years of improvisational acting while in college.

Morse’s campaign website lists a master’s degree from Princeton University and extensive governmental work, and she showed herself able to dissect more serious subject matter when she drilled into Trump’s proposed budget, saying some of its defense allocations were flashy but ineffective.

Bateson grew up in the Roseville area and attended Granite Bay High before leaving to attend college. A former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who recently moved back to Roseville with her husband and three children, she also drilled into fine details at times.

In response to an education question, Bateson said she would look out for “pernicious cuts,” expand high-speed internet access to rural parts of the district and defend the federal government’s Pell Grant program. Answering a question about the economy, Bateson said McClintock opposed Community Development Block Grants.

Wilcox, a First Amendment attorney who lives near Roseville city limits, also had moments of connecting with the audience, making people laugh after her microphone kept shorting out early in the event by saying she could shout if necessary.

She caused murmurs when she noted that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pays just 12 percent in tax.

“We have an unequal economic system,” Wilcox said. “Our economic system favors the wealthy.”

The fourth candidate on the dais and the newest entrant to the District 4 race, a former state worker named Richard Martin who lists a Roseville address in his FEC filings, admitted afterward that the evening was the “ribbon-cutting” for his campaign.

Martin defended Trump’s tax plan by citing a tweet in which the president said the plan wouldn’t change the limit on 401K contributions, but the moderator cut Martin off.

“The president said that but it's still in the budget in Congress,” the moderator said.

Martin later drew audience groans when he said he wanted to reason with Trump and tell him, “Your rhetoric has increased the likelihood that (international) conflict will occur.”

The event drew solid reviews from one town hall attendee, Kathy Carpenter of Lincoln.

“I thought it was really informative,” Carpenter said. “It seemed like the women were well-prepared.”

Carpenter cited Bateson as the candidate she might vote for, noting that “she just seemed the most prepared with her answers.”

A Loomis couple who gave their names as Al and Debbie also said they were leaning toward Bateson, though they both liked Morse.

Asked if there was any chance she would support McClintock, Carpenter looked aghast as two women stood by.

“That’s a firm ‘No’ from all of us,” Carpenter said.

A supporter for a fifth candidate, Roza Calderon, held another event Tuesday evening in Rocklin called Progressive Beers.

Placer Women Democrats didn’t invite Calderon to the town hall following a Sacramento News & Review story Oct. 12 that reported Calderon had allegedly embezzled $1,900 from the group while serving as its treasurer. Calderon repaid the money and denied wrongdoing to SN&R, attributing the mistake to an Apple Pay error.

Asked afterward if Calderon should drop out of the race, Bateson, Morse and Wilcox all refused to comment.

“I’m just focused on McClintock,” Morse said. “He’s my competitor.”