Six McClintock challengers meet in Roseville for panel

Will challenge congressman in November 2018
By: Graham Womack, Staff Writer
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Hours after Rep. Tom McClintock voted with 216 other members of the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Jessica Morse addressed a room in Roseville.

“Today, while he was enjoying his celebratory beers on the House floor, the rest of us are wondering how we’re going to pay for our healthcare,” Morse said. “I thought, ‘You know what, Tom? Your days are numbered.’ And I’m ready to take him out.”

McClintock, a Republican who lives in Elk Grove, has been elected to five terms for California’s 4th Congressional District, winning with 63 percent of the vote in November. But, from almost the outset of Donald Trump’s presidency in January, McClintock’s seat has been a target for challengers.

Though the next congressional election is 18 months away, Morse and at least five other candidates are already vying to unseat McClintock. The candidates spoke May 4 on a panel at Placer County Democratic Party Headquarters in Roseville.

The biggest name among the group could be Charlie Brown, a 67-year-old retired Air Force colonel who lives in Roseville and has run twice unsuccessfully for the seat. In 2008, he lost by less than 1,600 votes.

“Is this a red district? Yes,” Brown said. “Is this a swing district? Could be.”

If there was a theme to the night, which was held for members of Indivisible Citizens of California’s 4th Congressional District, it seemed to be that the candidates didn’t really argue with one another. Instead, they focused their animus toward McClintock.

“Now is the time to get to know the individual candidates — what they stand for, what they believe in,” Brown said.

“Because unfortunately when Tom McClintock starts the lies, he’s going to have media time,” Brown continued. “It’s going to be up to all of you and all of us up here to be talking to the individual people about, ‘No, I know that person. That is not what they’re going to do. That is not what they said. You’re being lied to.’”

Aside from Morse and Brown, the candidates who spoke on the panel were:

  • Regina Bateson, an assistant professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who grew up in Roseville;
  • Roza Calderon, who does GIS work, is a co-founder of Placer Women Democrats and lives in Granite Bay;
  • Chris Drew, who works as a product specialist for a San Mateo-based software company according to LinkedIn;
  • Rochelle Wilcox, a media law and appeals attorney who lives in Roseville.

The candidates faced a range of questions during the panel, which lasted for approximately an hour and 40 minutes.

Asked what to do about healthcare, five of the candidates said they would support moving America toward a single-payer system. Only Bateson demurred, saying she would fight to preserve the Affordable Care Act and that 79,000 people in the district are in danger of losing coverage.

Drew said in response to a question about the water fix — Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two tunnels in the Delta to transport water to Southern California — that “we need to have better protections for our local citizens.”

The question of fundraising came up, with the event’s moderator saying McClintock was likely to raise $1 million to $2 million, mostly in donations from outside the district, and that he’d received large donations in past elections from the National Rifle Association and wealthy conservative donors, the Koch brothers.

Asked her strategy to counter this, Calderon said she would likely not target companies for donations.

“I think overall we have to separate ourselves out from the idea that money can buy politics,” Calderon said.

Candidates were asked if they would unequivocally commit to whoever ultimately became the Democratic nominee for the district.

“I’m here to make sure we flip that seat,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox added that she would also commit to not being one of six candidates by the time of the primary election in June 2018 if she lacked the support.

“That will split us,” Wilcox said.

Note: A previous version of this article misidentified Regina Bateson as an assistant professor of history. She is an assistant professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.