There are two candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot running for a two-year term to represent this Assembly district: Democratic San Clemente City Council member/U.S. Marine Corps liaison Chris Duncan and Republican Assembly member/business owner Laurie Davies. Here are Duncan’s answers to a 14-question survey The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board emailed candidates.
Q: Why do you want this job and what would be your top priority?
A: I am running for state Assembly to protect our health and safety, individual freedoms and wallets. I will fully fund law enforcement officers and firefighters, ensure women have the right to choose and cut taxes for working families. As a former federal prosecutor, City Council member and parent, I will fight to enact common sense, bipartisan policies that protect our community’s safety, economic security and quality of life. That’s what we deserve from our representative in Sacramento. My opponent opposes women’s right to choose, supports Jan. 6 insurrectionists and calls COVID-19 “a blessing.” She is too extreme for our district.
Q: What is the biggest accomplishment of your career?
A: I joined the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 because I was inspired to serve my country. I worked under presidents of both parties to keep us safe. As a federal prosecutor in San Diego, I brought the most dangerous criminals to justice to protect us. I will continue to protect us in the state Assembly.
Q: Assess what the state is doing now to address the changing climate. What would you support to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California?
A: Climate change is a threat to our coastline, economy and way of life. The state has prioritized clean energy technologies to lower emissions levels and stabilize climate change. I will support clean energy policies that lower gas and utility prices, increase U.S. energy production and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It is critical that we do more to ensure new energy technology is not just developed in California, but built and manufactured here at home by California workers. I worked with Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, to secure and replenish sand on our local beaches. Despite being in Sacramento, my opponent has failed to secure any of the ample California state funding for these shoreline protection efforts and has instead accepted donations from Big Oil companies and other polluters who are making climate change worse.
Q: Assess what the state is doing now to address the drought. What would you do differently?
A: The state is not doing enough to address drought conditions in Orange and San Diego counties. We should diversify our water sources, including developing and advancing new recycled water and desalination facilities, so we are prepared for inevitable state water restrictions from traditional sources like the Colorado River. I would work hard every day to make these solutions a reality. I would also redouble efforts to protect communities from wildfires by enacting programs to create defensible space from the dry brush as well as measures to address the danger from flying embers. My opponent is part of the problem in Sacramento. She has stood by serving the corporate agenda as conditions for us have worsened without passing any legislation to meet the water or wildfire challenges.
Q: The California Air Resources Board has adopted a policy that would ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035. What would you do to ease the transition to electric vehicles and ensure affordability, equity and practicality?
A: The state has taken strong measures to lower emissions and stop the adverse effects of climate change, including focusing on electric vehicle use. Automakers are already increasing production of affordable electric vehicles due to unprecedented demand, so market forces will help us achieve this ambitious goal. But we must also ensure the state builds the energy infrastructure necessary to support the influx of electric vehicles. My opponent has failed to deliver these resources for our community or take any steps to prepare us for this transition. I will deliver real economic relief for community members who need it the most. This includes investing in electric vehicle rebates, public charging stations and innovative carbon-neutral public transportation options that may eventually replace cars for many people.
Q: What can the state do to get more people to use public transit?
A: Public transit needs to be cleaner, safer and faster so people actually prefer to use it. One of the biggest impediments to people using public transportation is the lack of “last mile” transportation from a public transit hub to home. I will ensure we build this critical component to our public transit system, which will ease traffic congestion on Interstate 5. The bottom line is we need to build accessible, better and more user-friendly public transit options, not more freeways. In Orange County, my opponent was part of a state bureaucratic agency that was trying to build a massive and unnecessary toll road through the middle of our community. She is on the wrong side of this issue.
Q: Housing affordability is a huge issue in California. What can you do to help renters or homeowners who are struggling now?
A: We are building a fraction of the housing units we need in California to overcome our 3.5 million unit housing deficit, but state housing mandates have not resulted in enough construction of this housing. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the state should empower local cities to develop affordable housing that fits each community. I will enact policies that incentivize local housing development with public safety grants, funding for public parks and beaches, and historical preservation programs, instead of penalizing cities for seeking to protect their culture and traditions. We should also promote creative new developments that can quickly increase the housing supply, like cooperative community villages, micro houses/apartments and prefabricated dwellings. My opponent voted against funding for critical affordable housing construction.
Q: More and more resources are being dedicated to the homelessness issue, yet California has more homeless people than ever. Do you see progress? What solutions are working?
A: Just throwing money at a problem does not work. Housing without services, or street services without connections to housing, do not address the root issues behind homelessness. We need more supportive housing with embedded job placement, psychiatric and substance abuse treatment services to address long-term reasons for homelessness. One solution I think will make a positive difference is the state’s new CARE Court program, which authorizes court-appointed guardians to help homeless people with mental illness or substance abuse issues get off the street and into safe facilities where they can receive the treatment they need in a stable environment. In San Clemente, I spearheaded the hiring of our city’s first homeless outreach worker, who has successfully gotten numerous homeless individuals off the street and into transitional housing with the services they need to overcome causes of their homelessness. We need more commonsense solutions like these in Sacramento. That’s what I will deliver.
Q: California’s crime rate is going up. Do you blame recent criminal justice reforms, other factors or some combination? How would you keep Californians safe?
A: California’s response on public safety should be guided by one thing — the rule of law. Never politics. As a former federal prosecutor who worked every day with law enforcement officers for 16 years, I believe in law and order and reject the extremist political agendas on both sides. I’ll fight to fully fund our police officers and deputy sheriffs, and I won’t ignore the growing threat of domestic terrorism. Recent criminal justice reforms have not worked as intended. I will utilize my experience as a prosecutor to develop better programs that keep violent criminals off our streets, ensure there are appropriate penalties for burglary and theft, and keep low-level individuals from re-offending. My opponent rallied in San Clemente with criminally indicted Jan. 6 insurrectionists associated with the Three Percenters militia group. That’s un-American — I’d prosecute those criminals, not pal around with them.
Q: How would you help California students who suffered from learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: I’m a parent of three school-age children, so education is very personal to me. Many kids, including mine, fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s clear we need to reduce class sizes and increase individualized teacher instruction to get students back on track. That’s not going to happen with extreme policies like diverting taxpayer money to private and religious schools, which my opponent supports. We need to increase, not decrease, public school funding for our neighborhood schools. My opponent trivialized the pandemic’s adverse effects on kids and parents, telling a crowd at a MAGA Trump rally she headlined that she believes “COVID-19 is a blessing.”
Q: The state has had giant surpluses in recent years yet there are worries about a potential recession. How would you ensure the state is prepared to weather an economic downturn? What will you do for Californians who are struggling economically now?
A: If I were in the Assembly this session, I would have fought for both temporarily suspending the gas tax and bigger tax rebates for small businesses and working families. Rising costs are crushing California families, but party politics on both sides is getting in the way of commonsense relief. We should get these surplus funds back in the hands of families that need them now, not invent new ways to spend the money on pet projects. In addition to immediate economic relief from the state surplus, we need to urgently work to reduce the cost of public higher education for our youth and lower prescription drug prices for seniors. This will bring immediate and long-term financial benefits to community members.
Q: California has the nation’s most strict gun laws and among its lowest gun death rates. What is your philosophy toward gun legislation? Have you or your family been directly affected by gun violence?
A: As a federal prosecutor, I went after the gun smugglers who fuel violence in our communities by flooding illegal weapons across the border. I personally know federal officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty, so I know firsthand how critical strong gun safety laws are to keeping our country and communities safe, and you can be sure I’ll enforce them. In the last session, the state enacted a series of gun safety laws that will hold gun makers accountable and make it harder for them to put guns in the hands of dangerous people and kids. My opponent has an A rating from the National Rifle Association gun lobby, which opposes even the most commonsense gun safety laws like background checks that can help prevent school shootings. Those extreme views threaten our kids’ safety. Her vote on ghost guns helped her supporters in the gun lobby, whose business is threatened by private gun makers.
Q: What is your position on Proposition 1, which would establish the rights for Californians to an abortion and to contraceptives in the state Constitution?
A: I am 100 percent pro-choice and believe we need stronger protections for women’s reproductive freedom and health care access such as those in Proposition 1. My opponent voted against giving voters the option to protect women’s individual rights and is anti-choice. The difference between us on women’s rights couldn’t be starker.
Q: Why should voters elect you over your opponent?
A: I’ll defend all the fundamental freedoms Californians cherish. I’ll ensure criminals are prosecuted and protect our kids from violence, while my opponent backs Jan. 6 insurrectionists and the gun lobby. I will protect a woman’s right to choose, while my opponent would take it away. I’m a former federal prosecutor who defended the rule of law, while my opponent rallied with those who attacked the police, broke into the Capitol and sought to overturn the election. I reject extremist politics of all kinds, while my opponent outrageously called COVID-19 “a blessing” at a MAGA Trump rally where she was the keynote speaker. The choice for voters is clear.