The current chasm in modern American politics often leads to very emotionally charged political debates that are long on rhetoric and short on substance. Saturday’s Turlock Journal debate between incumbent Republican Congressman Jeff Denham and his Democrat challenger Josh Harder was no exception. While the flurry of back and forth jabs on topics from fundraising to voting records certainly scored points with partisan fans of each candidate, voters looking for a decisive reason why either man would make the better Representative in Congress had to pay close attention to the details.
I entered the race as a candidate in the June primary for this very seat hoping to bring more federal investment to solve our regions expansive needs. For that reason, I ignored the partisan jabs and tried to drill down to who would serve the 10th Congressional districts needs best. My observations focus solely on what will be best for the Valley.
Water: Jeff Denham recounted a long and factual history of working across the aisle with Democrats in both Sacramento and Washington D.C. on our regional water issues. Denham detailed numerous bipartisan bills he's authored on water and recent success in helping to secure funding for the initial phase of Lake Shasta's Dam elevation project. Denham has a strong track record on water that our agricultural region needs.
Josh Harder, who has never held elected office at any level and has no water record whatsoever, fumbled on the topic! Harder's vague promises to support our Valley's water rights was personally overshadowed by his outright lie about not attending the Aug. 20 Save our Water Rally at 11:30 a.m. in Sacramento because he was busy holding a local Town Hall. His own website confirms his Town Hall meeting was at 7 p.m. in Modesto so he could have easily attended both but chose not to support our water rights. Lying is not the only red flag as Harder is on the record as opposing legislation that would actually stop the State of California's region killing water grab.
Economy: Harder’s support of Nancy Pelosi’s plan to raise taxes on working people then giving away freebies to everyone else is frightening. Harder can’t even answer how he’d pay the $32 trillion-dollar price tag on his Medicare for all proposal that fellow Socialist Democratic candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are championing. Something Harder said during one terse exchange with his rival caught my attention. Responding to a Denham barb about his decisions as a venture capitalist that outsourced jobs and raised healthcare costs for employees Harder instinctively chirped that the attack was unfair because he'd never been a CEO, shipped a job anywhere or even made decisions that affected people's jobs. One is left to imagine that Harder was really nothing more than an errand boy at the venture capital firm for which he worked. That was extremely telling because we now know Harder literally has no real-world experience to represent real working people and has never made an impactful decision in the public or private realm.
Denham, who along with his wife Sonia, owns Denham plastics in Turlock is used to making impactful decisions on employees daily at both the local and federal level. He made it clear he supports the 2017 Republican tax cuts package that have put our economy into overdrive causing increased local salaries, benefits and bonuses. My own employees have received all three. Denham cited historically low national (3.9 percent) as well as local (6 percent) unemployment figures and greater than 4 percent GDP numbers as corroborating evidence for tax cuts working and pledged to stay the course.
Immigration: Both candidates verbally sparred but agreed on supporting immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers.” Harder didn't deny being on record as supporting sanctuary cities, said he's never supported other Democrats repeated calls for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency but that he opposes President Trump's border security plan. Denham touted that while unsuccessful so far that he's been a leader in fighting for bipartisan immigration solutions and touted himself as supporting President Trumps plan to fund additional border security and stem the flow of illegal immigrants across our borders. Denham clearly stated that he opposed Sanctuary Cities.
Infrastructure: Denham drove his value to our region into the stratosphere with this topic alone and should focus on this message exclusively for the remainder of the campaign! Disclosing that he has been tapped as the next chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Denham immediately becomes positioned to accomplish more for our region than any other member in the next Congress. A Valley Congressman running one of the most powerful committees in Congress gives us the power to demand the type of investment into our region’s roads, rails and ports that will drive expansion of regional export income for the next two generations.
Harder offered support for President Trump's infrastructure plan but as a freshman Democrat in congress would likely be forced to resist and obstruct by party leadership which achieves nothing for the Valley.
(Massive Advantage Denham)
This debate clarified the choice in my mind. In sports terms, Denham embodies the seasoned major league player that nobody in their right mind should ever trade for an unproven minor leaguer like Harder — who’s never even had an at-bat at any level. Politics is a lot like sports in that you can dislike the other team but still respect a productive player like Jeff Denham no matter who he plays for. It's tough to have any respect at all for a candidate like Harder whose failure to vote in 16 of the last 20 elections means he refused to even step up to the plate.
I am convinced that Jeff Denham will be the most productive choice for Valley residents who would be best served by re-electing him to Congress.
— Ted Howze was a Republican candidate for the California District 10 Congressional seat during the 2018 Primary Election in June.