Candidates for the 39th Congressional District representative seat shared a diverse range of opinions on hotly debated issues such as health care, immigration and education at the Mackey Auditorium at CSUF on Tuesday to campaign for the upcoming June 5 primary.
Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute filled the auditorium for the forum, which featured 11 candidates.
The institute hosted Democrats Andy Thorburn, Sam Jammal, Gil Cisneros, Herbert Lee, Mai Khanh Tran and Suzi Park Leggett along with Republicans Steven Vargas and John Cullum, and Independents Sophia Alexander, Steve Cox and Karen Lee Schatzle.
The candidates talked at length about health care; there was a general consensus on lowering the price of prescription drugs as well as an overall reassessment of how money is being distributed in the health care system.
“If you design (health care) properly and efficiently, the country ends up saving hundreds of billions of dollars,” Thorburn said.
Republicans Cullum and Vargas also supported forms of affordable health care. Vargas said he wants to direct tax and spending cuts toward other government sectors rather than Medicare.
The topic of immigration received polarized stances, with the Republicans speaking strongly against sanctuary cities and voicing support for President Donald Trump’s border wall proposal, while Democratic candidates stood in solidarity with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and undocumented workers.
“Seventy-five percent of our agricultural workers are undocumented. We would cripple our agricultural economy if we went through with the Trump administration’s plans on immigration,” Jammal said.
Thorburn and Cox both argued in favor of tuition-free public education, stating that a lack of federal funding and high costs are taking a detrimental toll on college students.
“It takes them a long time to graduate because they have to work full time,” Thorburn said. “In addition, we have to fund skill-based education for the 65 percent of people who don’t go to college.”
Schatzle disagreed, however, drawing from her own experience as someone who worked full time through college and law school.
“(Students) shouldn’t be coddled. They shouldn’t be told that ‘It’s okay. You need your rest.’ If you want something you work for it,” Schatzle said.
Several of the candidates voiced their dissatisfaction with the current state of Congress, and stated similar intents to introduce legislative change.
After the forum, institute members outside of the auditorium offered the candidates positive feedback.
“The candidates were courteous to each other. There was even some humor that came in,” said institute member Monika Broome. “I found it very interesting and somewhat entertaining.”
The two candidates who receive the most votes for the 39th District will be selected in the primary election on June 5. They will then campaign for the seat in the Nov. 6 general election.