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Congressional candidates spar in early campaign forum

Posted: April 6, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 5, 2014 9:26 p.m.

Steve Knight

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With longtime Santa Clarita Valley Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, set to depart this year from the seat he has held for more than two decades, three men made their cases to succeed him during a candidate forum Saturday.

Saturday’s forum, held at the SCVTV studios in Newhall and put on by SCVTV, KHTS AM 1220, College of the Canyons Cougar News and The Signal, was attended by three of the early frontrunners to replace McKeon as the representative for the 25th Congressional District — state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, 2012 Democratic nominee and Simi Valley podiatrist Lee Rogers and former state Sen. Tony Strickland, a Republican.

Strickland touted the fact that McKeon has endorsed his campaign and said, if elected, he would strive to fill the leadership role McKeon has in Congress.
“I’m proud of my background serving in the state Senate and the state Assembly,” Strickland said. “I led in Sacramento, I’ll lead in Washington, D.C.”

Knight, who has also worked his way through the state Legislature and currently represents a slice of the Santa Clarita Valley in the state Senate, pointed to his time living in and representing the district as reason he would make an effective congressman.

“I have a long-standing family relationship with this district. I have either lived in Santa Clarita or the Antelope Valley for about the last 35 years,” Knight said. “This is my home, this is what I want to help.”
Rogers said his lack of elected experience could actually be an asset.

“For too long all we’ve heard is ‘no’ from Congress,” Rogers said. “I don’t think sending career politicians from Sacramento to Washington is going to accomplish anything.”

Though the three candidates differed on a number of points brought up during Saturday’s forum, they were united in their pledge to continue working for a solution to stop the proposed Cemex sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon.

Bills have been introduced in recent years that would stop the mine, but those have failed to gain much traction in a divided Congress.

Rogers said the Cemex issue is an example of failed leadership in Washington.

“The only solution is the federal solution,” Rogers said. “And I’ve been committed to this since I started running three years ago and I’ll remain committed to it and I promise I’ll make it my top priority.”

Strickland said he, too, would be committed to working to address the issue.

“I’m hopeful that there’s a resolution before we get to Congress,” he said. “But if it’s needed it sounds like all three of us are unanimous in doing what we can to fight for the stoppage of the Cemex mine.”

Knight also said the Cemex mine issue would be a top priority, if he is elected.

“The Cemex mine has not had leadership over the last 10 years,” Knight said. “It’s taken forever to get anything at the federal level, get any discussion.”

Though the three candidates were united in their calls for work to halt the Cemex mine, they differed on a variety of other issues, including the ongoing implementation of health care reform, colloquially referred to as “Obamacare.”

Knight said he believes Obamacare should be repealed.

“I would vote to repeal it in every fashion,” Knight said. “I think that Obamacare has not worked. It’s failed us.”
Strickland said he also would support efforts to repeal the law, saying he supports replacing it with a free-market alternative.

“Obamacare is fundamentally flawed,” he said. “We need to repeal it — repeal it right away.”

Rogers acknowledged that there are issues with the law that need to be addressed but said he thinks legislators need to stop trying to repeal Obamacare and start focusing on other issues.

“I travel around the district and I hear from so many people and they are so tired of this argument about Obamacare,” Rogers said. “I think really they would be sick and tired of it but now they have good preventative care so they’re just tired of it.”

There is a selection of other candidates running to replace McKeon, including Troy Castagna and Navraj Singh, who are running as Republicans, Evan Thomas, who is running as a Democrat, David Bruce, who is running as a Libertarian and Michael Mussack, who has listed no party preference, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

The primary election for the seat will be held June 3.

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