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Water, business among topics talked at forum

Posted: April 23, 2014 5:28 p.m.
Updated: April 23, 2014 5:28 p.m.

25th Congressional District race candidates, from left to right: Navraj Singh, Evan Thomas, Tony Strickland, Lee Rogers, Michael Mussack, Steve Knight, Troy Castagna and David Bruce take questions from audience members at the College of the Canyons candidate forum on Tuesday. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo.

Ensuring the viability of the local economy was among the major goals stated by the eight men running to represent the Santa Clarita Valley in Congress during a candidate forum this week at College of the Canyons.

Tuesday’s forum, hosted by the COC Associated Student Government, was attended by each of the candidates running to replace Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, as the representative of the 25th Congressional District. They are David Bruce, Troy Castagna, Steve Knight, Michael Mussack, Lee Rogers, Navraj Singh, Tony Strickland and Evan Thomas.

Many of the candidates said Tuesday that a top priority needs to be ensuring a healthy and vibrant business and economic climate in the 25th District, which covers the Santa Clarita Valley as well as portions of the Antelope Valley and Simi Valley.

Thomas, a Lancaster resident and Air Force veteran who is running as a Democrat, said the major priorities need to be job growth and economic development, both of which he said have been damaged by partisan gridlock in Congress.

“What Congress does is set the conditions for growth and, frankly, the partisan battles and the gridlock we’ve seen have damaged economic confidence and business confidence time and time again, and for no reason,” he said.

Singh, a Republican and resident of Porter Ranch, also said job growth needs to be emphasized and that “jobs are created when regulations are restricted.”

“The government doesn’t create jobs. It sucks all of the energy out of the private sector so that jobs can’t be created,” he said. “The government is the culprit.”

Other issues
Bruce, a Stevenson Ranch resident who is running as a Libertarian, agreed it is important to emphasize job growth, such as in the entertainment industry, but also said it is important to focus on stopping development of the proposed Cemex sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon.

“The Cemex mine issue — that is something that cannot happen, period,” Bruce said.

Rogers, a Democrat who ran against McKeon in the 2012 election, said Cemex would be a major priority for him but that he would also focus on ensuring a strong middle class by advocating for affordable health care and pushing for a minimum wage increase.

“The point is, we have to have a strong middle class in order to improve our economy,” Rogers said. “And it doesn’t make any sense to have this divide between the super wealthy and, not the poor, but the super wealthy and the middle class, just keep getting wider, wider and wider.”

Strickland, a Republican and former member of the state Assembly and state Senate, said he also would focus on the Cemex mine issue and that he would fight for the defense industry and advocate cutting marginal tax rates.

“The key is we are, right now, in one of the longest recessions we’ve ever had in this country’s history, and it’s important to have some new policies,” Strickland said.

“I believe what’s happening right now and the policies in Washington are the very reason why we don’t have a strong middle class, a strong working class here in this district and across this country.”

Castagna, a Republican who hails from Saugus, said his experience working as a tax adviser has shown him that the nation is in need of tax reform.

“The middle class is being squeezed because of tax policies that don’t make sense,” he said.

Castagna also said it is important to examine and ease the tax burdens on businesses, such as the film industry, to help them grow.

Water woes
Knight, a Republican who represents portions of the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley in the state Senate, said he is working to help grow business in the district, but that addressing the state’s water woes would be his No. 1 issue if elected to Congress.

“If we don’t fix water, nothing happens in this state,” Knight said. “If we don’t fix water, we don’t create jobs, our farmers leave or our farms die,” he said.

Mussack, a no-party-preference candidate, echoed Knight’s points on water but said he was also concerned about the business environment and businesses leaving the state.

“Without doing something about keeping the businesses here, there’s no way for us to increase jobs and allow people to afford to live here any more,” he said.

Tuesday’s forum was held at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center on COC’s Valencia campus and attended by roughly 65 people.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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