U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, will face a Republican challenger in the June 3 primary election who hopes a new attitude and fresh blood will get Congress back on track and encourage bipartisan cooperation.
Robin Chew, an Emerald Hills Internet entrepreneur who focuses on marketing and online real estate courses, said he’s an optimist who wants to use his innovative business experience to reform the unacceptable stalemate that’s preventing the country from moving forward.
“What I want to do is bring a note of positive, entrepreneurial spirit, the can-do attitude that’s here in the Bay Area to the U.S. Congress,” Chew said. “And stop yelling past each other and find ways to work together, whether they have an 'R' in front of their name or a 'D' in front of their name.”
Speier said she has a long history of public service with results and wants to continue her work on strengthening women’s rights while addressing income inequality and the need for affordable housing in the Bay Area.
Speier, of Hillsborough, has served in Congress since 2008 and currently represents the 14th District, mostly in San Mateo County. With California’s open primary, the top two candidates in a race, regardless of party, will face off in the November general election. Because there are only two candidates in this primary, both Chew and Speier will face off again in November.
Speier and Chew share goals such as immigration reform and encouraging a worker visa program, more government oversight on military spending and believe a sustainable future of mass transit is imperative for the growing Bay Area.
Speier and Chew agree climate change is inevitable and needs to be a focus for Congress.
San Mateo County alone has been predicted to experience more than a foot of sea level rise in the Bay over the next 30 years, Speier said. She fears Americans aren’t prepared and she’s joined other politicians in the county to host educational seminars to help illustrate the effects of climate change.
Both want the nation to reduce carbon emissions and Chew said the rhetoric and causal assumptions surrounding climate change need to be set aside. Congress should focus on feasible and meaningful changes and create effective policies that include holding those who negatively impact the environment accountable.
Chew said he wants to see the government invest in its failing infrastructure such as levees and bridges and support the private sector to help boost economic growth and small businesses.
Chew said his experience in online education makes him uniquely qualified. He wants educators to be equipped with the tools needed to ensure students are competitive in a global economy. Chew said he would like to see technology better used in classrooms. With technology, children could advance in a lesson if others need more time and extra attention from teachers.
Inequality, the military
Speier said the government needs to do more to ensure everyone, regardless of gender or location, has the chance to be competitive.
“I feel very strongly that we have to do more in terms of bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots. I’ve been an outspoken person in the issue of food stamps and addressing income inequality. I think the housing in this region is something we have to address,” Speier said. “It’s unconscionable that a one-bedroom apartment in San Mateo County should cost $3,000 a month.”
In San Mateo County, about 7 percent of the population is below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is about 5 percent, the lowest in the state, Speier said. However, nearly 15 percent of East Palo Alto residents are unemployed and 18 percent are below the poverty line, Speier said.
Speier said she’s been a dedicated advocate for women’s rights including accessibility to family planning services, amended a House resolution to expand sexual harassment training for congressional employees and wants to continue her work on ending military sexual assault.
Chew said women should never be discouraged from serving in the military.
He would like to see Congress shift its reaction to foreign conflict from a forceful and immediate reaction to a strategic and carefully calculated approach.
“Peace through strength is really the cornerstone of my military and foreign policy,” Chew said. “I want us to, certainly if we need to, use our military in defense of our nation … but it should be a process of elimination. … using all of our other national assets to accomplish our objectives.”
Both Chew and Speier want to see bipartisan immigration reform. Chew said the process is overly cumbersome to some who wish to come to the United States legally and has resulted in the country militarizing its boarders.
“Do we really want to be the nation that goes at gunpoint to apartment complexes and arrests 11 million people out of their homes and marches them to the border? There has to be some way to regulate their status other than walk them to the border at gunpoint,” Chew said.
Speier said she’s wants a practical path to citizenship that provides opportunities and generates revenue, but the issue of immigration reform is an example of Republican disconnect.
“I actually think that there’s a willingness to meet the Republicans halfway. But they won’t even come to the table. They’re so focused on their own election and fearful [of] losing to someone who’s so extreme … there are some who are unwilling to talk about it. They refuse,” Speier said.
Chew contends this job requires more turnover and given the chance, said he intends to remind Congress they represent all constituents regardless of party lines.
“The division in Congress is undermining its work,” Chew said. “I’d put [constituents] ahead of any party, because they’re the American people. They’re the people that we serve.”
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