Democratic incumbent Ami Bera speaks during the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Associations Candidate Forum on Saturday, Sept. 24 in the University Ballroom. Bera is running to retain his seat in Californias 7th Congressional District against Republican candidate, Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones. (Photo by Kameron Schmid)
Democratic incumbent Ami Bera speaks during the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association’s Candidate Forum on Saturday, Sept. 24 in the University Ballroom. Bera is running to retain his seat in California’s 7th Congressional District against Republican candidate, Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones. (Photo by Kameron Schmid)

State, federal and local candidates stump at Sac State candidate forum

Candidates for state and federal offices stumped at Sacramento State’s University Union and discussed issues affecting higher education on Saturday as part of the 15th annual Statewide Voters Education and Candidates Forum, hosted by the American Pacific Islander Public Affairs Association.

Incumbent Democratic congressman Ami Bera found an area of agreement with his Republican opponent Scott Jones on the issue of tuition, with both saying that the rising cost of tuition has to be stopped.

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The two are virtually tied in the race for California’s 7th Congressional District’s seat in the House of Representatives, one of the most contentious races in the country.

“Certainly we should allow students to refinance their student loans and bring them down to a more affordable rate,” Bera said. “But we’ve got to disrupt the cost of education and make education cheaper. It makes a difference if you’re $40,000 in debt to get a lower interest rate, but we ought to ask the question ‘How did you get $40,000 in debt?’ ”

Bera also said he helped introduce legislation that would defer and forgive student loans for STEM students if they work for the federal government.

Jones said that colleges have to find ways to cut costs so that they don’t overburden students and their families.

“I think you need to take a critical look about how money going to public education is being spent,” Jones said. “Does the U.C. chancellor really need to be paid half a million dollars? Is the money being spent for administration being well spent?”

Jones, a Sac State alum and the elected sheriff of Sacramento County, accused Bera of negative campaigning after his opponent ran a television ad last week discussing sexual harassment allegations against Jones.

Sheriff Scott Jones, who is running against incumbent Democrat Ami Bera in the race for California’s 7th District’s House of Representatives seat, agreed with Bera on the issue of rising costs of college tuition. (Photo by Kameron Schmid)

“I frankly do feel it’s inappropriate and, frankly, I feel most voters want more,” Jones said. “I’m not going to go negative. That’s not who I am.”

Robert Evans, the Republican candidate for House of Representatives in California’s 6th Congressional District against incumbent Democrat Doris Matsui, also gave his thoughts on reducing the cost of college.

“One of the things we can do in colleges is make the loans interest free,” Evans said. “We can stretch out loans over a longer period of time and we should make more money available for student grants.”

Matsui did not show up for the event. Neither did Attorney General Kamala Harris, D-San Francisco, who is running for U.S. Senate against Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, D-Orange.

Sanchez took aim at Harris after the latter said on Tuesday that she was in favor of free college tuition for students whose families make less than $140,000 per year.

“So (Harris) came out and said she’d be in favor of free college. Let me tell you what we’re doing at our community college — the freshmen who are entering are getting free tuition this year,” Sanchez said. “We’re already doing it at Santa Ana College in my area. We’re a pilot project for the four year degree at Santa Ana. She can say anything she wants to say about what she’d do but we’re actually doing it in my area.”


Assemblyman Kevin McCarty points that just two new public universities have been built in California in the last 20 years, compared to many more prisons. McCarty is running to retain his position against Republican candidate and current Sacramento State student Ryan Brown. (Photo by Kameron Schmid)

Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, who is running against Sacramento State student Ryan Brown to retain his seat in the Assembly, said that he shares Brown’s concern for issues affecting higher education, which Brown said is a major focus in his campaign.

“(Higher education) is the number one issue I work at in the legislature,” said McCarty. “That’s why I ran for the Assembly two years ago. My platform was that we should invest in kids, not prisons. … I welcome (Brown) and others to focus on the need for higher education.”

McCarty, a Sac State alum, said that he hasn’t met Brown, who was not invited to the forum. Brown has not responded to a request for comment from The State Hornet as of press time.

Sacramento mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg opened the forum to raucous applause in a spirited attack on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“We face, I think, a dramatic test for our democracy,” Steinberg said. “There is never any excuse to divide people based on race, ethnicity or any other protected category. There is never a reason or excuse to make fun of somebody with a disability. There is no excuse to demean a whole group of people like immigrants and refer to them writ large as rapists and murderers.”

Steinberg gave his reaction to an incident last week where outgoing Mayor Kevin Johnson was hit in the face with a pie at a farm-to-fork dinner and reacted by fighting the pie-thrower.

“I’m just glad that the mayor and his family are okay,” Steinberg said. “People who run for office sign up for a lot but they don’t sign up for that.”

In the realm of policy, Steinberg said that he supports the increase in the amount of time that parking spaces in Sacramento are metered, which went from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sept. 1.

“I think it’s a work in progress,” said Steinberg. “We want to encourage people to use transit and that’s really the underlying message of all of it.”

Phil Serna, who represents Sacramento’s district one on the Board of Supervisors, is a Sac State alum and reflected on being back at his alma mater for the forum, which he has attended for the past 11 years.

“This is an event to educate the public about candidates and ballot measures before the election to make sure people are well informed,” said Serna. “This is the school that raised me — the first structured class I was enrolled in here was daycare. I spent a lot of time on campus as the son of two educators.”

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