Government / Politics

Congressional hopefuls to face off in Use Your Voice Forum on Thursday

Democrat Jimmy Panetta and Republican Casey Lucius will share their vision for the district at Hollister City Hall

The San Benito County Farm Bureau and BenitoLink will be hosting the second, “Use Your Voice Forum,” Oct. 6, 6:30 p.m., at Hollister City Council Chambers, 375 Fifth St. The forum will be produced in conjunction with Benitolink’s media partner, CMAP-TV.

BenitoLink solicited questions from the community. Two moderators will ask those questions of the candidates and board members running for Congress, Assembly, Gavilan College, and the San Benito County Health Care Board.

BenitoLink contacted each candidate and board member in order to give the public a glimpse into their positions prior to the debate. The two candidates running for Congress, Democrat Jimmy Panetta and Republican Casey Lucius, responded by email.

BenitoLink: What about your background qualifies you for Congress?

Panetta: I am committed to public service, and the experiences that I have had have prepared me well – as a Naval Officer in Afghanistan protecting our nation, as a gang prosecutor in Salinas keeping our community safe, as a veteran helping make the veterans cemetery and the veterans treatment court a reality, and on the numerous community boards that I serve on.  Whether it be the National Marine Sanctuary Board fighting to protect our coastline, the Rancho Cielo Board working for at-risk youth, the UCSC Foundation Board and the MPC Bond Oversight Committee for our local colleges, I have already worked to address many of the issues we face here on the Central Coast.

As a prosecutor, I have developed the very skills that I believe are needed in Congress right now.  I work every day to find compromise with a defense attorney, who wants exactly the opposite of what I do.  Most of the time, we are able to work to find that compromise, and when we can't, I go to the mat to advocate for what I believe is right.  We need representatives in D.C. who are willing to work together, and bring that collaborative bi-partisan spirit back to Washington to make sure that Congress ends the gridlock and we are able to move forward on the important issues impacting this nation. 

Lucius: I have spent most of my career working on issues of national policy.  When I was on active duty in the Navy, I deployed to the Middle East to enforce international sanctions against Iraq.  I also worked with our allies in Asia on intelligence cooperation.  After serving in the Navy, I worked for the State Department at the US Embassy in Hanoi.  My career has focused not only on using the military, but also using diplomacy around the world and building strong partnerships.  I earned a PhD focusing on policy-making and have been teaching national security classes for the past seven years.  I am prepared and ready to represent this district and ensure that we have a strong economy and a coordinated foreign policy.

BenitoLink:  What are a couple things you hope to accomplish during a first term?

Lucius:   In my first term, I will work on passing the Drought Recovery Act to provide federal funding for our local water needs; I will work on immigration reform, and ensure that affordable housing in our district is a priority.

Panetta: As the grandson of Italian immigrants, I believe we must finally address comprehensive immigration reform.  We need to strengthen border security, reform the visa process to benefit employers and employees from the Silicon Valley to the Salinas Valley, and include a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding families.  It's the economic thing to do, it's the humane thing to do, and it's the American thing to do.

We also have to address college affordability and student loan debt.  College needs to be both accessible and affordable.  I would like to create a national service act that gives kids a break on their student loan debt if they choose to serve their community and country.     

We need to focus on mental health in this country.  This is an issue that deeply affects our communities and I have witnessed it firsthand in my work in the criminal justice system.  We need to ensure that small counties like the ones on the Central Coast, have the resources necessary to appropriately address this issue.

BenitoLink: Why are you a better choice than your opponent?

Panetta: I have an intimate understanding of the unique needs of this region, having been raised and educated here.  I am raising my family in this community where I work and continue to serve.  I have spent the last 10 months meeting with voters, community groups, and elected leaders across the Central Coast.  I have heard about the issues that we are facing as a community and country, as well as the hopes and ideas to resolve them.  Whether the concerns have been about affordable housing or an adequate water supply, immigration reform or health care, education or expanding economic opportunities, I am ready to go to Congress to help solve these problems – and others that may arise. 

Through my life experiences and career, I have already worked to address many of the issues impacting this region – veterans homelessness, at-risk youth, local community colleges and protection of our coastline.  I am committed to continuing to serve our community, protect the beauty of this area and preserve the quality of life we enjoy on the Central Coast. 

Lucius: I am a better choice for voters of this district because I want to break through the status quo.  We need someone who will work in a bi-partisan manner to get things done.  I will work within the Women's Caucus to get legislation passed with both Republican and Democratic support.  We don't need a party-line voter in Congress.  We need someone who will vote based on the needs of the Central Coast.

More information about the candidates can be found at their websites: Casey Lucius   Jimmy Panetta 

For video of the candidates' debate on KSBW TV, Channel 8, click here.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]