Government / Politics

Primary Election 2020: California 20th Congressional District

Two challenge incumbent Jimmy Panetta for a seat in the House of Representatives.
Incumbent Jimmy Panetta. Photo provided.
Incumbent Jimmy Panetta. Photo provided.
Adam Bolaños Scow. Photo provided.
Adam Bolaños Scow. Photo provided.

Three candidates are running to represent California’s 20th Congressional District, which encompasses San Benito and Monterey counties, and portions of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties: Jeff Gorman, incumbent Jimmy Panetta, and Adam Bolaños Scow. 

Jeff Gorman (R) 51, was born on the Monterey Peninsula and has lived there most of his life. He previously worked in the financial sector and spent five years in San Francisco as a bond trader for GT Global. He currently serves as treasurer of the Armstrong Foundation and chair of the Monterey County Republican Party. He previously served as president of Monterey’s Sierra Club. 

Gorman did not submit responses in time for publication.

 

Jimmy Panetta (D), 50, is the 20th District incumbent. He has held the office since January 2017. Panetta grew up in Carmel Valley where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He previously served as deputy district attorney in Oakland and in the Navy as an intelligence officer who was mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Why are you running?

I am running for reelection because I can affect people’s lives as a U.S. Representative. One of my most important roles is helping constituents and their families with a very personal immigration, veterans, military, social security, IRS, or any other issue that entails representation in dealing, and at times fighting, with the federal government. Many people run for Congress with absolutely no idea of the impact that you can have on individuals by being that bridge for them to the federal government and back. I ran for Congress with that understanding and continue to fulfill that responsibility of this vocation by serving and working hard for the people and values on the Central Coast.

Having grown up here, my sense of belonging stokes my sense of service to the people and place that I have always called home. Our local values drive me to continue the fight for our issues in our nation’s capital, including protecting our environment, fighting for affordable and accessible healthcare and housing, ensuring that our agriculture industry continues to thrive, and passing the immigration reform legislation that I authored so that those who came here and contribute continue to have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams here. I have done a lot in a limited time, but appreciate and know that there is much more work to do. As I have always said, good governing is good politics, and if I am reelected I will continue to fight for and deliver results for our home on the Central Coast. 

What issues are most important to your district? How do you intend to handle them?

As the grandson of immigrants, I’m fighting for immigration reform. I worked to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, TPS recipients, and farmworkers. The House recently passed my bill for qualified farmworkers to stay and work here and to streamline H-2A visas. That bill stemmed from months of negotiations with farmers and farmworkers and Republicans and Democrats. It passed with bipartisan support and by the biggest margin in decades for any immigration bill.

We must protect communities from the climate crisis. Recent local measures that ban oil drilling in San Benito County don’t apply to federal lands. As your federal representative, I authored the California Central Coast Conservation Act to block leasing of new federal public lands for oil and gas drilling. I authored the bold Climate Action Rebate Act to cut greenhouse gas emissions with carbon fees. Revenue generated would support low-income families, help transition workers, build resilient infrastructure, and foster research and development for green technologies.

I’m committed to finding federal solutions for local affordable housing challenges. I have secured over $40 million in federal grants for homeless programs and affordable housing development; have authored and passed legislation to increase federal tax credits for the affordable housing development; and support the Rent Relief Act for federal tax deductions to people paying 30% of their income on rent.

I worked to pass a bill to lower prescription drug costs, combat the opioid epidemic, and expand Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing coverage. I support Medicare for all, but want to ensure that those satisfied can keep their employer-provided healthcare. I fought against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. I worked with Republicans and Democrats to improve the ACA so that those with preexisting medical conditions are covered and provided care. 

The 20th congressional district encompasses much of the Central Coast, including all of San Benito County. What will you do to advocate for San Benito County specifically? 

I secured over $12.5 million in federal investments for San Benito County health centers, including maternal health and addiction treatment. The San Benito Health Foundation received over $8 million in federal funding since 2017 from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

I will fight for reopening San Justo Reservoir by continuing to advocate for federal funding to execute the recently released $5 million San Justo Zebra Mussel eradication plan by the Bureau of Reclamation. It won’t be easy in this era of shrinking budgets, but I won’t be deterred from securing such funding. I will continue to work with the Bureau of Reclamation, local leaders, and congressional colleagues on a project that is important to our community.

Recently, I led my congressional colleagues in Santa Clara County in advocating for federal funding for the Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project. Increased water storage south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is essential to the long-term water supply for San Benito County. The Pacheco project would expand the existing Pacheco Reservoir from its current capacity of 5,500 to 140,000 acre-feet, providing emergency water for roughly 1.4 million residents for one year. By working with federal, state, and local leaders, we hope to expand our water storage capabilities to increase water reliability in San Benito County. I introduced the Clear Creek National Recreation Area and Conservation Act. The legislation directs the Bureau of Land Management to protect 21,000 acres of BLM land adjacent to Clear Creek by designating the area the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness. It would also reopen the 63,000-acre Clear Creek National Recreation Area in San Benito and Fresno counties for public outdoor recreation, including off-road vehicles and hiking. I will continue to work with stakeholders concerned with the environmental safety standards so that the area is safe for all to enjoy. 

How does your life outside of politics influence what you offer as a candidate? 

My sense of belonging to the Central Coast has led to my sense of service to the people and values of the place that I have always called home. Growing up here, my two brothers and I were told why my immigrant grandparents took the risk to come to America—to give their children a better life. My parents then would follow up by letting us know that since we were allowed to live the reality of my grandparents’ American Dream, we must always strive to give back to the country and community that gave us so much.

I was raised in Carmel Valley and attended the same public elementary, middle, and high schools that our two daughters now attend. After graduating from Monterey Peninsula Community College, UC-Davis, and Santa Clara Law School, I served as a deputy district attorney in Oakland. I then served in the U.S. Navy as an Intelligence Officer and was mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. After my service to my country, I returned home to serve at the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office. I then ran for Congress where I have since worked very hard to ensure that others have the same opportunities to fulfill their dreams in the place that we call home. 

How will you communicate with your constituents? 

I am that bridge to the federal government and back as demonstrated by the 850 individual cases completed for constituents dealing with federal issues in 2019. I work to ensure that anybody who wants to meet with me or my office, gets a meeting. To that end, I have held over 400 meetings and events and participated in 10 town halls throughout the district in 2019. I work hard so that anybody who contacts my office gets the necessary response as demonstrated by my receiving and responding to over 100,000 pieces of correspondence, including email, phone calls, and letters in 2019. I post numerous times a day across various social media platforms (on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @RepJimmyPanetta) and on my official website at https://panetta.house.gov. Further, I send out quarterly newsletters via mail and email to keep community members updated about my work in Washington and on the Central Coast. By fulfilling my responsibility to my constituents, I am working hard to build your faith in your federal representative, the federal government, and our democracy. 

What kind of presence will you have in San Benito County? 

I show up in San Benito County and will continue to be a part of the community. This doesn’t just mean showing up to the annual events, which I proudly do, such as the LULAC Veterans Day Breakfast, the Veterans Day Ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Building by VFW Post 9242 and the American Legion Post 69, San Benito County Fair, the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo at Bolado Park, or the Kinship Center annual event at the Paicines Ranch; it also means meeting with and engaging with the community every day. I meet with constituents and local leaders regularly, hold town halls, and visit and tour many of the entities that anchor this community such the Hollister Municipal Airport, the San Benito Health Foundation, the LGBTQ Resource Center and Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, to name a few. I also participate in openings of health centers and schools, speak to students and civic groups, and tour businesses of all sizes. When I am unable to be there, my staff holds office hours every second Wednesday of the month at the Veterans Memorial Building, located at 649 San Benito Street in Hollister, to help constituents with any federal casework issues. We advertise well in advance of the next office hours, but constituents can call (831) 424-2229 to confirm the date and time or schedule an appointment. Our next office hours in San Benito County will be from 10 a.m. to noon on March 11.

 

Adam Bolaños Scow (D), 36, works as a senior strategist for Public Water Now. He previously worked as director for Food and Water Watch and resides in Watsonville.

Why are you running?

I’m running for Congress to help solve an affordability crisis that is driving people away from our district and a climate crisis that threatens our survival on this planet. In order to solve them we need major changes in federal policy that demand overcoming special interests. We must pass a Green New Deal to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy and bring back our federal tax dollars to fund real affordable housing and universal health care. I support a national ban on fracking and unlike the incumbent, my campaign is not funded by corporate PAC money so I will be free to fight for the best solutions for our people. 

What issues are most important to your district? How do you intend to handle them?

I will champion a $1 trillion investment in the federal affordable housing trust fund and restoration of funding for Section 8 low income housing. I look forward to working in collaboration with local electeds to prioritize housing that our people can actually afford as market rate housing is prohibitively expensive.

The climate crisis is a global and local problem and I will champion a Green New Deal that builds local electricity grids in every city in our district. I am for replacing PG&E, a corrupt company, with a public utility that is accountable to the people. With traffic getting worse, we also must invest in clean transportation infrastructure that gets people around our region in a smart way.

I will fight for major reforms in our food system that allow farmers and farmworkers to make a good living. I will work with local leaders to ensure our groundwater is protected so farming may continue for future generations. We must also reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers that are compromising the quality of the groundwater and leaving rural communities without access to clean water. I support amnesty and a path to citizenship for all immigrants and farmworkers now. 

The 20th congressional district encompasses much of the Central Coast, including all of San Benito County. What will you do to advocate for San Benito County specifically?

San Benito County is dealing with major affordable housing and transportation challenges and I intend to fight for federal policies to help solve the problem. Because market rate housing is unaffordable for most of our residents, I support a massive investment in the Federal Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create permanent affordable housing for working families. I will also work to increase investments to fund critical transportation improvements in our district as part of a Green New Deal. San Benito County and other rural areas in our nation are badly in need of federal investment. I do not support increases to the military weapons budget and I support repealing tax cuts for billionaires to bring our tax dollars home.  

How does your life outside of politics influence what you offer as a candidate?

While I’m a lifelong advocate, I’m also a violinist and a big supporter of the arts and arts in schools. Being the son of school teachers has instilled a culture of public service and awareness about the needs of those who are less fortunate. 

How will you communicate with your constituents?

In addition to constituent meetings, email and press updates, I will hold town halls in each area of the district including San Benito County. I will also hold informational hearings on key issues in our district that demand coordination and leadership from all levels of government.

What kind of presence will you have in San Benito County?

I will visit San Benito County on a regular basis to meet with community leaders and local elected officials in an effort to solve the county’s challenges including transportation, housing, and water. I was honored to work with community leaders to help pass Measure J to ban fracking in San Benito County in 2014.

 

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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.