As the California 4th Congressional District campaign stretches into July, incumbent Tom McClintock and challenger Jessica Morse have yet to square off in public debate. Moonshine Ink recently reached out to both candidates, however, and they both agreed to a virtual debate using written responses. Each responded to a different selection of three of the six separate questions, and their answers were forwarded to the opposing candidate for rebuttal. If you’ve been waiting to see how these candidates match up against one another, read on. (A July 5 Roseville and Granite Bay Press Tribune article, McClintock and Morse Play Hot Potato with Debate Invitations, recently described the “he said, she said” reasons a debate hasn’t yet occurred.)

California has, of late, run against the grain of the national trends. Its sanctuary state policies run counter to federal law, Kevin De León is pushing a single payer healthcare system, and Governor Jerry Brown has repeatedly stood up to President Trump on climate change. Do you think California is ahead of, or behind the curve, and why?

McCLINTOCK: How are those policies working? California now has the highest effective poverty rate in the nation, the 13th highest violent crime rate, is 10th from the bottom in education, has the seventh highest electricity prices, despite the highest income, sales, and gasoline taxes in the country. Compare that to our success in Washington in reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on Americans: unemployment is the lowest since 2000, consumer confidence the highest since 2004, with the economy expanding at more than twice the rate we averaged under Obama. Which direction we want to take as a nation is the fundamental choice before us in November.


MORSE REBUTTAL: Tom McClintock is a career politician who has spent decades collecting a paycheck from California taxpayers, all the while choosing to lay blame and sow division rather than address any of the serious challenges facing our district. Rather than supporting measures to help our struggling families, Tom McClintock voted for a tax bill that raises taxes on the majority of families in our district, those making under $100,000 per year. Rather than supporting our seniors, he wants to raise the retirement age and just voted to cut more than $400 billion from Social Security and Medicare. Rather than making it easier for the next generation to have high paying local jobs, Tom McClintock cut funding for vocational training and proposes eliminating all financial aid for higher education. Tom McClintock has not passed a single piece of meaningful legislation during his decades in politics and is actually harming the people of our district by voting against our values and our pocketbooks. I’m sick of career politicians playing political games rather than coming up with solutions. That’s why I will work with both parties to implement real solutions to the real problems facing our district.

California is on the frontlines of a countrywide immigration debate. Where does immigration reform land on your list of priorities, and what is the balance for you between a secure border and immigrants’ rights?

MORSE: We must reject politically motivated attempts to divide our nation by race or background, and instead pursue real policy solutions. Congressman Tom McClintock plays the Washington blame game on immigration rather than owning up to his failure to address our broken immigration system during his 10 years in Congress. In fact, during his decades in politics, McClintock has failed to offer a single workable solution on the real security challenges facing our country, and advocates for investing three times as much [in] caging 4-year-olds. I will work in Congress to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and allows DREAMers to continue contributing to the economy in the only country they have called home.

McCLINTOCK REBUTTAL: History warns us that nations that cannot or will not defend their borders aren’t around very long. If our immigration laws are not enforced, our borders are meaningless. I co-sponsored the Goodlatte Immigration Reform bill that grants legal residency to those brought here illegally by their parents as children and who registered under DACA, once our borders are fully secured and the integrity of our immigration laws is restored — otherwise we encourage more illegal crossings. There is no “right” to enter our country illegally, and I support the prosecution and deportation of those who break our laws. I also strongly oppose “sanctuary” laws that directly threaten the public safety of our communities.

Wildfire season is approaching, and experts say that with a warming climate it will only get worse from here. The forest service is strapped for cash and local firefighting and fire prevention agencies and partners are increasingly reliant on other funding sources. How do you prioritize fire mitigation, and what steps would you take to address it?

McCLINTOCK: I was successful in getting major firefighting reforms for the Tahoe Basin into last year’s WIIN Act, including an additional $150 million for fire prevention and landmark provisions to cut red tape for forest thinning. Our forests are dying due to morbid overcrowding caused by laws that have made active scientific forest management endlessly time-consuming and ultimately cost-prohibitive. When we actively managed our forests, we had healthy forests, a major revenue stream for local communities, thriving local commerce, and a positive cash flow to the U.S. Treasury. I am working to restore those policies.

MORSE REBUTTAL: While volunteering to help our neighbors devastated by the Detwiler fire, I met stakeholders from across our district and the political spectrum who were working together on forest management strategies. Their local solutions included fire breaks, prescribed burns, and forest thinning that would save homes, businesses, public spaces — entire communities — from the total devastation of fires. Instead of supporting these bipartisan community efforts, Tom McClintock votes against dedicated funding to prevent wildfires and sponsors bills that are taxpayer-funded giveaways to the largest timber companies. It cost $73 million to contain the Butte Fire and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage in our district. If we had invested a fraction of that amount in fire prevention we would have saved lives, jobs, and millions of dollars. McClintock’s forest and fire policy is neither fiscally conservative nor responsible. In Congress, I will support proactive funding to prevent wildfires and smart forest management policies that create local jobs.

The effects of climate change are felt across the state, especially here in the mountains through fire and drought. What are the first steps of your environmental policy to protect the Sierra Nevada for future generations?

MORSE: I grew up skiing around Tahoe and camping in Yosemite, and protecting these incredible landscapes and local economic drivers in our district is a key part of why I decided to run for Congress. When Tom McClintock and his allies claimed that rolling back environmental protections in our district will benefit business, I said, “What about the working families in Tahoe’s ski industry?” The ski industry is a top employer in our district and just one of many parts of our economy that will be devastated if we continue to overturn crucial environmental protections. In Congress, I’ll fight the recent suspension of the Waters of the United States rule (which was designed to limit pollution in roughly 60 percent of the country’s bodies of water) and champion the restoration of Lake Tahoe’s world-renowned clarity, which hit an all-time low in 2017. I will prioritize our green energy economy and stand up to any policy that risks injuring our families, our environment, and our special way of life in this beautiful district.

McCLINTOCK REBUTTAL: Ms. Morse has obviously not talked to anyone in the ski industry, who would have told her that regulatory restrictions are a serious threat to their operations, including the Waters of the United States regulation she supports. California has indeed “prioritized our green energy economy” and the result is the highest fuel taxes and among the highest energy prices in the country, which pilfer struggling families to feather the nests of green energy crony capitalists. Our warming climate means less snow can be captured in the mountains, which requires new reservoirs for water storage. Overcrowded forests mean less moisture reaching the ground, which requires active forest management to promote drought resistance. Both solutions require streamlining the environmental restrictions that have made them cost-prohibitive. Ms. Morse ignores 45 years of experience with these laws that have resulted in water shortages in our region and morbidly overgrown and dying forests.

One of the most pressing topics right now in Truckee/Tahoe, and across the whole 4th District, is housing. What steps would you take to make housing more achievable for your constituents in all income brackets?

McCLINTOCK: California’s expensive and excessive housing regulations and restrictions have forced our median home prices to twice the national average. New construction permits per 100 residents in California are increasing at about half the national average during the past 10 years. In response, California’s liberal state government continues to add new requirements, including solar panels on new homes that increase the price another $10,000 to $20,000 per unit. Reduce the regulatory requirements and allow the supply of new housing to meet demand and prices will mirror the much lower prices found in free-market states.

MORSE REBUTTAL: A lack of affordable housing is a serious threat to the economy of our district, with more than 18,000 families in our district spending more than half their income on rent. Instead of addressing this problem, Tom McClintock is solely focused on opposing California’s local green energy jobs. There is a simple way we can lower the cost of housing across our district and boost our local economy — expand workforce housing. Investing in workforce housing creates jobs that cannot be outsourced and ensures small businesses have the workers they need to be successful. When McClintock voted for the tax bill, he cut crucial tax credits that made workforce housing like the Truckee Railyard possible. While McClintock votes to shut down these projects, I’ll spend my time in Congress fighting for housing that will allow our district’s working families to thrive.

On your website you promise to “Defend and improve the ACA [Affordable Care Act],” which McClintock has voted to repeal. What specific improvements would you suggest for the Act, and how do you feel these to be the best fit for members of the 4th District?

MORSE: Access to quality, affordable health care should be something we can all agree on, regardless of party. Instead, Tom McClintock voted to take coverage away from hundreds of thousands of people in our district with his multiple votes in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act. In his most recent vote, McClintock supported ripping health care from almost 300,000 people in our district who have pre-existing conditions. As your congresswoman, I will work to stabilize the ACA exchanges, get spiraling health care costs under control, and ensure real competition to lower prescription drug costs and create better coverage options by allowing all Americans to buy into Medicare. I am committed to working across the aisle to make quality health care accessible and affordable for all.

McCLINTOCK REBUTTAL: Ms. Morse apparently hasn’t noticed that prices on the ACA exchanges have skyrocketed from the day Obamacare was enacted and that choices have become extremely limited. Unless a family qualifies for subsidies, the cost is out of reach and many families have chosen to pay steep fines rather than purchase plans for coverage they don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford. I have co-sponsored legislation to replace the one-size-fits-all mandates of Obamacare with a consumer-driven system that offers patients the widest possible choice of plans so they can choose the one that best meets their own needs, with tax credits that assure basic plans are within financial reach of every family.


  • Sage Sauerbrey

    Sage Sauerbrey recently graduated with a journalism degree from Sierra Nevada College, and was rescued from the throes of post-college-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life-blues by the good folks at Moonshine Ink. Now he's happily walking the news and sports beatwhile daydreaming about new climbs, lines, and fishing holes.

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