The Democratic and Republican candidates in the 42nd Congressional District have taken sharply different approaches on taxes, offshore oil drilling and health care in their first broadcast appearance of the fall campaign.
Republican Dana Rohrabacher of Lomita and Democrat Guy Kimbrough of Huntington Beach parted company Monday night in back-to-back appearances on a Long Beach cable television program.
Rohrabacher said he was flatly against any tax increase to reduce the federal budget deficit, saying an increase would "knock the underpinnings out from under the economy" and trigger a recession.
But Kimbrough said he supports a tax increase as a last resort to close the gap between federal revenue and spending.
"I think honestly that any politician must face the question and tell the American people . . . that no matter who is elected President on Nov. 8, whether it is Michael Dukakis or George Bush, there has to be a revenue increase to deal with that deficit," Kimbrough said. "We are courting financial disaster if that deficit isn't reduced."
In an interview later, the community college instructor explained that, as a last resort, he would support a fee of several dollars a barrel on imported oil, a value-added or national sales tax of 1% to 5% coupled with measures to offset its regressive impact on lower-income families, and reform of personal and corporate income tax laws.
Although he faces an uphill fight in the solidly Republican 42nd District, which runs along the coast from Torrance to Huntington Beach, Kimbrough argued that he is just being honest with the voters about the politically sensitive issue of higher taxes.
"If you want to continue to believe in the tooth fairy, that's great," Kimbrough said, "but we have to put our economic house in order. And we had better do it before that next recession hits or we are going to be in serious trouble."
Kimbrough said the federal deficit could balloon from $150 billion to $250 billion a year if there is an economic downturn and he said it is only a matter of time until that happens. "The next recession is as certain as the next great quake in California."
Rohrabacher said he would favor a "responsible limit" on the growth in federal spending. "The federal government cannot afford to provide everything for everybody," he said.
The former presidential speech writer, who left the White House in March to campaign, blamed the budget deficit on liberal Democrats in Congress. Kimbrough, on the other hand, charged that President Reagan has doubled the national debt during the last eight years.
The differences between the two candidates quickly spread to other issues.
Kimbrough flatly declared his opposition to any more oil drilling off the California coast, while Rohrabacher said he favored drilling in parts of the district.
Rohrabacher said he opposes any drilling in "basically virgin areas" off the Palos Verdes Peninsula and in Santa Monica Bay but is "not totally opposed" to further drilling off Long Beach and northern Orange County "if it can be done with proper environmental safeguards."
The two candidates had opposite views on the question of national health insurance for workers who do not now have employer-paid health benefits.
Kimbrough said he supports a health plan for 37 million working Americans who lack health insurance and would pattern it after the program recently begun by Dukakis in Massachusetts.
But Rohrabacher warned that requiring businesses to provide health insurance is "just another example of liberal flimflam" that could sink small firms and cost employees their jobs.
Neither candidate offered a solid answer during the Simmons Cable broadcast about how he would deal with the problems of homelessness or drug abuse.
Rohrabacher took credit for participating in the Reagan Administration's efforts to convince Americans to "say no" to drugs.
But Kimbrough, who is a political science and history instructor at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in Riverside County, said that approach is "simplistic and hasn't really dealt with the problem" of Americans' demand for drugs.
Both favored expanded education efforts. Rohrabacher urged an expanded federal effort to stop the flow of drugs into the country, while Kimbrough called for tougher sentences for drug dealers.
Rohrabacher appeared to soften his earlier criticism of construction of a U.S. space station. McDonnell Douglas Corp. is a major contractor on the project, which could bring 1,500 jobs to the 42nd District.
In July, Rohrabacher said he was "highly skeptical" of the space station project and might, if elected, vote to cancel funding for it because of concerns about its cost.
But Monday, Rohrabacher offered lukewarm support for the project. "I'm supporting the space station" as long as the money does not come from the defense budget, he said.
Kimbrough said he favors the space station and does not see the National Aeronautics and Space Administration project as competing with the Pentagon budget.