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24th Congressional District

Race for Targeted Seat Pits Democrat Sherman, Republican Hoffman

November 01, 1998|BOB RECTOR | Bob Rector is an op-ed page editor of the Ventura County and San Fernando Valley editions

The 24th Congressional District, as it has been for the last three election cycles, is something of a political OK Corral where well-financed candidates shoot it out in races with national ramifications.

That's because Republicans think the district, which encompasses wealthy neighborhoods in Ventura County as well as in the West San Fernando Valley and Malibu, should be theirs. Instead, the Democrats have held sway for years, with Anthony Beilenson and Brad Sherman.

This year's race is no exception. Sherman, targeted by the GOP as one of the top 10 incumbents they want to defeat, faces a strong challenge from Randy Hoffman, a dapper millionaire from Thousand Oaks who turned a small high-tech company into one of the nation's most successful producers of personal satellite navigation systems.

Hoffman has stressed his success in the competitive high-tech industry as evidence of smart business sense and accountability sorely needed on Capitol Hill.

For his part, Sherman, a former tax attorney and member of the State Board of Equalization, has emphasized his votes in favor of a balanced budget and his success in landing federal money for more parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Times recently interviewed the candidates on local and national issues.

* * *

Question: If you were a member of the House of Representatives, would you have voted for the Clinton impeachment inquiry?

Answer: I would have voted for moving forward with the investigation. The tally showed that 430 of the 435 members of Congress voted in some way to move forward on the process. They quibbled about the details, but as far as moving forward we had almost a unanimous decision. [Rep.] Henry Hyde has said that he wants to expedite this process, he wants to bring it to a conclusion by the end of the year. That's clearly the appropriate thing to do so we can get on with business.

*

Q: What about tax reform? Do you favor a national sales tax or a flat tax?

A: I do not support a national sales tax, it is basically a value-added tax such as they have in Europe. The IRS is a huge, out-of-control bureaucracy, but if you want to see something worse than the IRS, look at the European value-added tax system. I'm for common-sense tax simplification. We don't need 600 forms to collect the money that we need to run the government. The way you rein in the IRS is you simplify the tax code.

*

Q: What about the flat tax?

A: I don't support the flat tax. It would eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction. I think that is an institution in the United States and I don't think politically you could do it. We have complicated the world with all of these IRS regulations. We can do this with a two-page form for an individual. We can maintain the home mortgage interest deduction, we can have room for medical deductions and some charitable contributions and leave it at that. Very, very straightforward.

*

Q: What do you think we need to do to upgrade the educational system?

A: Our education system doesn't reward excellence and doesn't punish failure, and we wonder why our education system is failing. I mean, in your jobs today, you get merit pay. That is what you see in private industry. You don't see that in government anywhere. I would require a formal review and merit system in the education system to get federal tax dollars. We also need to end the tenure system. You have got to have the ability to remove people who fail our children. You have to be able to hire and fire and reward or you don't get a result. You bring accountability in the classroom and you will see a major improvement.

*

Q: You have advocated privatization of Social Security. How would that work?

A: "Privatization" has actually become a dirty word. People think it means you are going to take Social Security funds and put them into a high-tech initial public offering NASDAQ stock, and the market goes down 500 points in one day or 100 points on the NASDAQ, and you are wiped out. The government has come in, taken money from the Social Security trust fund, money that should be earning some return as it sits there and waits for people to retire and to draw on it. Instead, it has been taken away, and there are IOUs there. I'm a firm believer that we should give people the choice, as you pay in, of whether or not to put one-tenth of what you pay in and what the your employer pays into a passbook account at 4% or 4 1/2%, high-grade municipal bonds, long-term, safe as can be. And because it is yours, no matter how bad the government wants to touch it, they can't come after it. It is our money. That is the thing that really gripes me. It is our money that we have been paying in for decades, and the government doesn't look at it that way.

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Q: How do you stand on the SOAR initiative?

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