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24th Congressional District

Targeted Seat Pits Democrat Incumbent Brad Sherman, GOP Challenger Randy Hoffman

October 25, 1998|BOB RECTOR | Bob Rector is op-ed page editor of the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County 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 gun it out in races with national ramifications.

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

Both have raised nearly a million dollars to finance their campaigns.

The Times recently interviewed the candidates on issues that shape both the local and national agenda.

* * *

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

Answer: I would have voted for moving forward with the investigation. When you take a look at how the votes were cast in Congress, 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 with the process we had what I would call 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: As you campaign, do you sense that there might be some backlash against the Republican party in regard to the Clinton / Lewinsky matter?

A: It's clear to me that people want to move past this. This is something that they're tired of hearing about because people are trying to raise families, they're trying to earn a living and they don't see this as impacting their daily lives. I think most people realize that Congress has a responsibility to complete the investigation but in a less high-profile way unless there is something that comes out of the investigation.


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. It is huge, bureaucratic and it wastes a ton of money. I'm for common-sense tax simplification. We don't need 600 forms to collect the money that we need to run the government. I think it is a crime. Take, for example, our daughter's nursery school teacher. Here, we have a college educated woman who is so intimidated by the IRS--she gets her income off of a W-2, has no deductions and goes to a tax preparation service to get her 1040 E-Z done. That's basically a day's wages for this woman because she is intimidated and she is afraid she is going to make a mistake and then the IRS is going to come in and take whatever she has. The way you reign 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. I'm a former CPA and everybody says your taxes must be easy to do if you're a former CPA and you understand all of this kind of thing. I say, hey, I'm right there with everybody else in terms of trying to fill out all of these forms. 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 in this country?

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