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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 an 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: What is your opinion of the impeachment inquiry process?

Answer: I don't think we need an open-ended investigation because what differentiates this from Watergate is [Independent Counsel] Ken Starr. The Watergate panel started only after Congressional hearings had been held and then they went to impeachment hearings. We've had Congressional hearings both at the Senate and the House, plus $40 million of investigation. There's a lot of criticism of Ken Starr. But no one has doubted that he would do a thorough job of finding any negative that might be out there about the president. He found what he could. If he wants to send over more, that's fine. But there's no reason to give the the judiciary committee a blank check to keep this thing going forever. Plus, it distracts us as a country.


Q: Do you think there will be a move to limit the scope of what a special prosecutor can do?

A: We need a number of things. First, we need a confidentiality statute for the Secret Service. There must never be a time when a Secret Service agent is told, "You must leave the room, you must leave the perimeter, you cannot be able to see what's coming in." And even if in the future, God forbid, we have a president who makes some mistakes with regard to his marriage, it should never be a choice between being found out and being well-protected. There should also be a required confidentiality so that it is not legal for a Secret Service agent to write a book afterward. We need a law about civil suits and the president. We should not allow the president to be distracted on that. We need something that confines the special prosecutor, and I haven't fully thought through what those restrictions should be. And we might want, by statute, to declare Congress' view as to what "high crimes and misdemeanors" means. So I hope to be there in the 107th Congress, and to say, "This is not about anyone named Clinton, this is about a structure of government for the next century."


Q: The Congress in which you served is remarkable on several levels. It, of course, convened an impeachment inquiry and they passed a budget with a surplus, not a deficit. Besides those two issues, how do you think Congress performed?

A: The most important thing we did in this Congress is reject bad ideas. And we never get the credit that we deserve for rejecting bad ideas. Keep in mind that if it had not been for the misadministration of economies in places like Tokyo and Jakarta, we would be talking about just how wonderful everything was, the way we were six months ago. I think a very balanced fiscal regime allows the federal reserve to keep interests rates low. I think that we've done a very good job of managing the economy because of what we didn't do. We did not say, "Hey we've got a trillion-and-a-half-plus surplus. Let's spend it!" And we rejected the tax cuts that were being put forward at the extreme level.


Q: What needs to be done to get Social Security back on track?

A: I think ultimately we're going to have to do the exact opposite of what Congress has been accused of doing for the last 20 years. For 20 years, everybody has said that money is being taken from Social Security to run the general fund. And now we may have to do the opposite of that. Take income tax funds and put it in the Social Security system to get us over the baby boomer situation. I think the most important thing we can do for Social Security is to maintain the U.S. economy.


Q: What do we need to do yet in the educational field?

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